Surviving Summer While Working From Home With Kids
It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.
If you've missed past Expert Briefs, you can click on the undies to see them all –>
Summer is in full swing and a lot of people have been asking me about my kids daily to do lists and how I keep them motivated around the house every year during the summer so I can get work done. Instead of just me posting, I thought I'd put the question out to get even more feedback.
So, this week I asked our experts….
If you have kids at home —
how do you manage your home
during the summer to actually get work done?
Include schedules, too, if you have them. Thanks!
I hope you find something in this week's post to help make your own summer break a little less stressful.
Felicia Slattery of Signature Speech Secrets says:
This is the first summer I've noticed a big difference, because last school year was the first both my girls were in school from 8:15AM-3PM.
All of a sudden in early June I went from having all those (quiet!) hours in a row to myself (minus the drive them to and from school time) to having my girls home 24/7. Yikes!
So I cut back on my work a bit. And I got a reliable babysitter (my Mom and Dad!) to watch them on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM til their Dad picks them up on his way home from work. They all get back in at about 3:30 or 4 PM.
The rest of the time while they are home and occupying themselves, I do the kind of work that doesn't require silence like writing an article, editing a video, or writing a sales page and save the work that requires silence like shooting videos, recording audio content, doing teleseminars, conducting interviews, and more for the two days a week I know they'll be away.
My girls are 9 and 6 and play together nicely, with the occasional yelling, “MOM! She said she wouldn't let me play with her toy!!!!” I'll handle those moment. I stop to feed them snacks & lunch. And everything else gets planned around their schedules, honestly that's as normal. I never miss a field trip, I volunteer in school when needed and am fully present for them in their lives. This summer they took tennis and swimming lessons, both in the mornings, so I used the time to clip coupons, walk around the courts for exercise, or answer email on my iPhone.
I also never plan to work on Fridays (or the weekends) so I save our adventures and fun for those days.
Finally, my 9-year old started a business this summer http://PetPortraitsByGrace.com, so I helped her get her website up and now she keeps busy during quiet time with her drawing work, while my younger daughter naps (yes we are nappers in our house!). I answer emails and do more writing. And I coach my daughter in running her business, customer service, and doing her first speech!
For me, I never want to lose sight of why I started my business: to be home to take care of my girls. They are my priority. Work comes second. It's an easy choice for me. I now have enough systems in place and I rely on various assistants and outsourced help to get things done, and I enjoy my life and my business.
Shannon Cherry of BusinessCHARMSchool.com says:
This is my last ‘lucky' summer so I am taking advantage of it. Why lucky? Because my girls' preschool is year round, meaning I don't worry too much about keeping my kids busy every day. However that is about to change as the girls hit kindergarten in the fall.
And because I am a planner (and it's never to early to start), I've already laid down the foundation for keeping my girls busy so they stay out of my business.
First is, you need a plan. The girls did have 2 weeks off in early summer and will have 2 weeks off before the start of their new school. So I had to plan how to use that time to keep them occupied. I scheduled a special ‘field trip' with them every day. Sometimes it was to the pool or sprinklers; other times it was a picnic in the park or a trip to the museum. I'd have them mark it on the calendar and set a time with them to do it. That way, they knew if they ‘behaved' they would get their treat.
I also cut back my hours, which I planned on in advance. So instead of working 25 hours, it's down to 20. That five hours made a BIG difference.
I also gave them a checklist each day of what they needed to do. Because the girls are only 5, I kept it simple and used some images to help. Think: feed the dog and cats; remind mom at XX time that she has 30 minutes before we all go on our field trip (this helped their learn about telling time); etc.
I planned play dates and asked for help from other moms to take the girls for a bit. That helped keep them busy (and out of my hair).
The key is to keep them active AND responsible – and use the time you have to get the work done.
Alice Seba of Contentrix says:
It's a balancing act at our house, that's for sure. I am lucky because my husband is home and he shoulders a lot of the “keep the kids” busy stuff and I head off to the local coffee shop for quiet work time. We also have them registered in a variety of activities to keep things interesting. There is also a local Boys and Girls Club, so we can kick the boys out whenever they get antsy. 😉
But one thing we are doing differently this year is getting our two eldest involved in doing work for me. They've had WordPress blogs for a couple of years now and they've been tooling around with those, but know we're getting more serious. I've shown them how to make a time sheet and keep track of their hours and they're pumped to see the dollar figures grow. My youngest boy is 8, so he has been working with our site builder at http://internetbasedfamily.com and will be helping me with some promotions for that site. The oldest will be 10 this year and he's been working with our Speedy APLC Publisher to load PLR articles and I'm slowly teaching him about search engine optimization. So while it slows me down a little bit to teach them and keep them focused, I know it will be worth it for me, and especially for them, in the long run.
The youngest is just turning 3 in August, so she isn't ready for internet marketing tasks just yet, but sometimes I'll pass her the iPad while I work (which Nicole kindly gave me through an affiliate contest). Then my daughter tells me, “I workin' too,” while she finds her favorite show on Netflix or plays with her cake maker or currently favorite app.
Susanne Myers of AffiliateTreasureChest.com says:
We don’t have much of a schedule during the summer and mostly play stuff by ear. We do a lot of traveling and are spending quite a bit of time at the beach this year. Both my husband and I work from home and carry our smart phones and laptops with us wherever we go.
Here are a couple of things we do to still get work done.
Morning Work Routine
We’re not morning people and our daughter isn’t’ either (thankfully). She’s perfectly content to spend the first few hours of the day in PJs reading and playing. I also have her do some summer worksheets.
I use that time to get my most crucial work done including content and product creation as well as customer support email, staying in touch with my VAs etc.
I carry my phone with me anywhere we go. This way I can check emails and respond to them while we’re driving somewhere (hubby is driving of course), or while watching the rest of my family play in the water.
It’s important not to get too addicted to checking the phone every few minutes. You still want to spend quality time with your family. Just find a balance that works well for you.
Task Lists and Being Super Focused
Here are a few of the things I do to stay focused.
- Work on one project at a time.
- Break it down into small manageable chunks.
- Focus on one “chunk” at a time whenever you have a few quiet minutes.
- Cave out more little pockets of time whenever possible.
Above all, enjoy the time with your family and just live with the fact that you won’t be as productive as the rest of the year.
Nicole Dean of .. here! .. says:
My kids are 9 and 14 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 it faster and be “free” of my tyranny – they work through it better. 🙂
Here's their list. You can click on it to view it in pdf format.
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 son is also starting to do some work for me in our business, but I'm not utilizing him enough yet.
Confession Time: Actually I lost my mojo this summer, so I took off the entire month of July and stayed offline. I decided to pretty much just punt and not to fight it too much, and instead spend as much time as possible enjoying the kids. I'll be sharing more about that soon.
Now I'm back online, but am trying to work 1-2 hour days – Monday-Thursday for the rest of the summer. Some days, I work 10 minutes – just to quick check email for emergencies. Others are closer to 3 hours, but will be averaging about 4-8 hours per week. 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, I've been happier in general.
Please share your tips. I'd love to hear them.
PS. Here are some related posts you might enjoy –
I appreciate shares and I adore comments! Please share your thoughts.
Grainne FoleyAugust 4, 2011 at 1:32 pm
What a great blog post. I have a 1 & 2 year old so I’m always looking for ideas on how to balance being a mum and running a business. For now, I work during the day when they nap and again at night when they go to bed. I use a babysitter once per week so I have a longer period to work in and I have an awesome VA.
I will be able to put in more hours as they get older but for now I am loving every minute of them.
SusanneAugust 4, 2011 at 3:35 pm
Love the schedules Nicole. I’m going to sit down with my daughter and make one of those up for the new school year.
Alice – loved how you’re getting your boys involved. My 8-year old daughter has been blogging some as well, but nothing regular. We have been doing a little more this summer having her shoot video, upload it to youtube and such. It’s fun to get them involved in our online businesses. Her plan is to make money with websites and then become a vet for fun. 🙂
SatuAugust 4, 2011 at 3:49 pm
What a clever thing to have children have their own sites!
@Nicole Could you possibly come up with a similar excel sheet I could use for my life in general plus im tasks? 🙂
AureliaAugust 5, 2011 at 7:03 am
What an amazing post!! Nicole, I am loving your schedule that you have for your kids! I was impressed to see how detailed it was and WOW, reading for 2hrs… I wish I could get my 11yo to do that.
Alice, WOW — I am so impressed with how you are involving your kids with your business! That is awesome. You’ve given me many ideas
Marcia MingAugust 5, 2011 at 7:59 am
I am an empty nester — my daughter is all grown up. But when I see how you all manage your businesses and kids, I know I can do better. Thanks for sharing.
The MomAugust 5, 2011 at 11:24 am
No kids… just me, the hubby and the cats. However, even in an empty nest, I can appreciate the ideas simply for the fact that it’s all about the organizing and planning. I just wrote a blog post about the end of multi-tasking in my life, so this Expert Briefs spoke to me in a unique way. Thanks Nik and Experts!
Planning, then working on one task at a time is the best way to get things done, for me, anyway. (Especially now that my multi-tasking days are over.)
I LOVE the checklist you use Nik. I also LOVE that you have taken into account the two totally different personalities and motivation styles the kids possess. My take-away from this is don’t push your own style onto your kids. It may not work. Good job, Nik! kiss kiss (ahem… where’s The Husband’s list??? wink wink)
ALSO – I love that you have finally given yourself permission to escape for a while. Instead of struggling each day to glue yourself to your office, resulting in half-a**ed attempts at producing something of value, why not just bow out for a good, long, concentrated escape?! Good job. Although I know everyone missed you, but as you always say, “There’s no kidney or heart transplant recipient waiting for Dr. Nik to arrive.”
Thanks for this fun peek into this topic.
LorettaAugust 5, 2011 at 1:29 pm
My teenagers just started helping me with content and the 14 year old wants his own site, I let him dabble with Squidoo a bit while we discussed keywords and researching, etc. He’s just read SEO Fast Start and he’s now brainstorming blog ideas that he is interested in.
I definitely need to make new schedules for everyone when school starts next month! The boys are generally good about occupying themselves, but a schedule like yours would definitely decrease the number of times I say “brush your teeth” in a single day.
TawraAugust 8, 2011 at 2:08 pm
I got pretty much nothing done this summer. We just moved to another state, I have 4 kids, and am chronically ill and there is just no way I could get anything done.
I knew this would happen so for the entire month of May I worked like crazy getting posts done into July with the help of mom, my co-author.
Then each day I check emails, mail out orders once a week and the rest has just not got done. I know when school starts next week (YEAH!!!) I will be working hard to get our e-books spruced up and in order for the new covers and re-launch we will be having in mid-Sept.(hopefully)
Down Or Just MeAugust 10, 2011 at 2:08 pm
Personally I love YOUR answer! My parents did the list system with me, but they didn’t have a time limit like yours so it wasn’t quite as much motivation… It was still helpful though and I enjoyed getting things done because I usually got a reward if I did 😉
NicoleAugust 11, 2011 at 11:26 am
Wow! Thanks so much everyone for the comments. I love them all.
Yes, we battle about the lists – as my kids are far from perfect, just like their mommy. We’re all works in progress. 😉 But, having the expectations in black and white really makes things clearer. I hope it helps them to understand that part of being a grown-up is taking care of yourself, in addition to taking care of business.
Take time to read.
Exercise every day.
Little things like that. 🙂
Hugs and thank you again!
LyndaAugust 15, 2011 at 6:27 pm
Thank you so much for this article! I’ve been having a hard time balancing work from home life with family life this summer. I’m glad school is starting in a few short weeks :). I’ve found that a chore list and a routine board have allowed me to schedule my time more effictively and then everyone knows what we need to do and when we can get to the fun stuff!
DavetteBAugust 17, 2011 at 7:05 pm
These are good ideas for all the time since I homeschool and I don’t get summers off ;o)
My son is now old enough to be pretty self-reliant, but he periodically picks the wrong time to interrupt. Our system now is that I say this period of time is business time and I can’t have interruptions/noise; ask me now or if you think of something that can’t wait, enter the room silently and pass me a note.
We have a lot of fairs, 5Ks, and other events during the summer in AK, so I just make those off days. Occasionally we will go to a park that has Wifi and I can work while he runs around, but that is a once in a while treat.