By:  Karen Sullen

There never seemed to be enough hours in the day, even before your bundle of joy arrived.  But now with baby on board, it can be quite a task managing work life and home life, especially if you work at home.  While it's tempting to spend hours gazing into your baby's eyes or watching him sleep because he looks so adorable wrapped up in his favorite baby blanket, you'll soon find that the ability to prioritize, multi-task, and effectively schedule your day will keep time on your side.  

The first order of business
If you're considering working at home, the first thing you need to do is assess your strengths and weaknesses.  The best work-at-home personality is a self-motivated, focused, flexible and organized multi-tasker.  But, don't worry if none of these apply to you.  Just develop a method to strengthen your weaknesses.  If you're an organized, well-oiled machine, great!  But if you lack discipline, you'll need to set some checks and balances to make sure things get done.  If you're not a multi-tasker, create a to-do-list, stay focused and check the tasks off one by one until they're done.  

Get organized
There are only a precious few people who are innately organized, always a step ahead with several back up plans in their pocket.  If you're not one of them, managing the work-at-home life requires that you become one.  Plan your day as much as possible, and use available technology to simplify your work.  Find ways to keep down the clutter if you have a habit of laying things down anywhere or keeping things forever.  A great way to manage the often overflowing mail is to keep a trash can by the door, and sort the mail as you walk towards the house.  Toss the junk mail at the door so that it never makes it inside.  If necessary, hire a business coach for accountability and to help you stay on task.

Set friendly boundaries
Many times, family and friends take advantage of the work-at-home Mom because they mistakenly perceive her to have plenty of time on her hands since she doesn't have to work at a job outside the home.  From running their errands or spending time with them on the phone, it's easy to squander precious time.  If you don't have the time, don't be afraid to say so.  Another great tip is to keep a clock in front of you when you're on the phone, and set a time limit for the call.  When time's up, politely excuse yourself, and get back to work.  You'd be surprised how five minutes turns into 50 minutes when you're talking on the phone.

Get an energy boost
From diaper changes to baby's mealtime, managing your baby's needs can leave you exhausted when it's time to get things done for work.  Give yourself an energy boost by taking a brisk walk, exercising or enjoying fruit to refresh yourself.

Time your tasks
After the baby has gotten into a routine of eating and sleeping, you'll find that creating a daily schedule for yourself around baby's schedule is helpful.  Begin with the big time commitments, and schedule them first.  Then fill in the smaller tasks throughout the day.  However, be flexible.  The baby may not always follow your schedule.  

Maximize "down time"
I know you may think you won't have any down time, but there are quite a lot of mini-moments that you can make productive.  If you're driving other siblings to school first thing in the morning, make your mental to-do-list while in the car, and keep a pen and pad handy to write down your list while at stop lights.  If you're waiting for a doctor's appointment, use that time to make some business calls.  With the aid of a hands-free device, some mothers use drive time as phone time to catch up with family and friends.  

Get grandparents involved
The support of family and friends is invaluable.  For a little uninterrupted work time, regularly schedule time for baby to stay with a family member or friend each week.  Even if it's just for a few hours, you'll look forward to that time to be focused and productive.  Don't worry about imposing, they'll be glad to help out.

Working from home is a great option for women who are nearing the end of their maternity leave and are not yet ready to return to work, stay at home moms who need additional income for baby clothes, baby shoes and other necessities, and other women who want to be there for their children while still being able to pursue their goals.  Heck, there are thousands of women who haven't even had a baby but are enjoying the benefits of a home office.  Regardless of the reason, hopefully you will find these tips helpful to maintain a healthy balance between work and baby.