I’ve been working from home for a few years now, but I’ve always been able to rely on my son being in school, which allowed me to maximize my time and minimize distractions. Given current circumstances in the nation, most kids are at home doing eLearning, which means parents are forced to juggle the two without very much time for planning and preparation.
While we all love our children, having kids at home during the workday can become a significant distraction. To avoid your taking a major hit to your productivity, follow these essential tips for working from home with kids.
Get Up Early
I once asked a parent how they get so much done, and they revealed an interesting secret. “Get up way before your kids. If you get up after them or even at the same time, you’re already behind for the day.”
This is so true. You can get a lot done simply by getting up early while the kids are asleep. Usually, this is my time to exercise, read, or focus on my passion projects. Over the next few weeks, my goal will be to wake up at either 5 am, or 6 am and immediately get to work.
By the time my son gets up in a few hours, I could be way ahead on my first primary task for the day.
Set Hours That Correspond With Your Energy
I am big on setting hours that correspond with your energy levels. While I feel very energized in the morning, I also experience other bursts of energy throughout the day.
When kids are home, you’ll want to use this in your advance. Maybe you get up early to squeeze in a few hours of work. Then once your kids get up, you can make breakfast and do an activity with them. You may feel more energized in the early afternoon or even in the evening to get work done as well.
Learn how your body reacts during certain times of the day then plan your schedule around this.
Put Your Kids on a Schedule
No matter how old your kids are, it’s essential that you put them on a schedule as well if you’re trying to get more done while working from home with kids.
My son is in 4th grade and was able to bring his school laptop home. In addition to what the teacher assigns him, I also sent him an email with an overall daily schedule. This schedule tells him what to do when he gets up, which tasks to work on and when along with when lunch and free time will be. We’ve also discovered some free online classes during this time, so my son will also be learning Spanish and taking a typing class to fill his daily schedule.
If your kids are younger, job down a basic schedule on a whiteboard or simply tell them verbally to start the routine. You may want to let your kids have snack time at 10 am and watch an educational video. Or, you can layout coloring books and storybooks for independent reading and creative time.
When your kids are busy, make sure you’re maximizing your time by doing something productive.
I’m bad enough with snacking throughout the day when I work from home by myself. When you throw kids into the mix, you probably won’t want to be in the kitchen all day preparing snacks. It can be very disruptive to your daily schedule.
There’s nothing wrong with prepping meals and snacks for the day so your kids can have easy access. It could help you stay on track during those moments when you are focusing strictly on a work task.
Put snacks on the counter like granola bars, apple sauce, and clean fruit so your kids can grab them when it’s snack time. You may even want to cut up fruit and place it in individual containers in the refrigerator or pop popcorn in advance. That way, you don’t have to keep interrupting your work to make snacks all the time.
Take Advantage of Nap Times
If your kids take naps during the day, use this time to really get ahead on your work. Even if your child is older, they could still benefit from a good nap, which could easily score you an extra 1-2 hours of uninterrupted work time throughout the day.
Be realistic about what you can accomplish, and don’t try to cram an entire workday into a 2-hour nap period. Instead, be intentional with your time and break things up. Be specific about what results you are aiming to get in the time that you have.
Eliminate Unnecessary Meetings
All meetings are not bad or pointless, but meetings do take up time. If something can be said in an email that will allow you to add more time back into your day when working from home with kids, when kids are around the whole day, it can often seem like time flies by so fast. Lunchtime arrives quickly, and nap time always seems to come and go.
It’s important to be extremely intentional about what you’re doing and how efficient you are being throughout the day. If having kids at home is only temporary, like for many of us at this time, cancel or postpone some meetings and just be honest and upfront about your situation.
Odds are, you may be able to converse and share your feedback via a group chat or project management system. As always, email is available, and checking emails is a very low-energy task that you can complete any time of the day.
Let yourself off the hook for anything that you feel you are not doing as well as you usually do. Right now, it’s important to stay happy, calm, and as productive as possible. And what you get done is good enough.
How do you handle working from home with kids? What are your best tips and strategies for staying productive?