How to Have a Productive Day at Home (Even if Your Kids Are Driving You Crazy)
“Work from home,” they said.
“It will be fun,” they said.
“They” couldn’t have been more wrong!
When you work from home, you’ve still got the pressures and deadlines that come with a regular job.
Combining working from home with the demands of parenthood(“You want me to read that AGAIN?”) can make you doubt your very sanity.
As a work-from-home parent, you often feel like you’re short-changing yourself, your clients and your kids.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel for work-from-home parents.
There are many ways to make the combination of working from home and parenthood easier on yourself.
Phase I — Shift Your Expectations
Welcome to your new reality.
Even if you pride yourself on never missing a deadline at your old office job…it’s a brand new ballgame as a work-from-home parent.
In fact, you can only plan on one thing with absolute certainty.
And that’s nothing will go 100% as planned.
So don’t set yourself up for failure with an overly ambitious work schedule. Give yourself a pat on the back if you can get halfway through your to-do list while your kids are awake.
There will be days when your child is sick or needy, and you just have to roll with it.
Tomorrow is another day.
Phase II — Soothe Your Mind (Safety First)
Every parent alive has had the sudden realization that the kids are way too quiet. We all know what that means.
They are into something they shouldn’t be!
When you work from home, you’re not going to be able to keep your eye on the kids every single second of your day. Not if you want to get your work done.
That’s why if you do everything possible to ensure your kids are safe, you’ll be more at ease. You won’t be jumping out of your skin every time you hear a noise.
When you’ve done everything you can to protect your children, you’ll feel more relaxed. You’ll be able to finish up those last-minute TPS reports without jumping out of your skin every time you hear a noise.
Here is an excellent checklist from Parents.com about how to kid-proof your home.
Phase III — Schedule for Your Success
Set up a schedule to accomplish as much as you can in short bursts. Make the most of the time your kids are sleeping.
Step 1 — Get up earlier.
You can get a fantastic amount of work done in just a couple of hours when the house is quiet. Your productivity will go through the roof when you don’t have to herd kids. To increase it even more, don’t stop to answer emails or texts during these quiet hours.
Step 2 — Use nap time productively.
Most kids aged from 2–4 will nap in the afternoon for an hour or so. Plan activities that require extra focus during this time.
Step 3 — Work after the kids are in bed.
Sneak in an extra hour or two after you get them settled down for the night. Establish regular bedtime hours to make the most of your time.
Step 4 — Schedule online meetings when kids are sleeping (or when you have childcare.)
It’s not realistic to expect small children to maintain radio silence while you chat up clients.
Step 5 — Schedule some breaks into your day.
Give the kids your full attention during break times, and they’ll interrupt you less during working hours. Set a timer to help kids countdown to your next break.
Phase IV — Quiet, Please!
Everyone who works from home with kids needs some uninterrupted time to focus. You’re probably not going to be able to get all of your work done when the kids are asleep.
And that’s why you need to pre-plan some daily activities to engage your kids in quiet play. Create a weekly calendar where you rotate these activities so your kids don’t get bored by the same-old, same-old.
It might seem like a hassle to sit down and plan a week’s worth of kid activities in advance, but the benefits are enormous.
Your kids won’t be whining “We’re bored,” and you won’t be scrambling finding something for them to do at the last minute. As well, planning ahead lets you stock up on any needed craft items.
- Sorting games, threading large beads on pipe cleaners, puzzles, building towers, forts made with sheets, playdough, activity jar. (There are some great suggestions for pre-school age activities on Pinterest and YouTube.)
- Empty cardboard box & crayons — kids love an empty cardboard box. Having one gives their imagination full-rein. Give the kids some crayons and stickers to decorate their boxes to their hearts’ content.
- Sticky easel. Tape a piece of contact paper sticky-side out to an easel or cutting board. Kids will have a ball sticking craft sticks, buttons and other small items to the easel. (See www://learnwithplayathome.com for more info.)
- Have some special movies on hand for when you just have to get something done
- “Paint” toys with water. Give a kid a small container of water and a paintbrush so they can paint waterproof toys.
- Daily busy boxes. Busy boxes are small containers with books, a sensory item, small toys, puzzles and other items that keep kids amused for long stretches. Kids love the element of surprise busy boxes offer — it’s like opening up a new gift every day.
Phase V — Get Some Help
Reconsider if you think that childcare is too expensive.
Having childcare frees you up so you can be more productive.
This means that you can bill out faster — which will often more than cover your childcare expenses.
Here are some other childcare options to consider:
- Your spouse takes over when they get home. This is many people’s go-to option, but it can be tough on relationships. Your spouse doesn’t get any downtime when they get home from work, and you don’t get any time to enjoy together as a couple. You can start to feel like you don’t know each other.
- Swap childcare with a friend a couple days a week. This can be a great option if you work remotely, or you have tasks that need to be completed on specific days of the week.
- Consider a nanny — Hiring a nanny can sometimes be a less expensive option than daycare. This could be an ideal position for a college student.
- Part-time daycare — This isn’t an option everywhere, but certainly one to consider. Daycare for a couple of afternoons per week can make a real dent in your projects.
- New option on the horizon — Workspaces for freelancers combined with on-site childcare are starting to pop up. This is an excellent option because you don’t have to commit to full-time childcare. (Typically, you book your workspace and childcare a week or two in advance.) You’ll also get to network with other freelancers — a real bonus because working alone for long stretches makes you feel isolated.
Phase VI — Smile (They Won’t Be Little Forever)
While your days as a work-from-home parent are bound to be hectic, remember there is light at the tunnel. Kids grow up fast. Every day they get a little more independent.
So, plan your work around your kids’ schedule as much as you can. Try to get in some uninterrupted time while they’re asleep or napping. Shut off your phone and ignore emails during this time.
You can make huge strides towards your goals with even a couple of hours of intense focus.
Use a calendar to plan some quiet activities for the kids on a rotating basis. Planning an activity schedule ensures you have all the materials you need on hand — and avoids any last minute panic or interruptions.
Don’t go it alone. Arrange for some childcare so you can really focus on your projects when deadlines loom.
Balancing the needs of your kids and the needs of your clients or boss is probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do.
“Trying to do it all and expecting that it all can be done exactly right is a recipe for disappointment. Perfection is the enemy.” — Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg
Forget about perfection when you work from home.
Cut yourself some slack. Go for good enough.
Enjoy your days as a work-from-home parent as much as you can — because they won’t be here for long!