Working from home, in and of itself, can present a series of challenges: new tech setups, difficulties in keeping focus and maintaining productivity, and communicating with team members, to name a few. When you add kids to the mix, the situation gets even murkier.
As a mom to three boys, who has also run a remote only business for the last 10 years, I know far too well those combined challenges. Here's how you can make working from home with your little ones as painless and productive as possible:
Make schedules. You'll need them to survive.
Many of those who work from home without kids describe rolling out of bed in jammies, sitting at a computer, and spending their day without much rhyme or reason for how the day starts and ends. If you're looking to juggle kids at the same time as work, you need to have a routine and schedule- and stick to it.
Depending on your kids ages, writing out a schedule and putting it on the refrigerator can really help to explain to kids when you are working, and when they can expect to have snacks, lunch, or just a little quality time. If you've got younger kids, that schedule might revolve around naps or feeding schedule; for older kids, it may incorporate their own home schooling. Either way, having a plan outlined is key to success- and also means its less likely your kids will interrupt you or you'll accidentally skip feeding the kids lunch.
Use a "digital babysitter" strategically.
The reality is, what a lot of parents assume is that they can use TV or i-pads as a digital babysitter. Besides the fact that this is often not a good idea for your little ones, it's also not very effective.
The best approach: limit all kinds of devices apart from when you desperately need your kids to be quiet and fully occupied.
If I'm faced with a sick kid at home, or, in my current situation, am quarantined at home, the kids are basically on a full tech diet apart from when I have scheduled conference calls. That way, I can rely on them being entertained when needed. If you let tech invade the whole day, and it's not a novelty, it's harder to delineate time you absolutely cannot be interrupted.
Use early mornings or late evenings for deep work.
Doing deep work is almost impossible when kids are involved, as by definition, your time and focus is divided. That's when you need to get creative and use early mornings or late evenings.
I use early mornings. I go to sleep at 9PM, and wake up around 4:45AM, ready to start the day at five. That gives me a couple of hours of uninterrupted time early in the morning, when I am still fresh and undistracted. The same strategy works in the evenings too- essentially you need to find time when the kids are sleeping to do deep thinking work.
Divide and conquer.
For many people, this isn't an option- but if you can, splitting up the day amongst your spouse or another caregiver is ideal- even if both of you are working full time. And the opposite is true- it can be easy for both parents to be working from home in the living room, and neither fully focusing at work or on the kids. So, where possible, creating that clear division is key.
Take 5-20 minute breaks with the kids a few times per day.
Finally, take short breaks throughout the day during which time you give the kids your undivided attention. Studies show that children actually thrive on short bursts of completely uniterrupted time: 5 to 20 minutes.
So, incorporate that into your day. That way, in addition to being more productive at work, you are also able to rest easy that your children are getting attention too.