As summer begins to the sound of the school bell ringing, those who run their business from home while raising kids will be about to embark on a fragmented schedule over the next few months. Sophie here, and the warmer long days are a nice prospect but the juggling act that comes with them can be challenging. You will be adapting to finishing earlier in the day to head off to camp pick up or arranging childcare cover that will change week to week. Friends will be heading to the park or the pool, but the endless emails and calls from work, will make you feel divided and overwhelmed at the thought of slowing down to be with your kids. This was me last summer. But I have decided this year will be different, and adapting to the change requires both preparation and a new mindset.
Now is the time to set realistic expectations with yourself and the people you work with about the coming months, and how your schedule is going to change. Carving out your “core genius time” to get work done, and setting truthful goals for you and your business, will make you feel more productive, more mindful and less conflicted in your roles as business owner and parent.
Define Your “Core Genius time”
Your core genius time is when you feel the most focused, inspired, creative and therefore productive. For some people, like me, it’s first thing in the morning when your mind is more alert and fresh. For others, like my partner Jenni, the evenings is when their creative juices really start flowing.
For parents who usually move in and out of work mode throughout the day around their kid’s schedule, you may find setting stricter boundaries for yourself will allow you to focus in your "core genius time," and then to switch off to be with your family during your less productive times may actually be more freeing for you and your busy mind.
Get The Work Done In Smaller Chunks Of Time
One of the downsides to working from home is the amount of distractions around the house that can pull focus away and cause you to procrastinate, which can make you rush everything into your last hour of the day. For me, I used to spend too long in front of the screen and didn't take enough breaks throughout a day, which gave me headaches and creativity drain.
When you have less time, you may find that you are forced to knuckle down and get the work done. But be sure to do this in highly focused, smaller chucks of time, which will allow you a break from the screen. Rewarding yourself after each an hour with a walk to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, a sandwich outside, or a quick walk around the block to clear your head.
The house tasks like laundry and tidying a messy kitchen is not going anywhere, and can wait until later in the day when it’s not your core genius time.
Limit Social Media & Get Social
Further to staying away from niggling house tasks when working from home, it will also help to limit your time on social media. Social media is an important part of my job to market our brand and our client’s businesses. It is also an important research tool for finding valuable content online. But falling down a rabbit hole while researching a blog post or a branding project can be detrimental to productivity during a shorter summer work schedule.
I try to limit checking social media to the first hour of my day while you responding to your inbox. Then I put my phone away or turning off notifications until lunchtime. I try not to look at it again until near the end of my working day or once the kids are in bed. Checking a new comment on Instagram or a new follower on Twitter can turn into 10 minutes looking at the screen — so I put away distractions that can keep me from being focused, and present with my kids in the afternoons.
Set a Regular Wrap Up and Transition Time
Last year I worked right up to leaving the house to pick up my kids from camp, I took calls in the car on the way and even carried on taking calls as I stepped up to camp. Then I wondered why I had trouble flipping the stitch from business to parent mode, even changing my language and tone to welcome my kids with open arms and a smile. This is no good for your kids, you or your business.
So set a regular time each day (and set a reminder on your phone or desktop) to start wrapping up work, and start transitioning into the mindset of your other role – parent, at least 20 minutes before heading out the door.
Start by looking at what you achieved that day and then create a to-do list for the next day. This will not only help you hit the ground running the next day, but it will also start showing a more honest picture of what you can and can’t achieve in a smaller window of time. Scaling down your to-do list tasks and the number of calls or meetings you take each day will give you a sense of achievement rather than beating yourself up about what you didn’t get done.
Then close down your computer and take a breath, meditate or whatever you need to do to transition from one role to the next. Playing music in your car or driving in silence to clear your mind before you pick up your kids will create a gap between taking the business owner hat off and the parent hat that requires different mindsets.
Rather than longingly watching a family bike ride outside your home office while taking conference calls, I am taking more control of my summer schedule. I am setting clear boundaries with my business partner, my clients and myself about when I will be on or off the clock. I am looking forward to a productive and happier summer with a more realistic attempt at a work life balance - which most of us strive for.
Stay tuned next week for How To Adapt To Working From Home Disruptions. I will tackle some of the struggles we face when the summer activities disrupts working from home. I'll talk about giving up your home office when family or friends come to stay. Plus ways to compartmentalize your personal life and work responsibilities.
What are your tipS to staying focused during the fragmented summer months?
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