Homeschooling, working from home, running a household without any support network – a few months ago you may have thrown your head back and laughed out loud (LOL for the cool kids) if someone had suggested this would be your 2020.
Seriously, working through the pandemic with kids is not an easy ride. I can already see us sitting with our grandkids regaling them with our stories of 2020. It is not a year that we will forget, is it? But that is the thing, do we want to forget it, all?
Granted, we are not yet at the stage where we can look back at 2020 with the lens of hindsight. Most of us continue to wade through the sticky molasses of this whole crisis; it reminds me of the kids’ book ‘We Are Going On A Bear Hunt’ – we have to just go through it!
Many parents are left pondering how to get through the molasses to the other side? You can start by asking good questions. Most parents are confronted with a never ending loop of questions from their curious darlings (Mama, mama, mama…!).
A prudent question is one-half of wisdom [Francis Bacon]
Cultivating our own curiosity by asking ourselves good questions is a great lesson to learn from our kids; I truly believe kids are our greatest teachers. A great question to start with is:
“How is this happening FOR me and not TO me?”
If this question can frame the topic of working from home with kids, we can begin to look for the opportunities for us to thrive.
If you have your own business, perhaps you have found creative ways of offering your services online? Whatever your circumstances, working efficiently is a win for us all. Time is not an infinite resource so regard it as one of your most important currencies.
While many parents may have found new levels of efficiency and creativity to get their work done at home with kids, hands up if your day resembled more of a Jackson Pollock canvas (think splatter gun technique)?
Right now is an opportunity to refine our days with small changes that can make a big impact on our overall productivity.
This can give us the gift of time to spend with our families in a more meaningful way, or perhaps much needed self care time. Think of painting the canvas of your days with a fine brush, rather than a splatter gun ‘hope for the best’ approach.
After all, I believe it would be remiss of us to try to shoe horn the ‘pre-CV’ lifestyle and working schedule into the ‘post-CV’ world. It would be an opportunity missed which would be a great shame.
Pick up your paintbrush and here are my tips:
1. Mindset shifts
I always start with mindset shifts. Most people are faithful to the belief that they need to work hard to be successful. It is like a rusty cart that trails behind while we continue to hustle and grind. It is time to let go of the rusty cart. We can give ourselves permission to be successful in these current times, and beyond, while also operating with ease and flow.
Try this affirmation “I work less and earn more” or, if you are an employee, you could try “I work less and achieve more”. This feels more empowering. We then begin to look for solutions that align with this belief.
I know a mumpreneur who has cut her working days down from 5 days to 2. Has her business suffered? No. Has her quality of her life taken a hit? Again, no. This is open to all of us but we must look for the opportunities to work in a different way and allow the old paradigm to fall away.
2. Morning rhythm
Get up before your kids every morning – even if just 5 minutes before. Have a glass of water, focus on your intention for the day ahead and have a quote to look at on your wall for motivation. My day always unfolds better when I honour this time before the noisy household descends.
3. Batch work
Batch work and focus on the ONE thing. There is research that “it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task” after an interruption. I love the squirrel moment in the beautiful movie ‘Up’ where the dog is distracted with the squirrels….. Leave the squirrels for play time!
4. Remove distractions
Try using your desktop or laptop for work only and your phone for looking at social media or browsing the internet. It removes any temptation to look for updates on social while working.
Set your timer for 20 mins and go, go, go and focus on the ONE thing, then take a break. This is also known as the Pomodoro technique. Keep those squirrel moments for when you have banked 20 mins. Take your break in a different room and use that time to stand up and move your body. Maybe check in with your children (depending on their age as to whether they can be left alone).
6. Change your story
The words you choose can create the canvas of your days. Bring an awareness to the stories that are on wash, rinse, repeat. Rather than create a scarcity of time by saying “I don’t have any time” ‘; try “I have all the time I need” . Once we are aware of the negative thought patterns, we can choose a different script to create a new reality (yes, we get to choose) .
7. Calm environment
Create a calm environment around work – you could light a favourite candle, burn some Palo Santo or Sage and take a few deep breaths before you sit down to collect your thoughts. You can also follow this ritual when your kids go to sleep to signal the next phase of the day, rather than rushing through the day mindlessly to the finish line. By creating small pauses throughout your day, you can be more intentional with your energy and focus.
8. Know yourself
Become aware of when you are most productive and get the creative stuff underway in this segment. I heard Peta Jean refer to her Disney time in the morning – I love this analogy.
9. Ask good questions
More good questions to ask… “How can I open up some more space in my days?”. Perhaps your children can listen to an audiobook for 30 mins or watch one of the many free resources on offer during this time. Can the other parent take the reins by you asking the question: “Please can you help?!” Many of us do not find it easy to ask for help. Start small and commit to asking for help every day until it becomes a natural reflex.
10. Division of household tasks each week
If you have a partner, plan to sit down at the beginning of each week and decide the division of responsibility. We can feel resentful if we are taking on the bigger load of household tasks. Thsi impacts on our work efficiency and inevitably leads to tensions. Having open conversations regularly can establish a new household rhythm; this can serve your family well beyond the current lockdown.
Have clear boundaries with work and home tasks. It can be easy for the boundaries to blur, particularly during this time. Have set days and times for household tasks to be accomplished and stick to it. Adopt the same approach for your working schedule and your children’s activities/homeschooling schedule (if you have one). This allows your children to become familiar with the rhythm of the week; kids respond well to knowing what comes next. Having this rhythm can make us all feel more grounded, safe and held.
12. Proactive self care
Self care is not always sunshine and rainbows. Taking proactive steps can take away any stress around mealtimes and allow you more time to work, or play, with the kids. Cooking all of your meals at home for the whole family can really eat (excuse the pun!) into the time we have to work and play with the kids.
My best tip is to use a slow cooker and adopt a meal rhythm where you have a theme for each day of the week. You can have variations of each theme so life doesn’t get boring. Try to scribble down 3 or 4 choices within each theme then use this to guide your grocery shopping and food preparation. This way, you won’t have to answer the question of ‘what’s for dinner? – just point to the meal plan.
An example of our food rhythm: –
– Monday – Italian night
– Tuesday – Jacket potatoes
– Wednesday – Soup, or salad if summer time
– Thursday – Tray bake (often fish for us)
– Friday – Homemade pizza
– Saturday – Mexican
– Sunday – Roll the dice and see what ideas are offered.
13. Forest app – some extra motivation
If you need more motivation to laser focus on the task at hand, check out the Forest App. With this app, as you are more productive more trees are planted – such a great thing to motivate us to shut down all of the tabs on our screen so we can laser focus on what we are doing.
14. Delegate or dump
Delegate or dump – not everything must to get done. Prioritise your days based on your visions and values for your business and your family. Not everything has to be done by you – and it may even be done in a better way by someone else.
15. Start a mastermind
If you are more accustomed to working from an office, do you miss the water cooler chats? Why not start a weekly mastermind with some of your friends or colleagues? This is also a great option if you are an entrepreneur as life can become an echo chamber without an inner circle. This may be the space you need to keep you accountable (and sane) when in a pressure cooker environment at home.
16. Live in the present now moment
Although most of us are keeping an eye on the horizon for normal life to resume, we can bring our gaze into the present and cultivate that life now. There are many gifts afforded to us from this time, not least the space and time to slow down and re-evaluate our visions and priorities for our life and our work. The pandemic may have shown many of us what is possible when we break long held habits around work and home life.
Let’s not miss these opportunities when moving forward. Keep asking good questions, alongside your children, to spark your own curiosity for new ways of being in, and relating to, the world. This may be your lifeline to get through the molasses and reach the other side. We are in it together!