The majority of us now have a taste of what it’s like to work at home. Of course that comes with many transitions if you’re not used to it, but what makes being productive one thousand times harder is if you have children (especially very young children!) running around at the same time as you’re trying to work. Truthfully, it’s impossible to do both at the same time.
If you’re a work at home mom (or dad) like me, you’ve probably quickly realized that you have to juggle your tasks quite a bit throughout the day. However, if you work for an employer on a super regimented schedule, then you may not have that option. But if you do have flexibility in what hours you work, you may want to keep reading.
Today I’m sharing a few tricks I’ve learned along the way throughout my years of working at home while keeping up with the kids. Luckily, I normally have them in school during the mornings, which gives me about 3 extra hours to work, but that is obviously not happening right now amidst the pandemic. But when we are all home, the main thing that has helped me is to identify my open pockets of time to work and utilize those moments very well. In this post, I’m letting you know how I enhance those chunks of time so that I’m making the very best of my moments to work.
Some of these tips apply to all work at home parents, some are more targeted to parents of super young children like mine, and some of these will help pretty much anyone that is now working at home—child or not. And of course, they are simply my personal methods. You may have something totally different that works for you!
My Best Tips
Make your bed first thing. It’s no secret that this starts your day off on a good foot. I cannot leave my bed unmade ever ever. I like to make it the moment my feet hit the ground in the morning.
Get dressed. Anything but pajamas. Also, even if I know I’m going to be home all day without seeing anyone, I always brush my teeth and wash my face first thing before getting dressed. Typically the kids are in our room at this time playing with a toy basket we keep in our room, so it gives me a few minutes. Sometimes Brandon and I will alternate taking the kids downstairs for breakfast. When he does it, I will have more of a chance to get ready with a shower and everything. If he’s not home, then I’ll go downstairs with the kids in my jammies and then after breakfast, bring the kids back upstairs and let them play in our room/bathroom while I take a speedy shower. Otherwise I’ll just shower at night! But back to the point—just get out of your jammies.
Stay on a schedule as best as possible. Your children will thrive on the schedule, but this will also give you a clear picture of when your pockets of time to work are.
Nap time is sacred. Don’t do anything during that time that could be done while they are awake. This is my time to get nothing but work done. For me, I will not clean a single thing during Watson’s quiet time and Rosie’s simultaneous nap time because picking up toys or anything that is out of place is something they can help with. In fact, we do this before they go upstairs for their nap/quiet time every day, so it’s all done anyway! But the point is… if you’re a work at home parent, use nap time as your opportunity to get nothing but work done. Do not unload the dishwasher, do not make your bed (do that when you wake up!), do not do any chores… just sit down and get your work done while you can do it with no distractions. (By the way, nap time for Watson equals an hour and a half of quiet time. He stays in his room playing and loves it. He comes downstairs afterwards and has a snack and some iPad time while Rosie continues to nap for another hour or hour and a half. So I continue to work when he comes downstairs.)
Keep the house tidy. I know this is easier said than done, but for me to be inspired throughout the day and to be a good worker and a good mom, I have to pick up all the toys completely at least two times daily, otherwise my eyes and mind get overwhelmed. We pick up toys as a team every single day before nap time. This is never an unexpected task for them because we do it every day without question. We also do this before bedtime. This way I personally am never left picking up the bulk of the toys. I think this is setting a good example and creating good habits for the kids, but it’s also a huge help to me! A clean home leaves me inspired and feeling refreshed, which is a great foundation for getting work done.
If needed, work at night or in the wee hours of the morning. I know this is not ideal, but when you’re a parent of a young child and a business person at the same time, it’s usually necessary. I typically start working again around 8pm every night and work until I go to bed around midnight. So if you have a lot to do, take advantage of these quiet hours when the kids aren’t around, be it morning or night. Honestly, I look forward to this time because it’s so rewarding to me to be able to be productive for a few hours straight without interruption. It’s pretty fun for me too because I will work on my laptop while listening to Housewives or another show I like. (Brandon, on the other hand, cannot work with any noise in the background. We are all different!)
Turn email notifications off on your phone. You are not going to want to stop what you’re doing every 5 minutes to look at your phone when it jingles. For me (and like most of you, I’m sure) I get a new email every 2 minutes at least, so if I got a notification each time, then my “mom time” would be constantly interrupted and I would honestly be an anxious mess from looking at my phone all day wondering who else needs me. Emails can wait. Just set designated times throughout the day where you check your inbox with the intention to respond to some at the same time.
Try to separate mom time and work time as best as you can. I’m not good at this at all, for the record. When I’m playing with the kids, I feel like I have so much else I should be doing. And when I’m working, I miss the kids. There’s a lot of guilt involved on all ends! But I do try to separate work and mom time as best as I can. However, I do have certain times of overlap though. For example, I’ll get the kids a snack and while they are eating that, I’ll answer some emails or put up an IG post. (Something quick!) I’ll pull out play-doh or some other toy and then have a chance to work some while they are playing. But I do try to make a conscious effort to not be on my phone or computer around them as best as I can.
So in summary, I do find pockets of time throughout the day to get work done. This used to be the 2.5-3 hours I’d have each morning while the kids were at school, then a little time while they would eat a snack afterwards at home, then their nap/quiet time, and then I’d work from 8pm – midnight. So it equates to about 10 hours a day, more or less. When Brandon decided to leave his job to help me and go out on his own, it allowed me to work even more hours than that, but luckily I didn’t have to work quite as solid in the evenings. Now that the kids are out of school from covid closures, we have pivoted again, but we are making it work! Let me know on Instagram what works best for you!