Can't You See I'm Working?
by C.J. Hayden, MCC
For many working parents, telecommuting or a home business may seem like the answer to your prayers. You
want to have more time with your kids and greater flexibility, so you take the leap, install a second phone
line, and set up a computer in the dining room.
But the first thing you may discover is that working from home includes many unexpected distractions.
Children, your spouse, neighbors, and the family dog come and go. They make loud noises, ask for your
help, or interrupt to ask a quick question, always just long enough to break your concentration.
Your family and friends don't seem to understand that you're working. They ask you to run errands,
expect you to handle chores, and want to chat on the phone. When you see the pile of laundry or stack
of dishes sitting there waiting, you may be tempted to take time out from work to clean up a bit.
Youd like to keep your house livable and be available to the people you care about, but it's just too
much for one person to manage. When can you get any work done?
The way out of this dilemma is to set clear boundaries on your space, time, and responsibilities. If
your office has a door, try having 'open-door' time and 'closed-door' time. When your door is open, the
kids can come say hello, ask questions, or tell you about their day. When the door is closed, it means
'Do Not Disturb.'
A good way to explain this to children is to tell them you need some private time, not just that you
are busy. If your office doesn't have a door, you need one! Try to find another place in your home
where you can create some private space for at least part of the day.
Setting regular working hours will help you manage your time better as well as give some guidelines to
your family. Build your hours around the family activities that are important to you. If your kids get
home at 2:00, for example, set up your work day from 8:30 to 2:00 and 4:00 to 6:00.
Your schedule can change each week to allow for your childrens activities, when necessary. Choose how
many work hours per week makes sense for you, design a schedule, and post it on your office door.
Highlight the open times, and let everyone know that's when you are available to them.
If your family expects you to run errands and handle chores during your work day, it may be time to hold
a family meeting. Explain to your children (and remind your spouse) that it may look like mommy or daddy
is playing on the computer or chatting on the phone, but this is his or her job, and it contributes to
the family's income.
Start by listing all the jobs that need to be done for the household, and who does them now. Instead of
assigning chores, try asking each family member to volunteer for something. If there are lots of tasks
left over, be sure to ask if they really need to be done, or done as often. (Dusting, for example, may
need to go by the wayside.) If you are doing chores during time you could be making money, consider
hiring someone else to clean your house, service the car, or drive the kids to after-school activities.
When one of your boundaries gets tested, learn to hold the line. If you give in even once, don't expect
the boundary to hold up. Try making the closed door, posted schedule, or job roster the bad guy instead
Instead of, 'I'm too busy to talk right now -- you'll have to wait,' say, 'The door is closed now, would
you please come back when it's open?' When friends phone during work time, ask them to call back after
hours. And when someone doesn't do one of their chores, don't do it for them. Serving a meal on dirty
dishes may seem extreme, but it will get the message across.
C.J. Hayden is the author of Get Hired Now! and Get Clients Now! Since 1992, she has helped thousands
of professionals make a better living doing what they love. C.J. is a Master Certified Coach who leads
workshops internationally in person, on the phone, and on the web. Find out more about C.J. and get a
free copy of How to Find a Job in 28 Days or Less at