#FreelanceFriday: 8 Sanity-Saving Tips for Work-at-Home Parents
October 13th, 2017 by
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Everyone has seen it, but you have likely already forgotten about it. Sure, it was funny and readily made for internet mass consumption, but for many work-from-home parents, it is an all-too-real reality. I am talking, of course, about the dad who had his BBC News interview interrupted by his two spunky children on live television.
If life with kids teaches you anything, it is to expect the unexpected. Accidents and interruptions are going to happen no matter what, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to avoid them as much as possible, right?
For parents who work from home, this is even more important. Working from home provides tremendous flexibility and freedom. But in order to get any work done while at home, rules and boundaries have to be set, preparation and organization are key, and you have to learn to adapt.
Here are few tips for work-at-home parents for keeping the interruptions to a minimum.
1. Use a Dedicated Workspace
This alone will go a long way in setting boundaries. Though as the BBC News example proves, even this is by no means foolproof. In addition to having a positive effect on your productivity and work-life balance, having a dedicated workspace presents children with the kind of necessary boundaries that they can easily be mindful of–office door shut = no interruptions. It’s as simple as that. A dedicated workspace will also help you detach from all of the other distractions working from home can bring, such as dirty laundry, a sink full of dishes, and the never-ending allure of TV.
2. Set Clear Expectations for Interruptions
Major injuries, fires, tornadoes. These are good excuses. Petty arguments, tattletales, and boredom are not. Examples and expectations of good and bad interruptions need to be laid out ahead of time and reinforced after every interruption, positively or negatively.
Even better, create a way for kids to get your attention without causing a big fuss, such as a nonverbal cue, especially if you are on the phone. If there is a time when you absolutely cannot be interrupted, make sure everyone knows.
3. Plan for Interruptions
As any parent knows, you can plan all you want, but these things will still happen. They key is not getting frustrated and overwhelmed by them. If you go into your day knowing that at least one unplanned interruption will occur, then you can pad some of that extra time into your daily schedule. And if no interruptions happen, then even better and now you’ve got extra time!
It also can’t hurt to plan for the worst-case scenario, kind of like crisis planning. What would you do if your kids barge in while you are conducting a live TV interview (or whatever situation applies to you)? If you have given it some thought before, then you should be able to handle it in the moment.
4. Keep Kids Active and Entertained
The best way to keep kids out of your way is to distract them and keep them occupied. Set aside toys your kid can play with, or introduce special movie time when you need a few spare hours–but it has to be more than just TV or computer games. You need projects that will occupy their time but do not need hands-on supervision from you.
You can set up a kid’s desk next to your’s so they can color or play “work” independently. Playdates are great to help shoulder the load as well, and babysitters and mother’s day out programs can be a last resort when you really need to focus and get things done.
5. Get Everyone on a Schedule
The first thing that needs to be understood is that “work from home” is still work, no matter where you do it. Because of this, you need to set regular working hours. This will go a long way in helping others respect your time, space, and productivity. Treat your work from home like a “real job” and everyone else will too.
To-do lists are also crucial tools to help stay on task no matter what is going on around you. Organization, planning, and prioritization are the keys to productivity.
6. Be Strategic About Your Schedule
You need to be tactical about planning, scheduling, and making the best use of your time. Find the optimal time of day when you can take care of your most thought-intensive work, perhaps early in the morning or late at night when the kids are sleeping.
Parents with infants and toddlers also must take advantage of that most glorious time of day–nap time! Save the less intensive tasks (emails, planning, administrative, etc.) for when the chance of interruptions is high. This is where prioritization of tasks will also improve your efficiency.
7. Prep for the Week
Prepping for the week should be something everyone does, whether you work from home or not. Get your schedule organized and plan meetings and phone calls. Find ways to save time later by doing what you can early, including weekly meal prep on Sunday.
8. Just Go With It
In life, especially with kids, sometimes, you just have to go with it. What’s the worse that can happen? A client finds out you have kids? Most will be understanding. As long as you plan ahead, are cognizant of deadlines, and your work isn’t negatively impacted, everything will usually be just fine.