As a self-employed individual, you probably have plenty of experience working from home. But there’s a huge difference between working from home when you have the place to yourself and trying to work from home when your kids are there, too. But in these strange and unusual times, this is precisely where you find yourself.
4 Tips for Productivity and Sanity
You’re a parent and a professional. Both are important roles and, for the most part, you do a pretty decent job of executing the responsibilities of each. But these two lives typically have some healthy separation between them. Today, not so much. Your kids are home from school, you’re working from home, and it feels like pure, unadulterated chaos.
How do you stay productive and sane? What’s the secret to doing your job without letting your kids/personal life interfere?
These are valuable questions worth exploring in further detail. Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Get on a Schedule
“It’s important to line up your day carefully, with set ‘office’ hours,” Parents.com notes. “How many hours do you hope to work that day? When will you return calls? What can you accomplish while your son or daughter is coloring in the next room? You’ll get more done if you work smarter, not harder.”
One of the perks of being self-employed is that you’re able to set your own schedule. Use this to your advantage. Can you wake up two or three hours before your kids get out of bed and get a few important tasks done? Can you schedule phone calls during your toddler’s naptime? Be intentional with how you structure your time. It won’t always be perfect, but you can definitely get more done when you plan ahead.
2. Reduce Meetings
Meetings are a drain on productivity. Before scheduling any meeting, make sure it’s entirely necessary. If it’s an issue you can solve via email, take five minutes and clearly communicate what needs to be done. If a meeting needs to be held, optimize it so that things run as efficiently as possible.
A good meeting should be no longer than 30 minutes. Cut the small talk and get straight to the point. Always start on time – even if there are stragglers. (This teaches people to honor the start time in the future.)
3. Keep Kids Occupied
Keeping kids entertained and occupied is one of the big challenges from parents working from home. This can be especially problematic for children in the two to five age range. Kids in this age group are independent enough to play in another room, but still need an adult to help them perform very basic tasks.
With that being said, here are two things you can do to reduce the likelihood of kids interrupting your work:
- Set the expectation with your kids that they are not to bother you while working unless it’s a real emergency. (And be sure to explain what an emergency is and is not.) Your kids need to know that work is your priority between certain hours.
- Keep kids entertained by giving them things to look forward to while you work. For example, save screen time for when you’re working. When you’re off work, prohibit screens. (This gives them something to look forward to.)
- Food seems to be the thing that causes the most interruptions. Try leaving snacks and meals out for kids whenever you’re about to go into a meeting. (These silicone plates and bowls make it super easy to portion out meals. Plus, they’re hard to damage, which means your kids can clean up after themselves.)
As kids get older, you can give them responsibilities to occupy their time. They should equate your work time with their “work” time. This establishes a more cohesive feel for your family.
4. Become a Better Communicator
Interruptions are going to happen. One of your children will scrape his knee when riding his bike in the driveway. Your spouse will burn something on the stove and set the smoke alarm off. Your baby will wake up crying in the middle of her nap. That’s just life.
Give yourself the freedom to not be perfect. Communicate with your clients and business partners. Let them know that you’re working from home and things might not always go according to plan. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that most people are totally understanding.
Making the Best of Any Situation
There’s nothing about the current situation that’s ideal. Fear, anxiety, stress, confusion, chaos – these are all words you could use to describe what’s happening. But these words don’t have to describe your career. Be intentional about how you structure your home and schedule. In doing so, you’ll perform better and feel better.
Anna is the founder and CEO of Johansson Consulting where she works with businesses to create marketing and PR campaigns.