I’ve been doing this work-from-home thing for 11 years. Seven years ago, when I had my son, I did what I could working from home with a baby, and by 2 years old, we enrolled him in daycare two times a week. I filled those glorious hours with emails and articles and brainstorming notes, and found a real work groove. And then school began with full-time Pre-K. Suddenly I had time… time every single day to take on more clients, time to do some volunteering on a regular basis, and even (gasp!) work on some creative writing.
Then, two weeks ago, everyones’ worlds were turned upside-down. Parents were asked to work remotely from home, schools and daycares closed, and suddenly, houses that were eerily still during the week were bustling. Not just that, but we were self-isolating, so moms and dads couldn’t play tradesies with playdates to at least get a reprieve.
This is tough. Really, really tough. But we’re muddling through. And these 5 steadfast rules for working from home with kids just might help put a little order in your day.
Routine. Routine is a must. When I started freelancing I was staying up till 3am, sleeping in till noon, and living in PJs. I then discovered I was much more productive when I had more structure: wake-up and bedtimes, actual clothes (even if they were sweatpants), certain times for meals, etc. My day flowed more easily and less stressfully.
You need uninterrupted windows of time. There are just certain things, like phone calls or virtual meetings, etc., that you have to do, and you need to find that one thing that makes your kids tick to save till those moments. For example, block an hour of time in the morning and in the afternoon for these pertinent calls, and then let your child do whatever it is she/he really loves. For the ones still napping, use those windows of time to work. For toddlers, certain videos or hands-on play activities could work. Preschoolers might love Playdoh but get to do it seldom, so that’s when you pull out that bin. And for grade-school kids, use those times to let them get in their screentime. It’s about survival right now, and you need to work, and if that means pulling out whatever stops you need to so you can get the important stuff done, then so be it. You can catch up on emails later.
There is work time, and then there is personal time. You need a separation. And this is a lot more challenging when you’re working and you’re at home. Set a time when you’ll turn off the work stuff – no phone calls, emails or texts. Sure, you may not be able to keep your usual 9-to-5 schedule from home, but there’s definitely a point when you’ve done all you can for one day and you can’t do anymore. What is that point? If it’s 6pm, then cut it all off then.
Prep for your day like you did when you worked outside the home. Put your clothes out. Make quick lunches and snacks for you and the kids. The more you plan out, the less time you’ll waste day to day and the more quality time you’ll end up with!
Sunday is organization day. My Sunday evenings are about getting my calendar and agenda ready, and planning out my week. I figure out all the meals so I know what groceries I need (which are now being ordered and delivered), I figure out the errands and chores for each family member and put them on a chalkboard in our kitchen, and I get my work week ready by prioritizing my own to-dos: I mark deadlines in order of importance, pitches I want to send, people I need to connect with, etc. It makes my week run that much more smoothly when I go into it prepared.