Let me start with a disclaimer, I wouldn’t call myself an “expert”. But I have been working from home in different capacities for 10 years, and next month my daughters will wrap up their third year of homeschooling. So, when this whole pandemic hit, we were pretty well prepared. Yes, we’ve still had to make adjustments, but not to the extreme that some of you have been adjusting to over the past several weeks. So, I decided to share a few tips that have worked for us over the past few years just in case they can help any of you.
Create a schedule that works for you
This is going to look different for everyone. If your job or business requires you to be working at certain hours of the day, you need to factor that in. If you’re free to work whatever hours of the day works for you as long as you get your tasks completed, take that into consideration as well.
Have a morning routine
The important thing is to create a schedule. You probably have more time in your day now that you’re not communicating back and forth to work. That can make it tempting to hit snooze, sleep late, roll out of bed, grab your coffee and sit in front of the computer. But don’t do it!
That’s not the best way to prepare for your day. Create a morning routine that works for you. It could involve some quiet time for reflection, taking the dog for a walk, or journaling. Choose a few things that help put your mind in the place it needs to be for the day.
Get ready for your day
Don’t forget to shower and get dressed. Yes, you can have Zoom meetings in what I like to call the “work-from-home mullet”. Business clothes on top and yoga pants or gym shorts on the bottom. But you have to ask yourself if that’s really putting yourself in the best mindset for work.
It might feel great to take advantage of that option for a while, but as social distancing continues to extend, I encourage you to get dressed, do your hair, put on your makeup, or whatever things help you feel good and put you in the mindset for a successful day. If you’re not careful, sloppiness in your appearance can spread to sloppiness in your work.
And, there’s something about getting ready for the day that’s good for your mental health. Staying in your pajamas and working from the bed will start to feel draining on your energy level.
The school day isn’t going to look the same
Scrolling through my social media for the past few weeks has my heart breaking for parents that are struggling to “homeschool” their children for the first time ever. I hear the worries from my friends that they’re going to screw their kids up for good. I see the competition between parents showing off what great crafts and projects they have their kids doing.
Don’t fall into that trap! First of all, what’s happening right now is NOT homeschooling. You are doing school at home because you have to because of a worldwide pandemic. You didn’t have time to compare curriculum options and choose what would fit your children best. The teachers didn’t have time to properly plan out how to provide materials to teach parents how to teach at home. Everyone is flying by the seat of their pants. Give yourself a break.
This pandemic has changed homeschool for us as well. Most homeschooled kids are in coops and activities and going on field trips. We aren’t usually just stuck at home with only each other. This is different for us too! But the majority of our school work has carried on exactly the same because it’s what we were already doing. Most likely that wasn’t your situation.
So, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Your kids will be OK. Every other child is going through the same thing. So, your child isn’t falling drastically behind. And, just the fact that you’re reading this means your child is probably ahead of some children whose parents aren’t going to make the slightest effort with them during this time. Those are the kids we need to be concerned about.
- Don’t try to recreate the public school schedule. Trust me, you’ll burn out and so will your kids. Remember during public school days there is time built in for recess, lunch, and switching classes or subjects. Your kids are not learning at school for 7 or 8 hours during the day, so don’t try to make that happen at home.
- This is a new situation for your kids too. Give them a break. As adults, we have a lot of anxiety around what’s happening right now. But remember, life is full of uncertainty for our kids as well. They just might not know how to communicate it. Keep that in mind. Anxiety can show itself as anger and some of their outbursts are probably coming from frustration at this entire situation.
- Your not the only one frustrated, angry, and fighting while teaching math. My daughters had some amazing teachers when they were in public school. They are incredibly patient when dealing with kids. They are also educated in the specific areas that they’re teaching in. You’re probably educated in something else. And, math has drastically changed since we were in school. If the thought of regrouping has you wondering why you can’t explain how to do 2nd-grade math to your child, don’t worry. Other parents are feeling the same way. You’re not alone.
- Look for ways to make it fun. There are TONS of places doing things to help out families right now. The Cincinnati Zoo does live video teachings about their animals every day. Clearwater Marine Aquarium as free resources on sea turtles. There are countless museums and other destinations that have free virtual field trips. Let your children learn through these options.
Focus on one thing at a time
Give your attention to whatever your task is at the moment. For example. if you’re working on a work project and you hear the buzzer on the washing machine go off, ignore it. Do your best not to inner mix work and life and schooling tasks all at once.
My typical day starts with my morning routine, followed by an hour of work. Then, I transition to our school day. We do school until lunch working on any subjects that my girls need my help with. After lunch, they have time to work on anything else that needs to be completed for school along with any tasks from a list of extra activities that we have created. This is when I jump back into my workday.
It doesn’t mean that they never ask me questions or come to tell me something they learned or did when I’m working. That’s part of working at home. But it’s not the time that I sit and read with them or grade a worksheet or anything like that. Then, when 5:00 hits, I transition to start getting dinner ready. There are plenty of days when I need to finish up some work later in the evening. But, don’t forget to give yourself time to unwind each day.
Your day doesn’t need to look like that. I was just giving you an example of devoting yourself to one role (worker, teacher, person) at a time.
What if my kids are little?
My daughters are 13, 10, and 8. They are self-sufficient at things like getting snacks, going to the bathroom, and reading. And, I have the advantage of a teenager that can help her sisters with things if they need it when I’m busy.
You might not be in that position. Your kids might be infants or toddlers. They may demand your attention. Here are a few tips for you to try while working at home:
- Naptime is your time. Be strategic about what things you do during nap times. It’s a great time for meetings and phone calls. When my girls were younger, I did quite a bit of work early in the morning or at night. If your work hours are flexible, that might work for you as well. Take advantage of those hours your little ones are sleeping. When my oldest stopped taking naps, she did “rest time” while her sisters slept. That involved any quiet activity she could do on her own.
- Let your child work next to you. My girls used to color next to me while I sat at my laptop. Or, they would get out there fisher price style play laptop and work too. You can also do this with puzzles or legos or other quiet toys.
- Wear your baby. My youngest loved to be in the baby carrier. So, I would wear her around the house and as I worked. It freed up my hands to type while she slept against my chest tucked into the sling.
- Get creative. If you aren’t on a phone call or having a meeting, find creative ways you can interact with your child while you work. My daughter used to love to paint my nails and do my hair while I worked. I would type with one hand while she painted the other.
And remember, everyone is in the same boat right now. You have the advantage of people understanding that you’re home and so are your kids. If something happens and they end up interrupting your call or meeting, it won’t be the end of the world.
Being at home all day with your significant other
Social distancing and the quarantine has my husband working from home the majority of the time as well now. We enjoy each other’s company, but we had to learn the best way to make it work for us. Here are a few tips:
Find what works for your work style: I like to work in silence so I can focus. He likes to work with a lot of background noise like the TV. Because of this, we find separate rooms to work in so we can each do our best work.
Allow each other some space: I like to have my quiet time in the morning. I skipped it for the first few weeks of adjusting to having my husband at home. Him not leaving for work at the same time each day threw my schedule off. I quickly learned that it was hurting my day to skip that time. So, now I make time for it. My husband likes to exercise at specific times of the day. During that time, I either join him or go do something else so he can have the time he needs. Remember, just because you’re home all day together doesn’t mean you can’t take a break from each other.
Say what you need. A lot of couples struggle with this one, and from what I’ve read, it’s more of us ladies. It’s important to tell your significant other what you need. If you need a few minutes alone, say it. If you need him to take out the trash for you, ask him. We need to stop expecting our partners to read our minds or just know what it is we need or want them to do.
Divide and conquer. With so many family members at home every day, it’s the perfect time to start dividing and conquering household tasks if you weren’t already. Look for ways your schedules can coordinate. Maybe one of you helps the kids with school while the other works and then you switch. And, don’t forget that your kids are probably capable of more than you give them credit for. Put them to work around the house as well.
Remember to adjust as needed
We can apply the SPEAR process to our quarantine work-from-home / life balancing act. Create a plan, work the plan, and then evaluate to see if it worked. If did, great! You know what to do the next day. But if it didn’t, look at what went wrong. Maybe you need to start scheduling phone calls for certain hours of the day. Or, maybe you need to take a walk after lunch to clear your head. Make the adjustments and try again the next day.
We will get through this! And, if you haven’t heard it enough—we are in this together.
If you could use some guidance on how your business should pivot during this time, check out our Panic to Pivot free 30-minute coaching call here.