How to Manage Time When Working from Home as a Therapist

Are you a therapist wondering how to manage your time while working from home?

Female school-based therapist working from home on laptop computer while her young daughter, also using a computer, looks on.Are you struggling to balance various responsibilities pertaining to a large caseload and your family?

I can relate! 

My name is Ashley Heddings, and I’ve been a school-based Occupational Therapist (OT) since 2009.

Working in a large school for the last ten years, I’ve juggled caseloads of up to 120 students at a time, including lots of students on consult, and also many students the I saw twice per month.

I’m also a wife, and a mother to twin seven-and-a-half-year-old boys. 

Like other clinicians with Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS), I’ve found striking the right work-life balance while working from home can sometimes be overwhelming.

But I want to tell you how I’ve managed to not only do it, but also make it rewarding!

Task Analysis Is an Occupational Therapist’s “Superpower!”

Did you know OTs have a superpower many people don’t?

We have the power of task analysis. We’re able to analyze every single activity a person can do in their daily lives. I can write a three-page paper on brushing teeth that describes the process in more detail than you’d ever imagine possible!

We OTs can think of ways to make these daily activities—the “occupations” in our discipline’s name—more efficient, effective, and achievable based on each person’s individual circumstances. We devote our time to helping others with physical or cognitive limitations that make these occupations challenging.

But sometimes we focus on others so much, we forget we need to apply this same superpower to our own professional lives. 

When I find something isn’t running as smoothly as I’d like, I take time to perform a task analysis on myself as an OT, a wife, and a mom. Just as I’d interview a student or their caregiver, I interview myself and ask: 

  • What do I want to do?
  • What’s working and what isn’t?
  • What barriers stand in my way?
  • What strategies do I already know that can help me?
  • What do I need to know to solve my problem?
  • How can I implement strategies that will work?

Answering these questions makes my professional and personal occupations less overwhelming and helps me better manage my time working from home.

Implementing Key Changes Makes Working From Home Easier

To work more efficiently from home, you may have to make changes in how you do things, even if they’ll take some time and seem intimidating.

One of the biggest changes I made was in how I organized paperwork.

Initially, I maintained a pocket folder for each child and documented my sessions on paper. When I had to take paperwork home to finish—which was often—I had to bring these folders home with me. Sometimes I’d forget them; and sometimes I’d have so many, they’d get all mixed up and fall on the floor!

The folders weren’t working, so for several years I tried using binders with tab dividers. This system worked “okay,” but I felt there must be a better way.

I eventually switched to an online notebook system. I could keep digital notebooks for each school with pages for each student. I could also include notebooks for meetings, screenings, evaluations, and “to-do” lists.

It was helpful before working from home asI could access everything on my phone when I was on the go, and all the information I saved on my work computer was in the OneNote app on my home computer. No more forgetting that one folder I needed to write IEP goals—the information was always available! It also helped the transition to working from home smoother because all of my files were already organized and in one place. 

Do what works best for you, but don’t be afraid to try something new or to ask for help if it will streamline your daily routine and maximize your time management!

Smiling female school-based therapist working from home, sitting on couch with laptop computer on small desk, wearing headset.Optimizing How You Work From Home Improves Work-Life Balance

Having a simpler paperwork system also helped my home life. I had more time to focus on my family, and I didn’t have to worry about finding a location to store them, getting lost and forgetting to take them back to my work area! This also meant they were safe from my kids at home when they were doing one of their many messy craft projects. 

Time flies faster when you’re a busy, working parent. Kids only stay little for so long, and family time is precious. Sometimes, you just have to drop everything else and be with them. The same goes for time with your partner.

The paperwork will get done—IEPs are called “drafts” for a reason. If you didn’t get every detail in before the IEP team members’ meeting but did spend an hour running around outside with your kids, all will be well! 

I’ve also learned timing is everything. I can work while my children are busy with other things, or while my husband plays with them outside.

Once, during a power outage, I even spent time on teletherapy calls with students while my phone was plugged into my van’s electrical charger. To keep my boys occupied, I handed them water bottles and sponges so they could wash the car while I worked! 

PTS Helps Clinicians Thrive Off and On the Job

Discovering how to manage my time working from home has been a whole new challenge. Adjusting to the “new normal” has been hard, and performing task analyses of my problems and coming up with potential solutions is an ongoing process.

But never be afraid to take time to find more efficient ways to work so you can make more time for the things that matter most outside of work, including your family.

I’m so glad to work with PTS, because it’s an agency that understands the importance of maintaining a healthy life and work balance. Our clinical directors have all worked as independent contractors doing school-based therapy themselves, so they know the challenge firsthand. They’re always ready to offer advice as part of the close supervision and support they provide.

And PTS equips us therapists with the professional resources we need to serve students well. Especially in this season of working remotely, we’ve been fortunate to have a wealth of teletherapy tips and teletherapy materials to save us from endlessly “reinventing the wheel.”

If you’d like to explore working with the PTS team, click here to browse currently available school-based therapy jobs. Whether you end up working from home or on-site, you’ll find that PTS sets you up to succeed!

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