We have been given an impossible task. But still, here it is, and it looks like it may be here longer than we thought. So what do we do now?
It’s time to shift our mindset from survival to sustainability.
Sustainably working from home seems to involve 3 main tenants:
- Scheduling your family’s day so you can get something done
- Helping your child(ren) find independent activities so that you can get something done
- Taking things off your plate so that you can get something done well
Here are a few resources for each. This post was inspired by The Ultimate Guide to Working From Home with Kids.
The work schedule you so carefully designed to accommodate school and family is no longer applicable.
Here is the reality – things are inching their way back to normal, but we are still a long way away. We need to find ways to adjust our schedules and expectations to fit.
Navigating Working from Home with Children, an article from The Ultimate Guide, offers scheduling guidance specifically for working parents.
- Routines over Schedules: Thinking about your day in “blocks” of “types of time”, rather than going by the clock, reduces anxiety, stressful interactions, and gives you permission for greater flexibility as different needs arise on different days.
- Independent Work Times: The schedule they propose has blocks of time for independent work, where the child can be on their own and the parent can have more focused work time. Even if this is a short time, the quality of the time is what’s key.
- Collaborative Work Times: These blocks of time are when children are “doing school” and may need various levels of support. For some parents, this can also be work time, as long as the work tasks don’t require 100% attention or can be done in small sprints.
- Family Times: And of course, always choose connection. If you have blocks of time for all the hard stuff, make blocks for the stuff you enjoy, too.
Independent Activities for All Ages
It is likely that your most productive time will be when your child is doing something they like, can do on their own, and are highly motivated to keep doing. This is probably not school. If you’d like to get beyond video games and YouTube, here is a great resource:
The Ultimate Activity Guide: This is an easily searchable list of activities for all ages. You can search by:
- Screens/No Screens
- Amount of parent involvement needed
That last one is extremely useful. They even had a suggestion for my toddler!
If you can’t get beyond video games and YouTube, that’s ok, too. Some kids have a really tough time working independently, and this skill may be beyond them at this time. Since we can’t expect them to build it overnight, it’s ok to let it go for now.
(For more on how to build these skills, or how to “let things go” strategically, check out my recent talk.)
Plan C Yourself
In another post I talked about Plan C. This is where you temporarily remove an expectation for your child – to keep things calm, to give them (and you) a break, and to make space for other things that are more pressing.
Now it is time to Plan C yourself. We are going to be in an altered reality for a while. Do what you can to reduce expectations on you.
This likely means talking to your boss (including a self-check in if you are your own boss) about realistic expectations given your specific situation at home. Is there a way to:
- Reduce your work load?
- Extend your deadlines?
- Adjust your work hours?
- Split your work day?
- Shorten meetings or add more breaks?
Of course, this is easier said than done.
If you work for a person or organization that is having difficulty adjusting their expectations to the new reality, you may need some guidance on finding the right language to address these more rigid mindsets.
If you’ve been following my posts, Collaborative Proactive Solutions is a tool you can apply to adult problems as well! The 5 Secrets from Dr. David Burns is another highly effective communication tool I teach my adult clients for high tension or high conflict situations.
You can also take other things off the table to give more space for work. Order take-out, skip bath time, and leave the Legos on the floor. Your bandwidth is limited. Save it for the things that matter most.
I wish you all health, happiness and ample cognitive bandwidth during these trying times.
– Dr Liz