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7 Tips for Working From Home When You Have Kids

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Over the past decade, the number of moms who choose to stay at home with their kids has steadily risen: According to Pew Research, 23 percent of mothers with kids under 18 in 1999 did not work outside the home; in 2012, that number rose to 29 percent. At the same time, more and more American workers are choosing to work remotely—in 2015, a Gallup poll showed that 37 percent of the U.S. workforce telecommutes for work. At the intersection of these two trends are the busy moms who watch their kids while working from home. How do they do it—and how can you do it, too? Start with these seven tips from telecommuting moms.

1. WAKE UP BEFORE THE KIDS.

Lisa Brigham, senior corporate recruiter at Merkle, says she makes sure she gets up at 6 a.m. daily to look at her calendar and check and reply to emails. “I am usually able to work for about an hour before the kids are up,” she says.

2. STEAL TIME.

Whenever the children are distracted by homework or activities, even if it’s just for 30 minutes, Brigham jumps onto the computer to work. And although she says she does her best to make clear when she's unavailable for meetings at work due to her familial obligations, “there have been times when I have been on a conference call during pick-up,” Brigham says. When this happens, she puts her phone on mute.

3. STAY CONNECTED.

The line between working and playing is getting blurred for everyone. According to a GFI Software report, three quarters of workers check their email outside of work hours at least sometimes—and 12 percent say they do so in real time. But for work-at-home moms, this isn't a bad habit so much as a necessity. “I do have my phone with me at all times, and check work emails on a regular basis,” Brigham says. “If I’m able to send an immediate reply, I will do so from my phone, otherwise I will wait until later that evening or the next day.”

4. BE UP-FRONT.

Kaycee Militante has worked from home for years running her own retail business, Applejack Apparel, but her son never really learned how to be quiet when she was on the phone. “So I make a brief apology during calls where he’s present, and never have gotten a bad response,” she says. Preparing the caller for potential noise or distractions can help eliminate confusion should you be interrupted.

5. KEEP A ROUTINE.

When you’re juggling home and work responsibilities, keeping your identities of "mom" and "employee" steady can be the key to keeping them separate. Militante says it’s important for her and her kids to keep a routine so they can all grasp onto it, even as the rest of their lives fly by. So Monday is soup night; on Tuesdays, they eat out; Thursdays is taco night—you get the gist. Militante also has a cleaning person come once a week to handle the bulk of the laundry.

Brigham notes that she carefully schedules her days and weeks in order to stay on track. On Fridays, for instance, she doesn’t book any calls or meetings. “That is my work day when I review resumes, work on scheduling calls for the following week, and work on reporting,” she says.

6. CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK.

The fact of the matter is, watching your kids and working is incredibly difficult. So don't try to be Wonder Woman! Brigham says she doesn’t work out as often as she’d like or keep the house as neat as she'd like. When things begin to fall by the wayside, don't beat yourself up over it. Instead, enlist some help.

7. ADJUST YOUR SCHEDULE.

If your job allows you to have a flexible schedule you should use this to your advantage. Regan Hoerster, who owns a pilates studio, shares stay-at-home parent duties with her husband, who works full-time as a bartender. Their opposite schedules allows them to work together, swapping duties as their son's needs change. “I breastfed pretty exclusively for his first year, which meant I only worked two-to-four hours a stretch before needing to come home,” says Hoerster. Hoerster also took advantage of her early morning pumping to look at her to-do list, answer emails, and work on social media.

Parents of older kids can use their flexible hours to arrange things so that the bulk of their focused work is done while the kids are at school, at after-school activities, or in the evening when they may have a partner around to lighten the load.

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Why Your Phone's Airplane Mode Isn't Just for Flying
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There are plenty of steps you can take to boost your productivity: You can design the perfect home office, buy an organizer, and pack your schedule efficiently. But none of that matters if you can’t help but check your phone every five minutes once you finally start a project. To avoid this distraction, Tim Ferriss, author of the 4-Hour Workweek, uses a surprisingly simple trick that he recently shared on his podcast.

As Business Insider reports, Ferriss has his phone on airplane mode for 80 percent of his day. That includes the hours after he's finished dinner and is winding down for bed all the way through the morning hours when he's planning the day ahead.

Cutting yourself off from all calls, texts, emails, and social media isn't always practical, especially during the work day when your coworkers might need to contact you. But if you ever set aside time to be alone, either for mindful reflection, personal projects, or general downtime, the only way to make sure you're really alone is to unplug. Leaving your phone in another room or powering down all together might be agitating if you're addicted to your phone, and even on vibrate mode phones can still be distracting. By switching it to airplane mode, you can get the mental comfort of checking your phone compulsively without the actual notifications to pull you away from your task.

For some people, breaking their addiction to technology isn't as easy as activating a setting on their phone. If you're serious about reducing your screen time, try these tips.

[h/t Business Insider]

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The Only Way to Answer ‘What Is Your Greatest Weakness?’ In a Job Interview
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Thanks in part to the influence of Silicon Valley and its focus on the psychological probing of job applicants, interview questions have been steadily getting more and more abstract. As part of the interview process, today's job seekers might be asked to describe a vending machine to someone who’s never seen one before, or plan a fantasy date with a famous historical figure.

Even if the company you’re approaching isn’t fully on board with prodding your brain, at some point you may still come up against one of the most common queries applicants face: "What is your greatest weakness?"

"Some 'experts' will tell you to try and turn a strength into a 'weakness,' to make yourself look good," writes Inc. contributor Justin Bariso. "That advice is garbage."

"Think about it," Bariso continues. "Interviewers are asking the same question to countless candidates. Just try and guess how many times they hear the answers 'being a perfectionist' or 'working too much.' (Hint: way too often.)"

While responding that you work too hard might seem like a reliable method of moving the conversation along, there’s a better way. And it involves being sincere.

"The fact is, it's not easy to identify one's own weaknesses," Bariso writes. "Doing so takes intense self-reflection, critical thinking, and the ability to accept negative feedback—qualities that have gone severely missing in a world that promotes instant gratification and demands quick (often thoughtless) replies to serious issues."

Bariso believes the question is an effective way to reveal an applicant’s self-awareness, which is why companies often use it in their vetting process. By being self-aware, people (and employees) can correct behavior that might be affecting job performance. So the key is to give this question some actual thought before it’s ever posed to you.

What is your actual greatest weakness? It could be that, in a desire to please everyone, you wind up making decisions based on the urge to avoid disappointing others. That’s a weakness that sounds authentic.

Pondering the question also has another benefit: It prompts you to think of areas in your life that could use some course-correcting. Even if you don’t land that job—or even if the question is never posed to you—you’ve still made time for self-reflection. The result could mean a more confident and capable presence for that next interview.

[h/t Inc.]

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