It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.
This week I asked our panel of experts…
“Working at home with kids (summer time). If you have kids at home – how do you manage your home during the summer to actually get work done?”
I think you'll find the responses interesting.
Lynn Terry of Get Social Marketing Results in Just Minutes a Day says:
My youngest child just graduated high school. 🙂 I've been working from home for more than 17 years though, and started my first business when my two children were just 5 months and 5 years old.
My daughter (the youngest) was on my hip or in my lap through much of that first year. When it comes to babies, you'll do best to work with their schedule. Work or rest when they're sleeping (your rest is important too, Mom!) and learn how to type one-handed. 😉
With older children, I found two things worked really well for me. The first is the “if/then statement” such as “If you clean your room(s), then we'll go to the pool.” It's very simple but very effective. This only works if you always stand by it, meaning you only do your “then” after they do their “if” – and you always move to the “then” after they've completed what you asked. It can't be something abstract like “if you're good” but rather something tangible and measurable. Works like a charm!
When my children were younger, I woke up earlier than them by a couple of hours to knock out my priority tasks for the day. That gave me a lot more free time with them to get out and do things during the day. I often made up for those hours with an afternoon nap, while they also had some downtime reading or watching a movie.
Of course there are times you need to work, and that's where the second tip comes in: I used an egg timer. While there are many programs and apps that do this now, nothing beats an old fashioned egg timer sitting right on your desk in plain sight. I believe my children were 5 and 10 years old when I first started using this method of “time management” and it worked beautifully!
When the kids would walk up to my desk to ask me a question (like “Where's the red ball?” or “Can we go to the park?” or – the questions are endless as you know, lol) I would simply say, “I have 23 minutes left on this work I'm doing, and then ___ (“we can discuss it” or “I'll help you find it” or whatever the case). After just a few days of this, they started waiting to ask questions until they heard the timer ding.
The key is to always be available after that “ding”. This accomplished two great things for me. It taught me to work in “time blocks” which forced me to focus on getting tasks done in a set amount of time, which I found much more efficient than “winging it.” And it also took all of the “heat” off of me – and put it on the egg timer. The children never asked “when this” and I never had to say “in a minute” (which is *never* just… a minute!) again. They simply looked at the timer, and waited for it to go off. It totally got me off the hook and made our lives SO much easier!
Working at home with young children is a challenge, but being a full time parent and having a successful career – under the same roof – is such a great thing! It's definitely worth it. Above all, clear communication is the best thing you can practice in your home. The if/then statement and the egg timer both worked well because they were clear and easy to understand. They also both really helped me to strike a good balance between being a good parent and running a business.
Tiffany Dow of Work Life Balance says:
I have two kids at home this summer – a 9 and 14 year old. I also love to spend my summer working less, but oddly enough, I get more done. Might have something to do with not having 2 hour carpool treks anymore.
I try to relax about my schedule more during the summer. Some days, I work hard so we can play hard on other days. Some days are a mix. If I know we want to go swimming the next day, I will wake up early and get a bunch of work done by mid-morning (from 6-10 AM for example).
Then we’ll go swim, and come home around 3-4 o’clock. I might do a little more work that evening if necessary – or just relax. It’s important to have things for your kids to entertain themselves with.
My kids love arts and crafts and video gaming (my oldest runs a gaming blog). My youngest writes stories and uses stencils to create fashion stories.
If I invest in anything, it’s outings for the family (we recently went to an animal wildlife center and a wax museum) – or, toys for them to play with.
In the evenings, since we don’t have to wake up super early, I try to have family time every night – a movie, grilling out, and some chocolate fondue.
Summer is my favorite time – especially with my babies! We need to practice lots of self care and relaxation during these moments.
Alice Seba of The 30 Day List Challenge says:
I actually love summer because it's much more relaxed. I don't have to get up early to rush people off to school. There are no lunches to prepare ahead of time or homework to worry about. Still, keeping business running through summer does take some planning.
Here's what I do to get ready:
- Ramp up my outsourcing. I give more hours and responsibilities to my VAs, which not only helps free up my time, but usually increases my profitability at the same time.
- Work in batches. When I’m getting ready to go on vacation, I will write all my emails at once and schedule them. Then I’ll do blog posts. I find working through blog posts and checking off the items off a to-do list very motivating and I can get through everything quite quickly.
- Plan my distractions. I know I'm not going to work all week long, so I plan trips to the beach, for a hike or whatever I want to do ahead of time. Then I know how to plan the rest of my week accordingly.
- Bring my laptop. I know some people won’t do this and it requires some discipline, but it works if you can manage it, bring your laptop on vacation. I find bringing my laptop to catch up on about 15-30 minutes of well-defined tasks daily means that I can get away more often and I’m not running myself ragged trying to get everything done beforehand.
All in all, it's a balancing act of work, chaos and fun. Having a plan and help on hand means I can get through it with a smile on my face…at least most of the time.
Nicole Dean of .. here! .. says:
My kids are 12 and 17 but this is the system that we’ve been using since they were each toddlers. Why? Because it’s the closest thing to sanity that I can arrange here.
We have a daily checklist that the kids must complete before the TV goes on, the computer goes on, or any game systems get turned on. They also must complete their daily list before friends are allowed in the house.
I found that, if I left the time limit open, that the lists wouldn’t get done. However, if they know they can work through their tasks faster and be free of my tyranny – they work through it better.
Here’s their list that I posted three years ago. It’s pretty much the same today.You can click on it to view it in pdf format.
The other benefits are this…
1. The kids know what the expectations are in advance. They are better equipped to succeed.
2. My husband and I are on the same page, because the rules are in black and white.
3. I’m not chasing the kids around all day saying “Did you brush your teeth?” or “Have you cleaned up the backyard?” I look at their chart and it’s right there in front of me.
4. It teaches the kids that habits are important. And, that a family works on routine. All good stuff.
I print it out weekly and they just check off the days as they go through them. If everything gets done during the week, they earn bonuses.
For instance, my son has a Gamefly account. He keeps it as long as the backyard is cleaned up daily. If there is an issue, he gets downgraded from 2 games/month to 1 and then to zero. It really never becomes an issue. He’s really very self-motivated when he knows the rules. My daughter on the other hand… is a bit more of a battle.
My kids also take some classes through Florida Virtual School to which keeps them busy. I challenged my son to work through Codecademy.com this summer (and he will receive a bonus if he does it on his own.)
Plus, they both have the opportunity to do some work for me in our business, but I’m not utilizing them enough yet.
Also during summer, I try to limit work to 1-2 hours per day – Monday-Friday. Some days, I work 10 minutes – just to quick check email for emergencies. Others are closer to 3 hours Am I letting some things drop? Yes. But, I’m finding that the important things, like getting a pedicure with my daughter – are getting done. And, it really helps me to sit down and FOCUS on projects and tasks that make me money.
Please share your tips. I’d love to hear them.
PS. I’m working on a book about working from home. So stay tuned for that soon.
Remember, if you want lots of posts like this, check out my friends:
Lynn Terry – Get Social Marketing Results in Just Minutes a Day
Tiffany Dow – Work Life Balance
Alice Seba – The 30 Day List Challenge