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During the years of working at home, I’ve been asked tons of time ‘How do you find time to fit everything in?’ my answer is always ‘You don’t!’
Over the years I have set my work schedule to match my expectations. When I had children under 3 years old my work expectation was a lot less.
It is important for you to decide what a work at home lifestyle looks like for you. Unless you have help in some sort of childcare you can’t expect to do the same as you would normally.
Remember why you chose to work from home. Was it because you want the flexibility of time with your family? Was it to avoid childcare costs? Decide what balance looks like to you.
Below are some ideas to help:
- The easiest way is to set an alarm to wake you earlier in the day. I’m more productive in the mornings so this works for me. You may be more of a night owl – if so, use a couple of hours in the evening.
- Work weekends where you can – if you have someone that can look after the children for you and take them out for a few hours this may be the best option.
- Break up your work into smaller chunks for a maximum of 20 mins at a time. Working whilst having children at home is very taxing but finding 20 minutes to complete a set task is more realistic and better than no work at all.
- Keep your laptop switched on all day to allow you to get dip in and out of work if you can find the time.
- Prioritise your work with most important first – you could schedule it as 1) essential, 2) important and 3) trivial. Don’t try to get too much done in one day, as you may be disheartened with your completed tasks.
- If you are going to put a film on, so you can get an hour of work done – don’t press play until you are ready to get stuck into the work. There is nothing worse than having the chance to do an hour’s work but by the time the laptop loads up the film has finished.
- Make a sign for the door for when you need to concentrate – teach the children to be quiet and not disturb you. I use this if I need to make a 20 min call, it normally works but occasionally the kids rush in to tell on each other! ( don’t use this if it is a really important call).
- Schedule some time for some activities with the kids. Perhaps play a game or go for a walk, you can still have fun on a workday, this will also make you feel better about having to work that day. For me personally, I take the boys out to the park in the morning so I can work a couple of hours in the afternoon. This way I can be fully present in my current activity – whatever that is whether it is work or spending time with my kids.
- If your work needs long periods of concentration – Ask a friend or relative to help you out. You can’t expect to be able to work without distractions unless you have paid help. But if you had paid help, you wouldn’t be reading this list.
- Build-in breaks throughout the day – the time between the breaks will vary depending on the age of the children. Work with your children’s rhythm as each child has a different attention span. This will help with your own sanity too.
- Ask family and friends to have a child swap day. You can give a day childcare to a friend if they do the same for you. It doesn’t even have to be a whole day, I will take my friends children to the park with me for a couple of hours to give her some time and vice versa. Who can you ask for help?
- Make sure your clients/colleagues know when/how to contact you. Be honest with your customers, bosses, and your kids. Once you have set up your work schedule, share it with those that need to know, times they can call, and when you would prefer them to email you.
- If they are old enough – talk to the children – lay some ground rules for when you are busy – e.g. when I’m on a call I’d like you to stay quiet and I will come and find you when I’m off the phone.
- Create an agreed routine – e.g. mummy works for 20 minutes then plays in the garden for an hour or 30 mins of tv together. You know your children’s attention span and preferred activities.
- If you have older children, offer incentives/rewards for having an hour of time for work.
- Give yourself enough time on a project – pre-empt problems and be realistic, can I get this done by working 3 early mornings?
- Keep them entertained – puzzles, drawing, building, challenges, tv, movies, activity kits, or games they are familiar with. Create a work/art station as an activity and you can have an office gallery for their work.
- Have an office space – a location your children learn to leave you alone – you can also mentally walk away from being a mum/dad.
- Communicate clearly with your spouse about your work schedule and home schedule so that they know what must be done in your absence.
- Thank your children for giving you time to work – showing this gratitude feels great and teaches them the role they can play in helping out.
- Listen to your kids and know when to give up trying to work. Give them your undivided attention for an hour or two and they might let you work again later.
- Leave the phone at your desk when not working. This will remove the temptation to check emails or messages and will show your full attention to your children.
- Learn to say ‘no’ to work commitments. It is easy to over-schedule yourself and say ‘yes’ to more work as you want to seem willing and able.
- Get your children to help with chores around the house. When we are at home together it isn’t only me doing the housework and chores. We take a room each to hoover and the boys empty the dishwasher each day. This gives them some responsibility and it means I don’t have these chores to fit in around the children and work.
If you are wanting to build a business, it is important to get some perspective. You will have time to grow your business in the future so scale back now if your children are young so you can spend some quality time together.
If you would like this ‘how to work at home with children’ list in a printable PDF please visit:Ultimate Guide to Working at Home With Kids