While the world continues to address the COVID-19 crisis, businesses have had to shut down and many, many others have had to drastically change the way they work. That means more and more employees have to change the way they work, too. As more employees work from home to help flatten the curve, a major issue arises: how do you stay focused and productive while working from home, especially as a parent?
- Establish Boundaries: The lines between home and work, school and play are blurred for everyone in your home. It’s up to you to show your kids how to navigate this ambiguity. For example, you can tape a green piece of paper to your door, letting your kids know they can come in and interrupt. But when you are busy and cannot be distrubed, tape a red sign to your door. Create and maintain boundaries with your kids. Encourage them to create their own and show your support by respecting them.
- Take Advantage of Mornings and Nights: If you have little kids, the likelihood of being able to focus solely on work during the day is small. Work around their schedule by maximizing the times they are asleep. Rise early and tackle your inbox; stay up later to finalize that proposal. Create a calendar with a to-do list so you can stay focused on your priority tasks during these kid-free hours.
- Use Productivity Apps: Stay on task with productivity apps and software that keep you productive while working from home. Evernote, for example, helps you organize tasks and track activities. Todoist manages your to-do list using artificial intelligence. Try Slack to collaborate with your team members and limit distractions. If you manage employees, help your team stay productive with time tracking apps like Toggl, Harvest or Timeular.
- Batch Tasks: It’ll be tempting to switch from work mode to parent mode to house mode all in the course of an hour. Resist the urge! You’ll get far more done if you batch tasks, meaning you work on similar tasks at the same time. You won’t move on to another batch until you’ve completed one, which allows you to be more productive and less distracted. Similar tasks are easier to move between, multitask and organize. Batch your parenting tasks during times when your kids need you the most and your work tasks when they are asleep or doing independent activities.
- Create a Morning Routine: A morning routine is important for both you and your kids, especially if your children are used to getting ready for school. It doesn’t matter what kind of routine you have to start the day— as long as you have something that sets you up for success. A morning routine is a healthy shot of structure that scaffolds the rest of your day. Start with a cup of coffee and breakfast with the family, drink tea alone on the porch to plan your day or walk the dog around the block with your kids.
- 20/40 Method: Manage your time and limit distractions with the 20/40 method. Spend 20 minutes on child and home-related tasks, then the next 40 minutes on work. Or vice versa, depending on your responsibilities and priorities. When you are focused on a time block, you are less likely to be lured away by a task from another role. Finding the right time management strategy will be your anchor for work-life balance.
All these new and changing responsibilities— full-time employee, full-time parent, full-time educator and full-time remote employee— can be a lot to manage. Even with busy and demanding children underfoot, you can use these tips to stay focused, productive and keep both life and work balanced.