For as many things about my life that the pandemic changed forever, I have to admit that my day-to-day didn't take as much of a hit as so many other people. I had been working from home (with littles in tow) for years before I ever heard the word "coronavirus," and we had even begun homeschooling by choice the year before. I've been a parent for long enough to know that it's risky to declare anything I do a "success" (because we all know now how quickly a situation can change overnight!), but here are a few things I learned to do early on to help working from home with children go more smoothly.

Create a work station that actually works for you

When you're working out of an office, it's easier to make the mental switch into (and out of) work mode. Not so much when you're first figuring out WFH life. The key for me was creating a designated spot with everything I needed to get the job done. This served two purposes: It meant I wasn't constantly getting up to find my laptop charger or a notebook every few seconds, and it made it easier to turn off the work day when it was time to turn off my email notifications and switch gears back into parenting.

A key part of a great work space? A supportive seat. I loved the All33 BackStrong C1 ergonomic office chair, whether it was supporting me through a video conference call or working as a comfy spot to nurse my baby in a pinch, this chair helps me keep my energy up to play with my kids at the end of the day. (Hey, WFH life is all about flexibility, right?) Which brings me to my next tip...

all33 BackStrong C1 ChairStaples Connect

Embrace a (flexible) routine

Sound like an oxymoron? Think of it this way: Instead of planning your day minute-to-minute, plan it in smaller chunks. In my house, that meant breakfast and clean-up, followed by semi-independent play while I worked, lunch and clean-up and a bit more play together, then nap time (when I did the bulk of my work), then play until dinner, bath and bedtime. One super helpful tool that helped me block out everything from time to answer emails to time to step away from my "office" was the Productivity Cube. It makes it easy to master time management by removing digital distractions and providing bite-sized timers for everything from heads-down work time to self-care.

Creating a blocked schedule like this helped me feel more like myself even when I was going through major changes, whether that be adjusting to a WFH schedule or the shifting realities of parenthood. But it also allowed enough flexibility that I didn't feel tied to a rigid itinerary or like a failure when the plan shifted. The repetition of the routine was also easier for my daughter to adapt to as we both figured out this new life together.

Productivity CubeStaples Connect

Try a "3 things" to-do list

In my pre-baby life, I was a huge fan of extensive to-do lists that I would eagerly check off line by line. Post-baby life looked a little different. Suddenly, I found my lists overly daunting and it was hard not to feel disappointed in myself when I would barely scratch a handful of items off by the end of the day. The solution was a super prioritized, 3-item checklist. Yup, just three things.

Not only did this condensed to-do list force me to be ruthless about how I spent my time, it was also so much more satisfying to my mental health to know that I would end every day with a clean slate. Plus, I drastically reduced decision fatigue by making all those tough decisions upfront and simply sticking to my plan. It might sound silly, but I found it helpful to create a visible representation of my priorities with a checklist that allowed me to designate my most important tasks from the ones that could wait.

Find local resources that can support your unique career path

For me, I found that partner in my local Staples store. Not only was it a breeze to find just the right product to outfit my home office in their store, their experts also helped walk me through the stickier moments of connecting from home and finding solutions for small businesses. Whenever I hit a snag, I knew a quick trip to Staples Connect would help me find solutions and get back on track to get. it. done.

Turn the challenges into opportunities

When I left office life to work from home, the only thing I knew was that I wanted to be home with my daughter full time. I had no idea how the experience would shape me as a person—and as a career professional. In the beginning, simply getting through the day with everyone fed and happy was an accomplishment. But as time went on (and my family and I adapted to our new life together) I could start checking off bigger and bigger wins. As a result, I built not only a successful career as a freelance writer and editor, I also started to see opportunities to found my own company to fill a hole in the homeschooling market I might never have had time to explore if I wasn't in this position. Eventually, I even launched a company that I've continued to develop through the pandemic. It was honestly something I had never thought I could realistically do when I worked in an office, and one I'm not sure I would have had the guts to go for if I wasn't working from home.

Staples was even more helpful when I first launched. They helped me create the right work environment that could adapt to my changing needs as a WFH parent, and they also came through when I had legitimate business needs, like needing a professional address for my company. Their iPostal1 service lets me use any Staples store as a business address, creating a more professional appearance for my customers and protecting my family's privacy, even while we're still a small business.

But the small and big accomplishments aside, working from home as a parent showed me what I was made of. It showed me all the hats I could wear—and it also taught me how to ask for help when I needed it. It pushed me in ways I never expected, and I don't know that I would be the parent and woman I am today if I hadn't had the experience.

Explore Staples Connect, the working and learning store.

This article was sponsored by Staples Connect. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.