How to Work From Home With Kids At Home

Lifestyle, Organization, Productivity

Since Monday 3/16/2020 I’m managing three jobs while home during the COVID-19 outbreak: my salaried day job, single parenting from 7ish-6ish, and teacher aide.

A bit of background, I work full time in finance, Dave’s in construction, and we have two kids, a kindergartener and a preschooler. My job instituted work from home and my children’s school is dismissed through the end of the month. Daycare is still open as of this writing. I decided my kids shouldn’t be around groups if one of us could be home. Dave’s work hasn’t instituted work-from-home yet.

Those who know me professionally and personally know that I’m very into planning, I keep a paper planner and obsess about to do lists, scheduling, and routines.

I’ve noticed a lot of working parents struggled this week and starting to search online for routines on the down-low during their workday. How are other working parents doing it? We all still need to work & kids need to be schooled, cuz if we don’t, we gonna have families outta jobs and kids as flunkies once this coronavirus outbreak is over.

ADVICE FOR WORKING (FROM HOME) PARENTS

First: Don’t sleep in unless it’s an actual PTO day, sick day, or the weekend. Wake up like you would when you would be commuting to the office.

Second: The heart of planning is anticipating interruptions. You will get them once kids are awake and when the rest of your team logins online. Since you’re not commuting for 30-120 minutes one way to the office, maximize that time by starting your workday much earlier. I highly recommend starting your workday 60-120 minutes before the kids wake up. This will be likely be before the rest of your colleagues login online too.

Third: Kids need to be fed adequately spaced meals during the day. I cannot emphasize this enough! When kids are not fed well, or way too late during the day, or a combo of both, they do not stay in good moods and can and will interrupt what you need to get done with work, let alone do their schoolwork/activities. Make scheduling their mealtimes #1 priority during this outbreak, like you would with meetings. Decide on times and stick to them.

Fourth: Go to bed on time. Get adequate sleep. Waking up early will not be effective if you don’t get enough sleep.

Last but not least: if you had PTO for Spring Break but DisneyWorld got closed or don’t want to risk grandparents getting sick, take the scheduled PTO anyway and rest at home. You will not regret this.

Here’s what I’ve been doing since Monday March 16, 2020

WEEKDAY SCHEDULE: WORK FROM HOME + KIDS AT HOME (3/16/2020-3/27/2020; M-F)

6:00: Wake up at the normal time I’d get up for work. 6am for me. Since I don’t have a need to dress up, I shower, brush teeth, wear something comfortable, walk over to the living room to login.

6:30: Begin the workday. I focus on my tasks and goals first. Emails are not the first thing I check.

7:30-7:45: Dave leaves for work. Girls wake up, potty, brush teeth & wash hands. May ask the girls to put on jacket, shoes, & socks if we are picking up breakfast. If staying home, they watch cartoons while I’m preparing breakfast.

8:00-8:30: I make their breakfast or head to their school to pick up a breakfast and take back home.

The Emergency Food Program is a nutrition program providing free meals to ALL children during a national emergency. I highly recommend all parents to find out more about this from their school district with locations and times. Cooking can be a huge challenge when you are profusely busy with work deliverables, and grocery shopping getting more difficult. It also forces you to be on a schedule with not forgetting to feed your kids. (8-9am breakfast, 11-1pm lunch). Look into this program when school is closed.

9:00-11:00: My oldest has two hours of assignments a day, not including homework. I work during this time. Youngest doesn’t have assignments like my oldest so I go to Twisty Noodle and print out activity sheets. She loves running from the kitchen to the office to grab the activity sheet from the printer.

11:00-11:30: Girls generally are hungrier at this time so we head to the school at 11am, and they begin eating around 11:30. Or I prep their lunch at home.

12:00-1:00: I send the girls outside in the back to play for at least 60 minutes. Still working.

1:30-3:00: Here I would get my oldest to complete school assignments if she didn’t complete in the morning, do homework, play downstairs or quiet time. Working and finishing up any other work requests.

3:30-4:00: Girls take shower, eat a snack. I wrap up the workday unless there’s a meeting at 4pm.

4:00-5:00: Let them watch cartoons, and begin preparing dinner.

6:00: Dinner, Dave arrives home. Relax, clean up a bit, blog, watch TV etc.

8:00: Girls in bed

10:00: Me in bed.

What do you think about this schedule? Each family is different so their needs and schedule will be different. Have an idea or schedule that’s working well for you and your family? I’d love to hear it in the comments! 

Planning Your Life During a Pandemic

Career, Family, Organization, Productivity

Pandemic or not, many interruptions and demands will arise and you have to be able to reset priorities when change happens.

Plans are still good to have because it allows you to remain focused on the most important things and know where to reset a few things around. If you’re not able to revise as interruptions come about then your planning will not be effective. Planning allows you to prevent things from slipping even when big changes happen.

Many interruptions will arise anyway, you have to review and reset plans as changes occur.

The biggest change in my plans as well as for everyone else affected by COVID-19 is staying home during times I did not anticipate to be home. My weekend is starting to look different because ballet is cancelled as well as church meetings. Starting next Monday, my schedule and routine will be different too.

My Pandemic Planning

(1) Daycare. Daycare will remain open. My kids do not have a set routine at home between 8-6pm M-F so my plan is to bring them to daycare where they do have a routine. I won’t bring kids to daycare if they’re sick though.

(2) Kids’ school. So much conflicting information on the news about school closures. I went and reviewed school district website about their plan. Preschool is cancelled but kindergarten and above is not closed, only dismissed. School will move to online distance learning format. I will find out next week about checking out a Chromebook from the school and then decide whether my oldest should be in daycare during the school hour. My main priority is ensuring my kindergartener can get her schoolwork done with minimal interruption.

(3) Work. After figuring the plans with school and daycare, I was able to relax about work. Work updates related to COVID-19 changed by the hour this week. By end of day Thursday, they asked us to work from home at least through end of March. I was really glad I tackled some big items before switching to work from home (thanks to planning ahead!!!). Sometimes it is quicker to have two monitors at the office instead of one little laptop at home to work on spreadsheets. Remember to get the big rocks outta the way first whether the routine is eventful or not.

Most important area of focus is morning routine* during weekdays. I am planning to get up at the normal time and get girls to daycare like I would pre-pandemic. There will be discretionary time because the commute will be much shorter and not need to dress as if I’m going to the office.

Looking forward to temporary evening routine*. I should be able to get the kids earlier back home than I would normally, between 4:30-5pm instead of 5:30-6pm. Hoping I can get them to bed early! Also want to plan at least one weeknight meal early next week.

That’s what I have so far! What plans you got now with everything closing and cancelling?

*Note on morning & evening routines: they are 2 hour crucial time blocks between the hours of 6am-8am and 6pm-8pm Mondays through Fridays. More on that in another post.

Finding The Perfect Planner

Lifestyle, Organization, Productivity

Digital vs Paper?

Digital planning didn’t work for me.

It bugged me too much to bounce from the task app, the notes app, and the calendar app on my phone and tablet. It’s easier for me to turn to a sheet on my planner and see the date, task list, and notes all on one page. Also it is harder to ignore handwritten tasks than it is to ignore notifications on your phone or Outlook. Digital definitely has benefits but paper is here to stay.

Paper Planners

If you go paper based, any planner/organizer that fits your needs will do. It is important to choose one that is

  1. the right size for your needs, and
  2. fits your thinking processes so that you’ll use it

All of us lead different lives, so that’s why there are zillions of planners out there. You may have to try a few before you find the right planner that’s right for you.

Options for Trying Out New Planners

Target is a good option to test planners. They are not expensive and they have a lot of pretty and/or functional ones. The other option is printing out templates of the planner you are thinking of using. You can also try drawing out a template in a bullet journal or notebook.

If you never use planners before, it’s best to start inexpensive to see how your thinking process meshes with the planner layout. You don’t want to spend a ton of money on a planner that does not work well for you and not use.

The Right Planner

The right planner, when you open it has to delight you. It has to inspire you because without that, it’s not going to keep you being productive. It should make your life easier and it should make you happy. If it’s not working out or it’s frustrating you, then it’s okay to try another planner, or go back to digital.

Also as your life changes and as your kids grow, your schedule changes, and therefore your planning changes.

It’s always exciting to start a new planner, so give it a shot, and continue planning.

What planner do you use? If in market for planner what have you seen and liked so far?

The Real Cleaning Schedule for Working Moms

Career, Lifestyle, Organization

Forget about it! 

My house is not clean everyday.  Work gets busy and other priorities take precedence.  No one’s coming over, cleaning can wait!

Your home should be clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy.

When do I clean? Certainly when people are coming over to visit. Once I know I’m expecting visitors, I schedule that on my calendar.  During the week I can plan ahead of when I need to get in gear for cleaning my house before people come over.  No one needs to see a dirty house, and sometimes, visitors can wait too.