Growing up, my mom dreaded summers. Sure, she enjoyed taking off from work for our annual two-week vacation. But, overall, it was almost impossible for her to work and have us around the house all day.
Some parents have managed the long summer vacations through summer-long camps or daily childcare. Of course, not everyone has options within their budget — especially now. And, with so much uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, again, the options might not be available.
The good news? It’s still possible to still get things done while the kids are on summer break.
Create a summer calendar.
While you can go old school and use a paper calendar, I prefer an app. Mainly this is because I will always have it with me since it’s on my phone. As an added perk, that means I will also receive reminders so that I won’t forget about important dates.
Whatever calendar you roll with, start filling it out with key dates, such as holidays, vacation, or any other activities that you’ve planned with your family. I’d also add your priorities to the calendar so that your fam knows when you’re available and not.
I understand that this isn’t the most exhilarating of tasks. But, it will help you maintain a healthy balance this summer. As a result, you’ll be able to stay committed to your most important tasks, while still being able to enjoy time with your kids.
Adjust your schedule.
I realized years ago that my normal schedule wasn’t going to possible when the little ones are home. For some people who are creatures of habit and thrive on structure, this may not be pleasant. However, it’s a change that you’re going to have to get used to.
For instance, you may want to wake-up earlier so that you can work while your children are asleep. If you’re more of a night owl, you could work after they’re asleep for the night. Also, try to sneak in work whenever you can when the kids will be occupied. Examples would be when they’re eating, on a playdate, or at summer camp.
Map out your upcoming week.
Productivity just doesn’t magically happen. It takes a lot of planning in advance. The good news is that you don’t have to overwhelm yourself is you just take it one week at a time.
I personally do this on Sunday evenings. But, you could this on a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. It really doesn’t matter when. The key is designing your ideal workweek so that you’re organized and focused on your priorities.
If you’re new to this, here some tips for planning your upcoming week:
- Set a weekly intention.
- Prioritize your work.
- Connect and visualize the big picture.
- Reduce your plans and commitments.
- Use the right tools, such as a calendar, scheduling, or to-do-list app.
- Schedule your days more strategically, like creating theme days.
- Block out time to address the unexpected.
Become the tag team champions of the world.
Obviously, I’m not suggesting that you change careers and enter the world of professional wrestling. Instead, I’m recommending that you take turns watching your children with your spouse during the day.
Since I wake-up super-early, I can usually get some work done before everyone else is up. I then wrap-up things up by 10 or 11 am. At that point, I take over parenting duties for my wife who can then begin her workday.
Having this type of consistent schedule makes it easier for me to plan my day and schedule my work. At the same time, you need to be flexible. If your partner usually watches the kids in the afternoon but has an emergency team video call in the morning, then switch schedules for the day.
Launch your own child swap program.
If you’ve ever taken a family trip to Disney or Universal you may be familiar with their “Rider Switch” or “Child Swap” programs. For those unfamiliar, this is simply a system that allows parents to watch each other’s children when going on bigger rides — you need a family pass for this so that not kids aren’t just left with anyone.
Now, you don’t have to create some elaborate program here. But, you can try to implement something similar. For example, let’s say that every Thursday you have virtual meetings all day. You ask a friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker to watch your children on that day. In return, you could watch theirs on Wednesdays.
Carve out your own working space.
Close your eyes for a second. Picture your children running around the house. They need to let off some energy, so you let them continue to enjoy themselves. But, in the corner of your eye, you also notice all of the cleaning you have to do.
That’s the day in the life of a parent. Unfortunately, that doesn’t create the most productive work environment.
To help reduce these distractions, create a dedicated workspace. In a perfect world, this could be an area of your home that’s quiet. It should also have enough space for equipment like a standing desk. With that in mind, a spare bedroom, basement, or garage could be perfect locations.
What if you don’t have such a space? As long as it’s somewhere that is inspiring and has the fewest distractions and temptations, you can work from anywhere. The point is to have somewhere in your home that is only reserved only for work.
Develop a quiet time/nap ritual.
Let’s say that you have a young one who still takes lengthy naps, like between 12:30 and 3:30. Well, that’s three hours you have to get things done.
If the naps aren’t as long, or they’re too old for them, then establish a quiet time routine. For instance, they could watch a movie, read, or just play quietly in their rooms. Once this becomes a habit, they’ll do this without you reminding them — child psychologists believe structure is more important than warmth from parents. And, that’s when you can focus on your work.
Be ready with activities.
While parents love having their children around, it can also be exhausting preventing them from getting bored. If they are, they may be end-up pestering you until you give them something to do.
Just like creating your summer calendar and planning your week, brainstorm activities that will keep them busy. If you’re in need of some ideas, Care.com as a list of 30 boredom-busting ideas for active kids. It should be noted though that not all of these will work for younger children.
Find kid-friendly places to work.
I’m all about changing-up where I work. In fact, I’m known for bouncing from location-to-location throughout the day. For example, I might work from home in the morning, spend midday at my office, and then wrap-up my day in a coffee shop.
Even if I’m in the same location all day, I’ll work in different spots depending on what I’m working on. It’s just a simple way to avoid getting into a rut and find inspiration when needed.
Of course, when you have kids in tow, some of the normal places you would normally work won’t just cut it. So, you’re going to have pin down some kid-friendly places to work. Examples include playgrounds, parks, libraries, or coffee shops that cater to working parents. Other alternatives could be your local YMCA or backyard if you’re planning a staycation.
Embrace the summer slump.
Studies show that during the summer productivity drops by 20 percent. Additionally, attendance dips by 19 percent and project turnaround times increase by 13 percent. Maybe there is such a thing as a summer slump?
Besides having your kids home from school, we’re less productive during the summer for a number of reasons. For starters, the heat can make us feel lethargic. There’s also a more relaxed mentality and we’re staying up later since the sun is setting past 8 pm. And, with so many other professionals out of the office, it’s more difficult to communicate and collaborate.
Instead of trying to amp up your productivity, take advantage of the downtime. Have your children help you declutter your office and home. Learn something new or volunteer together as a family. And, take a break and unplug by going on a vacation.
In short, clear as much as you can off your schedule this summer. Just zero-in on your priorities and then make the best of the summer with your family.
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.