Right now is a stressful time for a majority of us. To make matters worse, you’ve probably converted your home into an office, as well as school. Because of this, it may seem impossible for you to get anything done. Thankfully, you can use the following 10 time management tips to still get stuff done even if you’re self-isolating with your family.
1. Determine what time-keeping environment is best for you.
“I think there are two broad categories of people in a situation like this,” says Mark Forster, author of Secrets of Productive People. “The first category consists of those who would do best by re-creating as far as possible the structure they normally have at work.”
“The second consists of those who will leap at the chance to design a more flexible and creative structure for themselves. If you don’t know which of these categories you belong to, then go for the first.”
After figuring this out, Forster suggests that you:
- Know your boundaries. “It’s vitally important to decide right from the beginning how you are going to work and get the right boundaries erected,” Forster says. “It will be much more difficult to sort it out once you’ve made a bad start.”
- Stick to a schedule. Forster suggests adopting a “school timetable.” It’s similar to time blocking where you work for a specified period and then take a break. For Choncé Maddox, this would be working from 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. At 10, she gets her son set up for school and exercises around 11. She then works from noon to 2 p.m. As for the afternoon, she has lunch, does a creative activity with her son, and works again during naptime. Also, maintain your children’s schedule as close to normal as well.
- Timing is everything. “If you don’t want to adopt a full ‘school timetable’ structure, as a minimum set start and finish times for work – and keep to them,” Forster recommends.
- Make time to talk. Isolation can negatively impact your physical and mental health; as such, schedule time to chat and check-in with your team.
- Put a stop to it. “It’s essential that, whatever work periods you decide on, you stick to them to the second,” explains Forster. He found that having a “definite start and finish time produces much more concentrated work than just working while you feel like it.”
2. Create designated areas for work, school, and play.
Working from the kitchen table or couch may sound great in theory. But, in reality, working in areas like these can be distracting thanks to family members, household chores, or the TV. Instead, have a quiet and inspiring environment for reserved for work.
The same is true when it comes to teaching your children. They may be tempted to turn on the TV instead of focusing on their studies. And, don’t forget to have areas dedicated for non-work or school activities. Having these different zones help you get into different mindsets.
If space is an issue, then get creative, like having class outside or working from a closet. Most importantly, though, make sure that you keep each area clean and organized.
3. Build your village.
Your village isn’t just your partner. It could also be your parents, siblings, neighbors, or team members. You’re going to need them to lighten your workload or run errands. You could even ask them to help homeschool your kids by having them be a guest teacher for the day. Or, you ask them, or pay a sitter, to keep an eye on your children when you need to get work done.
4. Think outside the box.
I’m a morning person who wakes-up at 5:15 every morning. Because of this, I begin working bright and early. I then take over parenting duties when my wife needs to work. It’s a fair compromise. I’ve gotten my most important work done for the day, so then I can be a dad until it’s time for my wife to tag-in.
Other creative solutions could be working during naptime, planning playdates, or getting your kids involved. For example, while working in your home office, you could have them help out with tasks like stamping envelopes or organizing files.
5. You’re never going to be perfect.
“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” -Salvador Dali
It’s true. And, even more troublesome is that perfectionism prevents you from improving, discovering new opportunities, and wastes your valuable time. So, accept the fact that you’ll never be perfect and keep forging forward.
And, if you are a perfectionist, here are several ways that you can stop it in its tracks:
- Surrender to the moment and enjoy the process.
- Set SMART goals.
- Stop comparing yourself to others.
- Find the balance between good and perfect.
- Use “hypothesis testing” where you make a small mistake to make you realize it’s not the end of the world.
6. Take little breaks with your kids.
One of the drawbacks of working from home is that it’s more challenging to leave work at work. As a result, you end-up overworking. Occasionally, this isn’t necessarily terrible. But, if this becomes a daily occurrence, you’ll eventually fizzle out.
To prevent this, know how much you can accomplish in a day and limit yourself to only three tasks. Also, monitor your time to make sure that you aren’t putting in too many hours. And, establish hard start and end times.
Moreover, take frequent breaks throughout the day. Just make sure to use them wisely, like playing and learning with your children. Remember, they also need breaks to process what they’ve learned, unwind, and recharge.
7. Pick your battles.
You may want to prepare a delicious five-course meal. But, do you have time for that tonight. If not, save that meal idea until the weekend. Instead, make simpler using your Crockpot or picking-up a cooked chicken and pairing it with a salad.
Your kitchen floor may be a little dirty right now. But, that’s not a priority at the moment, is it? Clean your floors during a break or schedule a time to clean your home.
8. Plan for interruptions.
You just need to accept the fact that you’re going to get interrupted at some point. The key is learning how to prevent interruptions from eating up too much of your time. For instance, if you’re on a conference call, keep your phone on mute until it’s time to speak so that the other party isn’t distracted by your kids screaming in the background.
You could also place a “Do not disturb” or ribbon on your office door when you don’t want to be bothered. You could also use nonverbal cues, like putting your hand up to signal that you want them to stop what they’re doing.
9. Use tools effectively.
Email, instant messaging, cloud-based documents, and productivity tools are essential. After all, they’ve made it possible to communicate and collaborate with anyone no matter where they are. At the same time, they can be a nuisance. Just think about how many times you’ve been trying to focus on work or helping your kids with schoolwork only to be interrupted by a smartphone notification.
When you don’t want to be disturbed, turn your phone off. If you’re not comfortable with that, then block apps at certain times. And, if possible, try to limit the number of tools you use.
10. Have an evening huddle.
“You should have an evening huddle as a couple to look at the schedule for tomorrow, what’s going on with the kids, what’s going on with your work, and look at what adjustments you have to make,” suggests Julie Morgenstern, author of Time to Parent. “Things are going to happen, and you’re going to have to adjust.”
“Working in shifts provides this principal at the foundation that you then tinker,” adds Morgenstern. “So, meet at night and make battle plans.” For instance, if you have a conference call with your remote team at 2 p.m., then you need to let your partner know so that you can figure this out.
I’d also recommend that you share your calendar with your family so that they can see what your schedule looks like. Because things are changing so rapidly right now, I would share your calendar with your family every week, also, to go over each other’s plans every evening. And every evening, review each other’s calendar’s so that you can adjust.
John Hall is the co-founder of Calendar a scheduling and time management app. He’s also a keynote speaker that you can book at http://www.johnhallspeaking.com.