Kids, parents, work, school: Suddenly, our homes have never felt smaller.
I know, it’s not exactly news at this point that many businesses are managing the day-to-day while at home. By now, we’ve all had our trials and tribulations when it comes to managing our businesses and our families simultaneously. It’s not easy, and each day needs to be taken for what it is: A new day.
That said, jenn suz hoy has been a home-based business since day 1. In addition, it was promoted from freelance side hustle to full-time business when our youngest in 2015, celebrating the birth of our youngest. That’s right, I have been raising a business and a family simultaneously for almost 5 years now.
During that time, I have been through the same trials and tribulations that many businesses face now that the option of not working at home no longer exists. I have read books and blogs, listened to podcasts and talked to friends as I worked to manage two seemingly opposing parts of my life without pulling my hair out.
This post breaks down the best of the best. It includes the recommendations that work, the advice I wished I’d had sooner, and the encouragement that now more than ever, we are truly in this together.
Start with a routine, not a schedule.
The first place to start is by establishing a day-to-day routine. This is not a schedule (time-based), but an order of events that is easy to follow (sequence-based).
To help establish a difference, think similar to how an elementary school’s day might go. There are certain events (lunch, P.E., etc.) that happen at specific times of the day. In addition, there are subjects that happen during the day that you estimate time for, but if things get off track you pick up where you left off the next day.
Allow yourself to be flexible where you can be.
Similarly, it’s important to note which parts of your day are flexible and which are not. This goes for all members of the household.
The biggest mistake I made when first working full-time from home was trying to pin every part of the day down to a specific time. While raising a baby and a toddler. You guessed it—recipe for quick disaster!
A better approach: Prioritize actual deadlines and meetings, and consider the rest flexible. Especially when computers and devices may now be shared territory, it’s crucial to work out a system to make sure what needs to get done is scheduled and the rest is allowed to pick up tomorrow if necessary.
Check-in often and with everyone.
Moreover, communication is key to success. And I don’t just mean telling your spouse, pets and kids to be quiet while you lock yourself in the closet and conduct a meeting.
Communication is now the bridge between you and your clients, co-workers and superiors. It is what is going to help you manage your new routine at home.
- Be clear and direct when telling people what you need.
- Encourage two-way communication.
- Be upfront when work is impacted by the limitations of working at home.
- Ask for confirmation before assuming a request or update is OK.
- Be firm with expectations that are necessary in order for you to get your work done.
- Don’t be afraid of over-communicating.
- Be responsive to other members of your team—either at home or at work—when they communicate with you.
Most importantly, understand that you are no longer literally visible to those you work with. This means that you will be communicating what may—up until recently—be obvious.
Push for (reasonable) responsibility from your kids.
If you have kids, this is where the first three pieces of advice culminate into your biggest challenge. Kids need your time and attention. They also need you to do things for them throughout the day. There’s no way around that. However, use this opportunity as a chance for them to spread their wings in a safe and age-appropriate way.
What’s safe and age-appropriate?
Only you can determine what additional responsibilities your kids can handle. And it is worth mentioning that kids of all ages will require more emotional support as they grapple with all the change happening around them. I can only speak from my personal experience (with ages 8 and 5 at the time of this writing).
That said, here are a couple general ideas that have worked well for us:
- Encourage them to “get up and at ’em.” I don’t know about yours, but my kids are definitely at their best earliest in the day. We make use of this by front-loading their chores and schoolwork while they’re fresh, and allow the day to ease up as it goes. By lunch, they are typically free and ready to take it easy.
- Enable them to meet some of their own needs. Cups, drinks and healthy snacks can all be made accessible for younger kids to prevent endless interruptions. These can be limited and replenished daily from the cupboards so it’s not just a free-for-all.
Identify your home’s quiet times and turn them into productive times.
Once the rest have fallen into place, identifying some quiet times in your house becomes easier. When this happens, you’ve found your window to drop everything and get down to business!
It may feel like a lot of your day is “wasted” compared to what it used to look like. And it’s true, you’re likely not putting in the hours you used to be. However, the quiet times you do find are likely to be SO much more productive than your time when you had a full 8 hours to dedicate solely to work.
To sum up: Stay safe. Allow yourself to be flexible. Communicate every step of the way. Let your kids find some responsibility. And jump on those quiet moments when you find them!