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Working from home with kids is a challenge. That is a very obvious statement, I realize.
At this very moment as I’m trying to focus, I’m being asked if I’d like to hear a joke, if someone can play their iPad and if they can have a snack. I wish I was joking but 6 little eyes are staring me down intently.
During “regular” life when working from home is scheduled around pick up and drop offs, volunteering at school, hockey and errands, it can be challenging. Right now, during social distancing with the kids at home full time, it is different but also the same in how I approach my work life balance. I haven’t changed much on how I approach my work week, and if you are struggling, I can help you organize your week too.
Working from home with kids expectations
Before we get into building a schedule, there are a few things that you have to remember to be productive and to not get frustrated:
- There is no typical work week. Every week looks different and you have to pivot with unexpected situations.
- You must become the master of time blocks. More on that later.
- You have to be ready to work 7 shorter days to get the same amount of time as a regular 5 hour work week.
- The more organized you make the errands and chores in your life, the more time you will have to put office work in.
- Sometimes things pop up like a sick little one and you have to be willing to put in some late nights to make up time later.
- It’s exhausting, but also extremely flexible so it has positives and negatives. Focus on the positives. Sweatpants all day? Yes please. Cute little face popping up every few minutes to smile? I’ll take that distraction all day.
- Set boundaries. When you work from home, its easy to get caught up in work and make your family feel de-prioritized. Have your set work time and your set family time and everything else is flexible day by day.
- You have to develop your multi-tasking skills. If I have a meeting or call that I know I don’t have to have video, I cut vegetables or fold laundry at the same time. Get creative!
Weekly Sunday Night Set up
My weekly set up is my make or break moment for the week.
If I don’t do this piece of organization, then I am hours behind on Monday morning. This is what I do to set my week up to run smoothly:
- I have a meal plan on a three week rotation. I have laminated grocery lists that match the meal plan. I have my oldest son go through the fridge and pantry and see what ingredients we already have and then he checks them off on the list. Then I grocery shop online for what we need.
- I make sure my email inbox is empty and up to date. Mondays sometimes other things pop up and I want to know that my communication is current.
- I go through the whole week to make sure I’m not forgetting about any anomalies in the schedule. Even right now with the kids home and no additional activities, things pop up. Maybe I scheduled a conference call in an unusual time, or one of my kids has an extra assignment through online school. Or maybe its going to rain all week except for Thursday and I want to make sure we can spend a ton of time outside that day.
Block it out
I create time blocks for the entire week of when I expect I can get my work done. I plan the blocks around family time, kids needs and household chores. I’m not going to block out every minute or hour of my day. That’s impossible. But I come up with a framework to help map out my week and keep on top of things. Let’s build that schedule shall we?
Step 1: Decide how much time you need
I need 30 hours/week minimum to get everything done. Some weeks I need more, some less. Decide at the beginning of the week how many hours you need to map out in your schedule.
Step 2: Put your tasks into time blocks
In this Step, Write down as many tasks as you can that you need to accomplish within your work week and assign them time values. Mine might look like this. Some may mean nothing to you, but its just to show how I list out my items
- Conference Call – 1.5 hours
- Edit article – 2 hours
- Research on new article – 2-3 hours
- Focus Group call – 1 hour
- Tailwind fill queue – 1 hour
- Module 4 and 5 – 3.5 hours
- SEO updating on last two posts – 1 hour
- Writing – 10 hours (1-2 hour blocks)
Inevitably certain things always take longer, and then I will always have emails and other items that pop up that take up those extra 5 hours.
Step 3: Find your time within your lifestyle
I have 3 kids aged 9, 5 and 1. My oldest is doing online learning and needs help periodically. My middle loves learning and activities but needs a lot of assistance through most things. And my youngest is a full time job, so my schedule is built around her and when my husband can take breaks from his work too.
I can block off 10 hours through my daughters naps when my two sons can do school activities or chores on their own.
Another 10 hours come from my two workday evenings that I schedule in based on my husbands availability to solo parent. His job requires more regular business hours so we have to stagger our schedules a bit. And because of my flexibility, I can map mine around him.
The remaining 10 I piece together throughout the week. Mostly after kids go to bed or maybe a few extra hours on the weekend when my husband doesn’t have to work.
Below is what a schedule might look like. Green is work, Red is chores and errands, and Blue is family.
On Sunday night I would fill in the personal details of what is happening in the Blue zones first. For example, my kids might have Hockey practice on Monday and Wednesday night and a game on Sunday afternoon. So I can’t book my work evenings on those days. Or my younger ones might have a few play dates scheduled on mornings. Applying this to our social distanced stay home lifestyle is the same. We may have set up zoom calls with grandparents or friends on a couple evenings. Or maybe one night we want to have a fire in the backyard and then watch a movie. I Also block out times to help them with schoolwork, play together and time for when we can all complete various chores.
Next I will in my Green Work Zones and what Time Blocks I think I can fit in where.
Last I fill in my Red Zones of Chores and Errands.
Step 4: Give yourself a back up plan
Some days my daughter won’t sleep two hours. Or my sons finish their school work and tell me every five minutes that they are bored. I’ve learned to have a list of chores and activities on hand to give them tasks when I need just 10-15 more minutes to complete something.
Check out my article Hilarious and Practical Chores for kids or Miss Manypennies article on 35 Activities to do While Stuck at Home with Kids to get some ideas.
And if all else fails, don’t feel guilty or beat yourself up for putting them in front of a screen for awhile. You are human and there’s only so much one person can accomplish! Do what you can and use the above steps to set yourself up for a successful week. You got this!
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