During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and covid19 lockdown; many people are working from home and need to be productive. The question is how to do it with a full house including children and your spouse also at home. This is a time to learn from mums (and dads) who work from home regularly and there are certainly a few tips you can use to help you stay sane at this time.
Personally, over the years I have done it all (almost), worked from the home office, worked from an office, doing school runs most days of the week and learning how to stay productive through it all. I have picked up many tricks and hacks along the way that help.
Front-load heavy work to be more productive while working from home
What this means is to complete your heavy productive work earlier in the day. I got used to front-loading my heavy lifting work for earlier in the day. This became second nature as a result of a slow down in my day after I picked the children from school in the afternoon.
I learnt how to use mornings more effectively. Once I wake up and drop the children off at school in the morning, my day tends to get started. I do my more creative work then and schedule in my toughest tasks earlier in the day. During the normal school routine once I picked the children up from school; between asking them how school was and getting them settled into the afternoon routine at home; it was not the best time for activities such as teleconferences if I could avoid it.
So what can you do now that you need to work from home and the children are home all day? I recommend setting a routine to get your meetings and more demanding work done earlier in the day. You will find that you can get more done earlier in the day while you are still clear-headed, before the children get more restless and want to spend time with you.
Plan to finish a project
Perhaps you have not had time in the past to get things done, now that you are home all day; you could finish projects but only if you plan properly. Working from home can make you less productive because the day seems to drag ahead of you. However, without proper planning, you might find that the time just flies and you would not have achieved what you had intended to.
Perhaps you want to write a book and never feel like you have the time. Decide to commit one hour every day for the next month and it is possible that you will probably get the first draft of your book finished. Be consistent and do it at the same one hour time every day.
During this lockdown and while you are working from home, you could wake up and give the children some work to do. Then you can decide that during this time while they are occupied, you would write or spend one hour doing what you need. In a space of two weeks, you will be amazed at how much closer you would be to completing your project.
To be productive avoid time wasters
We all have those activities, that could be timewasters; because they are not critical nor take us closer to achieving the things that matter. You need to decide when you are most productive and use that time to do work that matters. I find that I am most effective early in the day so I try to maximize this time. In addition, I have also realized that once I start reading email and browsing through social media; I go down the rabbit-role that swallows up my time.
As a result, to be more productive, I leave these activities until a slower time of the day like such as during lunchtime. This is important to note during this lockdown time as it is easy to get into the habit of lounging, scrolling through social media or bingeing on Netflix. If you want to be productive or you have goals to meet it is best to get online for recreational viewing after your major tasks have been sufficiently completed.
Have core hours
One thing I learnt working from home is that you cannot be on a conference call trying to close a deal while your child is having piano lessons in the background or your toddler is singing twinkle twinkle at the top of their lungs.
The idea of core hours is that you would try to have your meetings, write proposals and do other work that requires you to be in the zone during your core hours. This could be between the hours of 9 am and 2 pm. After this time you can get to replying emails or social media messages. The idea is to batch your workflow into portions and do certain things at the same time. Of course, there might be outliers such as clients in different time zones, which you would need to adjust for.
Use this same idea of core hours while working from home now with the children also home. Create a schedule for the children to mirror your schedule and try to keep your meetings etc. to those hours. So perhaps your children’s schedule includes waking up, doing some online learning and reading books between 8 am and 12 noon, you could schedule most of your meetings during this time as well. The goal is to make it work for you. Remember to be realistic about what is possible; I do not believe it is possible to be engaged in deep serious work all day; while you also have children at home to care for during this lockdown period.
Set boundaries for the whole family
During this lockdown period, if you hope to be productive while working from home; it is important to set boundaries. You need to let the other people in the house know what you need. So if you need one hour to finish an online course or to read something; let your family members know. Perhaps you need to close your door and ask them not to knock on your door or call you until you are done.
When others know what to expect, including children, it is easier to comply. Likewise when it is time to spend time with the family do not pick work calls at that time. Show respect for the time you have allotted to specific activities. Because we do everything on computers and our smartphones, your children simply think you are hanging out browsing all the time. They do not necessarily understand what work means for you. So, be sure to communicate and let everyone know when you need some quiet time.
Create a schedule to be productive
It is more important than ever to create a schedule to ensure that you stay productive. Technology certainly helps with scheduling everything and keeping track of your different demands. So for example, you can schedule school events into your calendar so you avoid forgetting. This is important during the normal school year and certainly important even now during the stay at home lockdown. Though at home, there will still be demands for your time; so plan accordingly.
You should also consciously have a closing time as well because; it is very easy to keep working all day. Decide when you will stop work for the day. Then shut down your computer and spend quality time with your family doing other things.