Personal Development

How to Work From Home Successfully in 4 Simple Steps (Even If Your Kids & Spouse Are Homebound, Too)

Expertise: Mortgages & Creative Financing, Real Estate Investing Basics
33 Articles Written
Happy casual beautiful woman working on a laptop sitting on the bed in the house.

I’m not sure that there are many who can escape the reality of working from home these days. For many, it can feel like office freedom—working in your PJs, getting up late, and having free reign over the fridge.

For those of us who have kids at home, we are also feeling the compounded effects of homeschooling. I always wanted to homeschool, but I thought it would be on my own terms.

In short, we’ve all been thrown into the life of a work-from-home entrepreneur (and teacher) and left to our own devices to come up with a structure to remain productive amidst the chaos.

Having worked from home for almost a year, even my rock-solid routine has been largely disrupted with my child and husband now vying for the same internet bandwidth, rooms in the house, and of course, my attention.

So how do we survive—even thrive—in this new work-from-home environment?

The Power of Habit

It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. Some of the tips we’ll be discussing today can also be found in this book.

What we all need is a routine that will not only help us “check the boxes” and stay sane, but also one that will drive us to our goals. Just because there is a pandemic doesn’t give us a license to throw out our goals.

Routine brings a sense of certainty—one of the six basic human needs—and it’s how we build our routine that is most important.

You see, if you are struggling to get “everything” done, the first reality check we need is that no one can get “everything” done. It’s one of the biggest myths we tell ourselves.

A better question to ask is, “Are you getting the right things done?”

So let’s work through some simple steps to build a focused habit-based routine.

custom planner

Related: 10 Tried & True Habits of Impressively Productive People

Step 1: Identify Priorities (in the Right Order)

Where you most likely fail in your current schedule is doing everything for others first. Others include your partner, your kids, your boss, your coworkers. I’m not saying you just ditch this “other” work. Instead, it’s knowing the order in which to execute your priorities.

It’s like being on an airplane with your child. In an emergency, you’re instructed to put your oxygen mask on first before your child’s.

It’s no different when building a habit-based routine. You have to take care of yourself first—I call it placing the “big rocks in the river”—so you can take care of others, and let everything else flow around it.

Here are four major “rocks” you need to take care of yourself:

  1. Your health
  2. Your spirituality
  3. Your personal life
  4. Your relationships

These four rocks don’t bounce when dropped—they break.

Yet, I know for a fact, most people push these rocks down on their list for the sake of other rocks that do bounce, such as:

  1. Your finances
  2. Your job
  3. Your business

Now that we have clarity on what the big rocks actually are, and the order in which they should be placed in the river (aka on your calendar), let’s dig a little deeper and identify the one thing you need to be focusing on per rock.

In the book The ONE Thing, you do this by asking the question:

What is the one thing that will make __________, easier or unnecessary?

Want more articles like this?

Create an account today to get BiggerPocket's best blog articles delivered to your inbox

Sign up for free

Most of us try to do either too many things or keep our sights too large, overestimating what we can get done in a week and underestimating what we can get done in a quarter or year.

So go through the following questions to identify the big rocks (think small!) you need to focus on right now for the next week.

Choose What to Focus on

  • What is the one thing that will make my health easier? Go for a five-mile run five days this week along the creek path at 6:00 a.m. before my child is up (and the trail is crowded).
    • Time = 5 hours
  • What is the one thing that will make my spirituality easier? Listen to positive music while I run in nature.
    • Time = 0 hours (combined with my run)
  • What is the one thing that will make my personal life easier? Read a relaxing book for 20 minutes before bed.
    • Time = ~2.5 hours
  • What is the one thing that will make my personal relationships easier? Have a 30-minute lunch with my husband and child at 12:00 p.m. five days this week. Also, schedule one group FaceTime with friends to play Farkle.
    • Time = 4.5 hours
  • What is the one thing that will make my finances easier? Have a “money meeting” with my spouse on Wednesday night so we can review our spending and identify savings opportunities.
    • Time = 1 hour
  • What is the one thing that will make my job easier? K-1s are due this week (my largest work rock), so email all my providers on Monday morning to determine when K-1s will be delivered.
    • Time = 2 hours
  • What is the one thing that will make my business easier? Analyze two deals each day this week for a total of 14 deals.
    • Time = 3 hours

TOTAL TIME = 18 hours

Step 2: Create a Calendar

Now that we know what your big rocks are and have a good sense of which ones should be tackled first, let’s break out your calendar and start placing them in the stream for the next week.

  1. Health—Block out your work out time. Write down when, where, and with whom you will exercise. Also, block out any transition time you might need before and after it. Hot tips if you have kids:
    • Go exercise while the kids are still asleep.
    • Alternate early morning times with your spouse.
    • Pack up the kids on their bikes and take them with you (not as relaxing, but the whole family is getting fresh air).
  2. Spirituality—Schedule the time you are going to concentrate on your spiritual self. Maybe this is 10 minutes of meditating or morning priming, but put it on the calendar no matter how small. For me, nature is my “medicine,” so I listen to inspiring music and podcasts while I trail run. Combining several activities is called habit stacking. Hot tip:
    • Consider doing your spirituality block when you first wake up or right before bed. This will help you transition into daily work with a smile on your face.
  3. Personal Life—Block out time to work on things that interest you. Maybe this is reading a good book, working on a project, or hanging with friends. Consider this meeting time to focus just on your life. Hot tip:
    • If you have a spouse, consider having them block out their personal time early in the week, too, so everyone is getting their needs met. Communication is key!
    • Also, mark on your calendar what times you are going to take OFF this week. Yep! Take off. Maybe block an afternoon on a weekend or a whole day to recharge.
  4. Relationships—Plan out time to be with family and friends and connect. This has been probably the hardest-hit area of our lives right now. Just because we are physically away from each other, doesn’t mean we have to be completely disconnected. Now more than ever, we have to be intentional about staying connected—for ourselves, our marriages, and our kids. Hot tips:
    • I plan 30 minutes while my husband and I are working on dinner when our daughter can FaceTime a relative or friend.
    • My husband and I do a Wednesday date night where we meet for a few minutes to talk about any finances, upcoming trips (we are dreaming ahead!), or family needs. Then we will break out a game and just talk for the remainder of the night.
    • We’ve transitioned our Friday night game nights into family virtual happy hours, where we video chat with our social circle.
  5. Finances—Block out 30-60 minutes every week to concentrate on your finances and financial future. What gets measured gets done! We combine our financial date with our date night (back to that habit stacking again).
  6. Job—Now that we have some big blocks in the river, let’s work through how to orient ourselves to our job and make some massive progress. This is where most people come off the rails. They jump on email or Slack, answering everyone else’s priorities first.

Instead, make your time block(s) a sacred date with yourself, where you get your most important activity done. If you are in a service business, it most likely will be lead generation. If you are an investor looking for your next deal, it will be filling your lead funnel and analyzing deals.

If this is a foreign concept to you, start with 30-minute time blocks and grow from there.

Create Time Blocks

  • Time Block No. 1 (30 minutes)—Lead generation for my consulting practice. I focus on two activities that I have found yield results—that’s it.
  • Time Block No. 2 (30 minutes)—Analyzing deal leads and making offers.
  • Time Block No. 3 (30 minutes)—Writing/producing content for my audience.
  • Time Block No. 4 (30 minutes)—Administration. Yep. I actually time block my admin work. This is where I focus on all communication back to my customers and team. Then I transition into the “to-dos.”

Here is a link to an example calendar that I’m using to block my activities while working from home.

couple-no-kids

Related: 3 Productivity Books That Changed My Life

Step 3: Build Efficient Habits

While we’ve covered a nice primer of how to identify the large priorities in life and get them into to your calendar first, there are some key habits that can make implementing these changes so much easier.

  • Get up early—If you have kids, get up an hour and a half or two hours before they do. I know, it’s painful, but you will be flat-out amazed at the work you can accomplish.
  • Chug a glass of water—Get your body hydrated.
  • Exercise first thing in the morning—Exercise helps us stay both physically and mentally healthy. It can also reduce stress and improve focus. If you have small kids at home you can’t leave alone, consider exercising at home or trading off with a spouse or relative in the house.
  • Take care of your needs as if you were still going into the office—Eat, shower, and get dressed. While you aren’t going into the office, maintain professionalism. Clean yourself, feed yourself—and put on pants.
  • Periodically sweep for mines between bunkers—In between my time blocks, I get up and move for a few minutes and take care of “business.” This allows me to execute my time blocks far more efficiently.
    • Go to the bathroom
    • Replenish your provisions (light snacks, water, tea)
    • Stretch
    • Return a quick phone call
    • Check where my kiddo is on their school work
  • Take a lunch break—While you may be tempted to power through your breaks and lunch when working from home, you don’t get a reward for doing that. Taking a lunch break will actually help you stay more focused and productive. So:
    • Sit outside to eat. Vitamin D and fresh air do wonders for the body and mind.
    • Take a light stroll around the block. Take Fido and the kids for an outing.

Until your habit-based routine becomes just that, set alarms on your phone to help remind you to transition.

Step 4: Get the Whole Family Involved

With everyone at home working and schooling, our house looks like a tornado hit every day around 4:00 p.m. It took about 24 hours to figure out that unless I asked for help, no one was going to voluntarily pitch in.

At 4:00 p.m., we have an alarm set that signifies the end of our work/school day, and everyone works for 15 minutes to clean up and get daily chores squared away. Everyone is happy.

By 4:30 p.m., we have completed our work and school, the house is subdued, and we are ready to spend some quality family time together.

With most of the U.S. working from home right now, we are being thrust into a great social experiment of how we can be productive in this new entrepreneurial work-from-home environment.

I feel this is an amazing opportunity for us to prioritize our time, be with family, focus on what is truly important, and kick butt and take names in our work and business.

While I know that working from home is not for everyone, wouldn’t it be cool if we all had greater flexibility of working from home when needed and a solid plan in place to excel both personally and professionally?

How are you adjusting to working from home?

Let us know in the comments below!

Whitney is a real estate investor and personal finance trainer whose vision is to launch 10,000 families on the path toward financial independence. After purchasing her first rental in 2002, and hi...
Read more
    Allan Burias Investor from Whalan, NSW
    Replied 3 months ago
    What a very well written article and plenty of useful and interesting insights about proritites and big rocks that I have not thought about. Thanks for writing!!!
    Allan Burias Investor from Whalan, NSW
    Replied 3 months ago
    Hi Whitney, I don't know why I can't see your sample calendar. Its going to my own google calendar. Can I get a photo of it instead?
    Whitney Hutten Rental Property Investor from Boulder, CO
    Replied 3 months ago
    Happy to help, Allan!
    Kristi Kandel Developer from Stateline, NV
    Replied 3 months ago
    Sometimes I forget that WFH is a challenge or something new to a lot of people. I've been WFH since 2010 and it has given me so much freedom and flexibility in life. Work rarely turns off but blocking out your time and making sure you take the time to play outside (snowboard, mt bike, paddleboard, hike with the dog, lunch w/ friends, etc) while the sun is out provided you work when the sun is down is totally fine. Obviously that only works if your boss and clients are on board and if you are an achiever with the correct technology to be successful. I truly hope that this situation gives new perspective to bosses and employees to change things up for the better.
    Whitney Hutten Rental Property Investor from Boulder, CO
    Replied 3 months ago
    Agreed, Kristi!
    Chad Washam
    Replied 3 months ago
    Great article, thanks for taking the time to share.
    Whitney Hutten Rental Property Investor from Boulder, CO
    Replied 3 months ago
    You bet, Chad. I hope you found a useful nugget or two in there to organize your time :)
    Ken Kirunda Rental Property Investor from cambridge, MA
    Replied 3 months ago
    Excellent article. I am sharing it with everyone! Very useful, especially in these times!
    Whitney Hutten Rental Property Investor from Boulder, CO
    Replied 3 months ago
    Happy you found value, Ken!
    Josh Hooper Investor from Atlanta, Georgia
    Replied 3 months ago
    I love this article. I am bookmarking it!
    Whitney Hutten Rental Property Investor from Boulder, CO
    Replied 3 months ago
    Glad I could help, Josh.