On any given day, I’m telling stories about my day on social media, writing blog posts about my life as a writer, actually writing for clients, writing for my own projects, and so on. I run my own business, managing clients and finances, and generally juggling every aspect of being an entrepreneur.
Despite their undying support for me, my wife and kids have almost zero clue what this entails. My wife is a stay-at-home mom now, but she spent years working in a hospital as an X-ray technologist. Entrepreneurship has been the farthest thing from her mind. And of course, my kids are little kids.
Working for myself can be a trial at times, and doing so while there are little children running around the house can be a nightmare.
Some people can write whenever the mood strikes them. I’ve read blog posts from writers who say they write on their phones in line at the supermarket, or they dictate as they drive around doing errands.
Me? I need a quiet space, free from distraction, where I can really dive into the writing without my attention being pulled in all directions.
How do I do it? How have I been able to successfully ghostwrite nearly a dozen books this year, while publishing blog posts and any other number of things that I’ve had to do as a full-time writer?
The key is communication – both with yourself and with your family…
How to Draw the Lines
One of my wife’s favorite parts of me working from home is that I’m always around for her. One of my least favorite parts of me working from home is that I’m always around for her.
I don’t say that to be a jerk. I adore my wife and kids, and I love being there for them. And in the case of emergencies, I’m endlessly happy that I can be here to help out. That flexibility is one of the main reasons I decided to work from home in the first place!
But it also means that, when a family member has a thought that crosses their minds, they will often bring it to me in the middle of my day.
Over the last decade, I’ve figured out which lines I need to draw and which ones I can afford to relax on. It’s taken many conversations with my family as well as introspective time myself – and a little trial and error.
Before you can draw lines, you need to know what it is you need from your work day. Do you need total silence? Do you need full control over your environment? Or do you just need a little bit of time in a corner of the living room?
Start with what you need. Then you can branch out from there and determine which lines you want to fight for and which ones you can let go.
If You Need Privacy or Silence, Get a Door
This might not be feasible for everyone, but when we looked for a townhouse to rent, we insisted on having one with a third bedroom. We were able to find one that was cost-effective for us, and we jumped on it. That third bedroom is my dedicated office.
I work with clients that require phone calls. At times, I need to be completely zeroed into my work. I can’t have my kids walking in and out of the room to give me hugs - as much as I love them. And I can’t have them walking past and saying “Hi” every five minutes.
If you’re like me (and many other entrepreneurs), then you need to get a room with a door on it. And if you can, put a lock on it, too. You need to be able to control your environment as much as possible if you want to concentrate on your work!
Plus, having the door locked tells the rest of the house that you’re busy working – they can come back later.
Set Up Your Own Space
For me, this is the third bedroom. That’s my home office. It’s my space.
My wife doesn’t get to decorate it. I painted it the color I wanted. I hang stuff on the walls that she wouldn’t (including the ridiculous giant framed print I got for Christmas last year pictured above).
But it doesn’t matter. This is my space where I go to work every day. It’s such a small thing to make all the design choices for a room, but that little bit gives you ownership of that room. You need to be comfortable in it to work.
The family gets the rest of the house. I get my office.
Invest In Some Headphones
All it takes is one meltdown.
If my two-year-old is having a bad day, he’ll scream his face off. No doors in the world will keep that roar quiet.
Because I can’t afford to be distracted, I keep several pairs of headphones within arm’s reach so that I can always block out the world if I need to. Some decently-comfortable headphones combined with the Productive Morning playlist on Spotify usually means I can lock in a couple hours of work without being distracted.
It’s also another opportunity to signal that you are working. If your family comes in and they see the headphones on, they’ll get out of there in a hurry.
You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg – just something that will block out the noise.
I hate interruptions. Hate them, hate them, hate them.
But if my son walks into my office and hands me a picture he drew of him and me at the park, you bet I’m taking off my headphones to thank him and give him a big hug for the sweet gift.
Or if the rest of the family are taking a day trip, I will stop working to say “Goodbye” to all of them and tell them that I love them. That’s an interruption I’m okay with.
You have to draw your own lines, but my goodness – don’t forget why you’re working so hard in the first place! Find ways to be flexible, and your family then won’t mind when you need to tighten them up later.
Make sure that they are a part of your life as much as your job. When it’s time to work, go ahead and work. But when it’s time to be with your family, set your work aside.
Maybe Get Out of the House?
If you’re like me and you work from home full-time, then you know how easy it is to go two, three, even four days without leaving the house!
Scheduling a “road” day once a week can give you another opportunity to balance your writing life and your personal life. It’s like going to the office – you’re “going to work.” Where? Grab a cheap coffee from a coffee shop. Or go to a local library. Invest in a co-working space if you want.
Sometimes, the fresh air and change in environment is all you need to get your head back on straight.
Above All, Talk to Your Family
Some of these actions could be construed as rude or insulting. Locking them out? How dare you!
But as long as I talk with my family ahead of time whenever I make a new decision about my working environment, I find they are much less frustrated and less insulted. They know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.
I also can get feedback from them, and I can adapt my approach – keeping everyone happier.
Communication is everything when you have to work with your family around. Sit them down and talk it over so that you can be sure you have the writing environment you need to succeed.