'Home Office' photo (c) 2010, Dave Dugdale - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/I’ve joined Twitter recently, and I’m really loving it! Neat people out there to follow.

Many of the women on my list are women who work at home so they can be with their families. And they have self-generated jobs–internet marketers, writers, editors, etc. The big question becomes: how do you find time to work when you’re with your kids?

This is a huge issue, and I thought I’d share some of the things that worked for me when my children were smaller, in the hopes that they work for you, too. And then maybe you can share your tips.

1. Plan your Goals

I know everyone is always telling you to plan, plan, plan, but there is a point to this. Know what you want to accomplish and when you want to accomplish it by. And be realistic.

One of the problems I ran in to was that, as an author, there were countless things I could be doing, and indeed should have been doing, to market my books. I’d think about them, dream about them, read books about them, but I didn’t have time to actually do them. I had time to do one or two, but not nine or ten. And I needed to realize that and stop beating myself up over it.

When you are at home with your kids, you are at home with your kids. You will not be able to work eight hours a day productively. But you may be able to do 2 or 3 hours. So given that, what is reasonable to expect of yourself? How long will each thing take? And what can you put off until a different season in your life?

I found small, manageable projects worked best, like article writing and column writing. I have only added blogging and other social networking lately, because they take a lot of time. I don’t think I could do all of these and still write books if my children were still smaller. They’re 11 and 13, so I have a lot more time now.

And my marketing is working better. A lot of you who read this blog have clicked on my Amazon links to my books (thank you!), and I’ve noticed a big uptick in people visiting my website. And that’s great. But I don’t feel guilty about not doing it earlier, even though it may have been more helpful when the books first came out, because I didn’t have time.

So figure out what is most impotant to build your career. Is it writing? Is it starting a blog? Is it starting articles, or researching money-making techniques on the internet? Make a list of everything you want to do, and prioritize it. Then only do your #1 or #2 priorities for a time. And forgive yourself if you don’t get everything on your list done!

2. Find Regular Hours

I know that sounds impossible with small kids, but it can be done. I used to use nap time for writing. Every day for two hours, even when I myself was tired, I would write. That was my work time. When the kids stopped napping, they still had downtime after lunch in their bedrooms. We instituted this early, and they stuck to it. That was their time to do puzzles, play in their beds, or look at books (and later, read). I was lucky if I got an hour eventually, but they stuck to the routine, and so did I.

Another time that works well is first thing in the morning, unless you have children who wake at 6:00. Try to stagger their bedtimes so that they do sleep until 7:30, and then you can start at 6:30 a.m. Or, if you’re more of a nighthawk, do the opposite, and work after they go to bed for an hour. I’m not as big a fan of this technique, because I think we need times with our husbands. But once children reach the age of 4 or 5 they can also get their own cereal in the morning, and then this can be their video time. So they can entertain themselves while you grab an hour.

3. When You Do Work, Be Productive!

Don’t check emails (unless they’re business related). Don’t check Twitter, or blogs, or news (unless that’s part of your “job”). Only do what’s on your list! Many people in offices who work 8 hours a day only do 2-3 hours of real work. If you can get 2 hours of real work in, you’re ahead of the game!

Treat yourself seriously. If you are working at home to make money, then show up for work at your appointed time and WORK. Even if you’re tired, or grumpy, or have PMS. If an employer were paying you, you’d show up. So show up, even if you yourself are paying you!

4. Find Things the Children Can do on their Own

A baby can stay in a playpen and entertain him or herself for half an hour, especially if that playpen is beside you or near siblings so they know they’re not alone. Toddlers can play alone to a certain extent, too.

Keep certain toys, or the playpen, simply for Mommy’s work time. Don’t feel guilty if you’re not playing with them constantly. They can be on their own for 30 minutes, as long as you’re still supervising and know what they’re doing! You don’t have to interact with them constantly; kids do need some time to be on their own. This may only grab you 20 minutes to half an hour, but even that can be important.

5. Make Use of Free ChildCare

Libraries often have story hours, that last for half an hour. Do you have friends that go? Perhaps they can watch your kids while you work on the computer. Most libraries have wireless access!

Some gyms have childcare, too, and you can work out for half an hour and then do half an hour of work. Get creative. Kids like outings, anyway!

6. When You’re With your Kids, Be With Your Kids

Finally, when you’re not working, be with your kids. Learn how to switch on and off. Don’t run to the computer every moment they’re busy to see if you can “grab 5 minutes”. You’ll wear yourself out and you’ll feel like nothing is ever done correctly. The kids will get into trouble or call for you and then you’ll be annoyed.

So try to do something fun and active with them every day where they have your attention. Go to a playgroup. Take them to the library. Go for a walk, do a puzzle, or read some books. Have time where you really are with them, and not just supervising them in the same house, and you’ll likely find they don’t resent the time you take away from them quite as much.

If you’re a stay at home mom, you are never going to get as much done as someone who is not with her kids. You’re just not. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work. It just means you’ll do it differently. But you’re still being a great mom to your kids, and that’s irreplaceable.

Sheila has a webpage for Writing Tips, about how to get started with a writing career. Sheila also has a blog for women wanting to start a speaking career.

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