How to Productively Work from Home with Children During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Have you been assigned to work from home due to the Coronavirus Pandemic? If so, you are not alone. In fact, you likely have your children home with you now too due to school closures. While this is probably every kids’ dream to have an unexpected month off of school, you may be wondering how you are going to get anything done.
I thought this would be a great time to share my experience working from home with little ones for the past few years. I have found a few things that have become part of my daily routine which are most effective in being productive and also helping me to feel like I’m a good mom.
This might seem too simple to be listed, but when you are home all day, things get messy. The messes can mount and before long you will have difficulty focusing on your tasks. It might be tempting to just jump right into your email, but trust me, when you walk by that unmade bed at 3 p.m. you will add an unnecessary layer of mental clutter. While I hated being asked to make my bed when I was a child, I’ve found myself to be a daily bed maker as an adult (please don’t tell my mother). This small habit was recently validated by a viral Youtube video of a Navy Seal who suggests that making your bed every day is the first step to changing the world. Imagine what could happen if you teach your kids to start the day by making their beds too!
Let’s be honest, when you work in an office or other communal workspace, you are not getting work done for the entire 8+ hours you are there. You have ‘settle in’ time, ‘break time,’ and you also have to deal with the same distractions you have at home, i.e. your phone, social media, and email. Of course, that is all outside of commute time which is one of the biggest benefits of working from home.
Keep that in mind if you start to feel guilty or unproductive when working from home. Don’t expect to have 8 hours of uninterrupted productivity. In the book, The Twelve Week Year, authors Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington suggest using the following ‘time protection strategies’ to get the most out of your week:
1. Strategic block – 3 hours of absolutely no interruption. Each moment will be spent on taking the necessary steps/actions to move you closer to your goals.
2. Buffer block – Hours (or minutes) set aside to take care of all disruptions/interruptions in one sitting (replying to an email, returning a call, etc.,)
3. Break-out block – Down time. Helps you recharge. Think personal activities and hobbies. Or in times like this, focus 100% on your kids. Take a nature walk, go for a bike ride, play a board game. Disconnect from work completely. Your kids will behave better when they aren’t having to come up with their own creative strategies to get your attention and you will get a necessary mental break from your more strategic tasks.
There is a popular children’s photography blog called Let the Kids Dress Themselves. Use that same principle to let go of perfection while working from home with little ones. Let them dress themselves, let them play with their toys for hours on end, and even let them watch TV or a device so that you can get things done.
In regards to TV, that is the savior and the enemy of the ‘work from home’ parent. On one hand, it works faster and better and getting your kids to be quiet and stop interrupting you. On the other hand, it can also quickly turn into your child reporting to the pediatrician that sometimes they watch TV ‘allllll daaaay,’ when they have their yearly checkup. Talk about embarrassing!
How can you find a balance? Here are a few things that help me:
Nothing feels worse than waking up to a counter or sink full of dirty dishes. As you spend more time at home, and as you begin to eat two or three meals from home…the dishes will REALLY pile up! Keep that dishwasher running and empty it as soon as you can. By emptying it quickly, you will eliminate the dishes piling up. Because we are also staying home to increase the health of our communities and ourselves, having dirty dishes and cups lying around is really just not a good idea anyway. For my family of four, there are many days that we have to run the dishwasher twice. I used to feel that I had to pack the dishwasher to the gills before I ran it, but then I read that today’s dishwashers are so energy efficient that it actually requires less natural resources to run the dishwasher than to wash the dishes in the sink. My dishes also come out much cleaner when I don’t overload it.
What does this have to do with getting more professional work done? I truly believe that by getting simple daily systems and routines in place to ‘let the machines do the work,’ we can avoid having our home workspace become a huge distraction to our productivity.
This one is very individual. It depends on when your brain works best. I can’t tell you when that is, but I think that each of us knows if we wake up with a clear head or if the creativity and productivity really start to buzz after dark. While I’ve had my share of staying up until 2 a.m. editing photos or working on my website, I’ve realized that really can wreck my overall week and is not good for my health. Obviously, the reason we are spending more time at home is for our health, so that is not something we can ignore. Personally, I think going to bed early and waking up before everyone is one of the most effective ways to get things done. Often, I’ve crossed a big ‘to do’ off of my list just as my daughters are waking up for the day. That sets my day up for more productivity right off the bat.
This week, I wanted to share a studio maternity session from my friend, Michele Quattrin. Michele is a Maternity Photographer in Minneapolis and I just loved this recent maternity session she did at her studio. I find that many people decide to work with me because there are so few studio photographers in the area. I love sharing the inspo from another talented artist and studio photographer. Enjoy!