I’ll never forget the day nearly 7 years ago that I left my 9 to 5 job and became a full-time life coach and speaker.
I had given myself six months to make it work.
I walked out the dark office building I had been working in for nearly five years and out into the sunshine, a huge smile crossing my face. I looked down and came upon a worn, metal washer … which sparked a collection of washers that I find only on my luckiest days.
Now, I spend my days coaching other women on how to live out their own ideal lives and a lot of that coaching is empowering women to be resilient as they juggle the dream, the job and the stressors of their home and personal life.
Right now, much of the world is working from home and realizing that it isn’t as easy as it looks. There are many temptations and distractions. And, as we begin to navigate the school year and work demands, life is about to become a whole lot more hectic.
But from my experience working at home and tending to our loved ones is an energy management practice as much as a productivity issue.
We simply must care for ourselves radically so that we can care for everyone else with love and patience.
While most of the time my own twin daughters are in school, there are more days than not where I am managing home life, motherhood and my own dreams and deadlines.
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I figured my extensive experience juggling home life, children and pushing a dream out into the world may come in handy for a few of you.
10 Powerful Productivity Tips for Parents Working at Home
GET UP EARLY FOR WORK
This first tip is always the first tip that I offer anyone who is juggling children and other interests or responsibilities. Children — and work — take up a lot of our time. I suggest that you get up early to work on deep work so you can truly make an impact on important projects.
What is deep work? According to Author Cal Newport, “Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time.”
The best time to really sink into deep work is in a totally quiet headspace. For me, this kind of important work so much easier to get done in a quiet house and with a fresh morning mind. If you want to make effective progress on any work or project — or self-care move — you need to focus on without any distractions or energy zappers. HOW OFTEN? For this purpose of deep work, get up early to work 2-3 times a week.
GET UP EARLIER FOR YOU
As long as your home is filled with people, you may long for some time to think, to piddle about, to enjoy a quiet mind and a quiet space. For this reason, I encourage you to get up early enough for just yourself to have some self-care time.
The rest of the day will be focused on everyone else and everything else. Allow yourself a good 30 minutes for you because as long as you put this one thing first you will feel amazing.
I wake up early every day for me. On the days that I also want to get up early and work, I wake up extra early (like 4 a.m.) HOW OFTEN? At least 3 times a week if not every day.
PREPARE WITH GREAT DETAIL
Every Sunday, I create my weekly to-do list in great detail. A good list for the week means that when i do have time to sit down and work, I will be effective and productive rather than spending too much time trying to figure out what I need to do.
Taking just 15 minutes to plan out your next day or an hour to plan out the week can really create more flow in your work day.
Flow, according to Positive Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is when we become so absorbed in an activity that we lose our sense of time. We are truly focused and feel fully alive. HOW OFTEN? Weekly or nightly — but try to avoid creating your list on the fly. This creates too much pressure and can result in distractions.
I have long advocated for my clients to adopt the mantra Play First because it’s so easy to let doing take over our days rather than allowing for some being time.
This means before you head off into your office, connect and really give your full attention to your family.
Your family needs your presence more than your email. And the more you fill up their cup with joy and attention, the less likely they will need you for your first hour or so of work time.
The first hour of your child waking up should be and can be about playing together and connecting. Setting this rule will foster a feeling of love and kindness first in your day. HOW OFTEN? Daily.
GET FREE WITH THREE
It is so easy to fill our schedules up with pages and pages of to-dos. But the truth is that what we really need to do is finish things. So, set yourself up for success with asking yourself to only do three important things per work day.
If you get to more that is wonderful. But plan to work on, finish and cross off three things. I promise you will feel so much more successful. I believe so much in the Less is More way of living and working.
I don’t always follow it but when I don’t, I feel the difference in how productive I really am versus how productive I thought I could be. HOW OFTEN? Daily 3 Must Dos.
WORK, REST, REPEAT
Here’s the wake up call … your children are going to need you. No matter their age, they are not going to be able to play and handle everything perfectly all day long. They will fight. They will hurt things.
They will break things, They will get themselves into a mess that only you can help with. This is OK. Work, rest, repeat is a simple little motto that I try to operate by when I am multitasking with children home.
This means I plan to work for about 90 minute blocks and then rest for 90 minutes. When I am not working, I am being fully present with my children, tending to them and their needs. This minimizes the interruptions I may experience when I finally get into a work flow. HOW OFTEN? Work, rest, repeat at least two times in your day. You should be able to get in 3 blocks of 90 minutes this way.
REST WHEN YOU NEED REST
Working from home while parenting may feel like you never get a break. But the truth is that you always have a choice to take a break and rest.
Because you are now in charge of how you run your day, you will need to learn to figure out how to do rest really well. Schedule it in and make it happen. You can’t run at 90 mph all day long, all week long without a break.
This month in my membership community we’ve been really defining different forms of rest and I’ve found incorporating them throughout my work day have been super helpful. Rest isn’t just laying down. It can mean taking a rest from work as well. HOW OFTEN? At least once in the afternoon.
CHOOSE MINDFULNESS OVER MULTITASKING
It’s really not possible to parent and finish a task and do it well. The truth hurts, I know.
So if your child is standing at your desk waiting for you to finish an email or a deadline, it’s best to let your mindful compass point toward your child first and then return to your email and be mindful for it. Rather than saying let me finish this, take a deep breathe, look into your child’s eyes and be all in as a listener and a parent. The email will get done. It always gets done.
If the email is so urgent, tell your child you will meet them in their room when your email is finished and then wrap things up quickly. HOW OFTEN? As often as needed.
MAKE BOUNDARIES YOUR BEST FRIENDS
Yes, of course, you will want to set boundaries with your children on what they can do and when. And of course you will want to make sure you are making those boundaries clear.
However, the real boundaries you need to become very acquainted with are the ones you make with yourself. The boundaries you set for yourself are meant to be kept and followed through with day after day after day.
I shared on a recent Facebook Live that one of the first big boundaries I keep with myself is getting up every day and getting fully dressed. I have tried to not do this but my energy truly suffers. So this is a boundary I keep with myself.
I also do not get on Facebook or other social media when I am supposed to be working. I use News Feed Eradicator to help me avoid the great scroll that can happen and be a distraction. HOW OFTEN? Boundaries should be set and maintained throughout your day.
LEARN TO BE SUPER FLEXIBLE
I have had days where I had a really big plan and within an hour of said big plan had to scrap it.
Sometimes our children are just more needy than other days or other hours. The more I resist doing what needs to be done for them, the more it persists and becomes something bigger.
So, we learn to be super flexible and go with the flow. Some days working at home will be much more productive than others. It’s OK. See next entry. HOW OFTEN? All day long.
REPEAT THIS MANTRA — IT ALL GETS DONE
Sure, there is a lot to do. But savoring the moments with your family when you have them are always going to be great memories. There is so much to handle and deal with, especially right now. But you are not superhuman and you are doing your best and so is your family.
Be gentle with yourself and know this — it all gets done. It just does. I don’t always know how but it does. The urgent rises to the top and the necessary gets done.
What won’t get done if you aren’t careful is taking care of you … so trust that even if you put that first, the rest will get done. HOW OFTEN? Daily.
Shawn Fink is a Life & Well-Being Coach and founder of The Abundant Mama Project. She helps go-getter women create their ideal life and step into their power so they can create beautiful things for this world. Shawn is a writer, a coffee lover and a mom of twin teenage girls. Ready to Shine? Book a FREE coaching discovery call with her now.