Coronavirus has brought on a million new challenges for everyone around the world. This disruption to our day-to-day can feel overwhelming as we adapt to this temporary new “normal.” The good news is there’s a lot we actually can control during this time. Giving our children the attention they require while maintaining our career through our at-home workday doesn’t have to be overwhelming or frustrating. Follow these tips to a more managed day with continued productivity. Practicing time management while working from home with your kids will bring you more joy and less anxiety during these uncertain times.
STRUCTURE YOUR DAY
Continuing your routine as much as possible matters. Before all of this happened, what were your days like? I’m guessing you and your family had a routine in place. When working from home, the same should continue as much as possible. Start your day with your usual routine to keep some sort of normalcy in place. This may require you to get up a little earlier to ensure you can get everything completed, but get in a groove. Use these tips to start your day with better mornings.
Plan & prepare
I used to plan ahead a week at a time. With the way things have been going and how quickly things change, I have started taking my schedule one day at a time. Each evening I’ll set aside time to plan the following day out. I recommend making a list of everything that needs to be completed that day and what your kids will require of you during that time. Once you have your top priorities and goals for the day listed, schedule them like important meetings on your calendar. For me, this means taking into consideration the time it will take me to complete specific projects, and working them into windows where I know I can get them done.
For example, nap time is usually longest for my infant in the morning. I know I can power through a lot of tasks then. Meal time keeps him entertained for a short period, but he’s pretty self sufficient so I can get some smaller tasks completed while he’s eating. If he’s entertaining himself, I can answer emails, follow up with anything that needs attention, and tie up any loose ends. Anticipate as much as you can and allow yourself to spend time with your kids too. After all, this is about managing your time working from home WITH your kids. This new way of life is a change for them too, so if they need their parents – work can be finished later or after bedtime.
Keep in mind you’re going to need to be flexible. I don’t mean doing Yoga every day, (but it can definitely help you feel better during stressful times), I mean expect the unexpected. If you’re a parent, you know your day can’t be planned hour by hour. Interruptions are going to happen. Expect them to, but don’t let them alter your mood or your focus. You may need to finish a project after the kids go to bed. If nap time is shorter than you had hoped and your baby wakes up in the middle of your conference call, it’s okay. We’re all in this together. Your team will understand if you need to hit mute or have to pass the crayons over to your kiddo coloring to stay busy.
Team up to coparent
When working from home with kids, it can be hard to stick to a standard 8 am – 5 pm workday. With uncontrollable interruptions, tasks end up getting rearranged throughout the day. This can cause you to finish projects well after bedtime or before breakfast. If your partner is working from home too, take turns working and hanging out with the kids. If one of you has important calls scheduled, have the other keep the kids entertained. Communication with one another and work together daily to prioritize tasks. Then divide and conquer. Nothing about the situation we’re in is ideal, so make sure you work as a team to make the best of it.
Getting in the habit of good time management while working from home with your kids requires setting boundaries. Whether you have a separate room for a home office or not, it’s important to set up a designated workspace. Ask your kids and significant other to knock when you are in this space. If your space is in an open area of the house, (like the kitchen table), setting a boundary could be as simple as asking them to play in another room. Let them know that if you are on the phone to not interrupt unless it’s an emergency. Communicate your plans for your workday with your family each day. This way, everyone is aware of the goals that you need to complete so you can all work together to make sure they get done. Be open with your kids and partner. Let them know everything you have on your plate. If you have younger kids that don’t understand boundaries, use the previous tips mentioned above. Monopolize on your alone time to be as productive as possible. Everything else can wait until after bedtime.
Easier said than done. It can be difficult to stay on task with work when you have a sweet nine month old demanding your attention. Before you know it, it could be 3 pm before you feel like you’ve gotten anything accomplished. Trust me, I get it. This is why planning your day and creating/maintaining routine are so important to keeping focus. Your new coworkers don’t have to take up all of your standard workday hours. Work from a list and utilize your free time. Regardless of your kids ages, staying focused requires time management while you’re working from home with them.
Empower your kids to set goals and focus too. Have an activity area for kids with art supplies, books, additional learning tools. Just like you have a workspace, if they have a space where they feel creative and motivated, they can keep themselves busy too. Give them small incentives for keeping to their schedule. For example, have a compensation type plan for your kids with stickers or made up money. Allow your kids to earn them by staying on track with their schedule, cleaning up without being asked, and achieving a goal you set together for the day. Use those bucks to buy legos, books, or other things at the end of the week.
MANAGE YOUR MINDSET
If you still have deadlines to meet or are working on a big project, interruptions can be frustrating. With the current global situation, stress is high and anxiety levels are through the roof. It’s hard not to allow those feelings in. Try to focus on the things you can control. Whether it be responding to an email immediately or getting those proposals out to clients that you’ve been working on, take those as wins. However big or small the victory, count it. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, good or bad.
If you find yourself becoming obsessed with the news and feel overwhelmed, this technique can help center you back and pivot your mentality into positivity. If you’re overwhelmed with current events or personal challenges, reach out to your Human Resources team or contact a local crisis hotline. Whatever you’re experiencing, you do not have to navigate it alone. Remember to continue to focus on the good and what you do have control over. Try journaling what you’re grateful for, or finally get out your child’s baby book that you’ve been meaning to update. Memory lane will surely have you smiling in no time.
Let’s face it, with all the tips in the world, working from home with kids can be unpredictable. Keeping the lines of communication open will help set expectations with your family and your team. Your sanity, family and coworkers will thank you for it. Especially if your kids are the ages where they require constant supervision, communicating your day will help your team anticipate your availability and response time. For example, divide your day with your partner and block off time on your calendar for the kids. Your coworkers have line of sight to your distraction free time and your kid time. Discuss your daily game plan with everyone and send the calendar invites over so they know when to expect your kid time.
EMBRACE YOUR NEW COWORKERS
Remember that this is all temporary. Eventually, we’ll all go back to work and the kids will go back to school or childcare. Routines will navigate back to normal and this time at home all together will come to an end. In the meantime, learn to function under one roof. Work together and become more productive and more connected than ever before. To keep things fun, make up a fake coworker in the house to blame things on. Give them a name and let all of the annoying stuff be their fault. For example, “Karen keeps leaving her empty water glasses all over the house. She’s such a slob.” Or, “Barb always talks so loud when she’s on the phone. She really doesn’t respect office etiquette.” Laugh at the little things, embrace the togetherness, and enjoy your new coworkers.
ADVICE FROM THE WORK-FROM-HOME VETERANS
“Try not to tell yourself you have to work absolutely every second, because then you feel guilty and stressed when that isn’t realistic. Just give yourself grace to do both and balance as best you can.” – Lauren B. – Mom of three (kids 6, 13, and 15 years old).
“Create a daily schedule for the kids. It’s important to keep a routine. They start and end their day on schedule and even set their Alexa per subject. The kids also create their own workspace that is a separate area away from beds, couches, and each other to give everyone the opportunity to step away when needed.” – Trang W. – Mom of three (kids 9, 14 and 17 years old).
“Become nocturnal.” – Tom D. – Dad of three (kids 5, 8, and 9 years old).
“Create a schedule that both parents and kids agree upon. Kids, especially little tiny ones, need structure.” – Katie F. – Mom of 2 (kids 1 year and 3 years old).
“Homeschooling guidelines suggest that kids in elementary school only need two hours of actual learning a day. We should not feel the obligation to fill a full day with learning. Have grace with yourself, parents. You’re doing the impossible right now, and you’re doing great.” – Jamie D. – Mom (6 year old).
This new way of life is uncharted territory for many parents, businesses, schools, and children. We’re all just trying to figure it out with each new day. Time management while working from home with your kids can be and adjustment, but it doesn’t have to be a struggle. Stick to a schedule. Plan as best as you can. Give yourself grace. Pivot when you have to. Team up. Take this work from home thing with your kids one day at a time and remember we’re all in this together. We’ve got this.