Work-at-home and self-employed parents sometimes need scheduling tips to save the week from chaos and constantly feeling overwhelmed or alone in the battle. You balance more than the rest of us in my coaching experience, because there is more you need to negotiate with the other parent or your support system — flat out, more to do and with younger children, far less control over your days until they are more independent.
This is a list of suggestions which have worked, some mine, some clients’, in 4 difficult areas; I encourage you to give some of them a try if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Schedule in some rest time. It’s tempting to jam pack weekends with fun activities to give yourselves and the children a great weekend. But pause and think about your weeknights – also jammed right? When do you get to take a break and restore your energy?
- Literally, schedule some break time, down time, relaxation or “white space.” Protect the time and remind yourself how important it is to everyone’s moods!
On Sundays, keep Sunday nights as family time or quiet time. If you miss Sunday night prep time for the week, you may find as some of my clients have said that the week gets worse like a snowball rolling through picking up more and more snow [and chaos and overwhelming feelings]. It’s harder to slow down during the week.
- Be home about 4 to get dinner ready and get ready for the week.
Dinner: Look at your schedule for the week and see how much time you’ll have to prep dinner. On the days which are tightly scheduled, have a list of “simpler” meals. Keep it on your phone, the fridge, in your notebook. These are meals like: tacos, sandwiches, eggs – the ones you think of as simple, fast and great for no time evenings.
- The KEY is to match up meal types with your schedule.
Dishes: In super busy times, why not use paper, just for that short time when you feel especially stressed on time.
- This tip saves on cleanup and can be handled by the whole family, no matter what age.
Routines: There are a few things to do as a family at night, to help the next day go more smoothly: lay out outfits for the next day together; make lunches; decide what’s for breakfast; figure out what time you need to be out of the house and what you need with you to leave quickly and not return for something you forgot. If you’re the early one awake, the night before, put your clothes right near the shower, so you’re ready faster and don’t disturb everyone [which typically disrupts everyone’s morning routines and moods].
- Routines can involve everyone. Routines are quick and easy when they become habits. We don’t really notice we are doing them.
Devices: Shut them off early, at least a couple of hours before bed. Figure out as a family what you could do instead. The issue? The lights and speed that things come at you on the screen react by upping your dopamine and will therefore keep you up later.
- Keep handy a list of ideas, so your default isn’t technology.
Choose a bedtime. An actual time. Work backwards and begin slowing down your mind and body at least an hour before [everyone is involved in this one]. Some people meditate in bed at night; it’s easier than finding a quiet place in a room somewhere else, as the kids will find you and ask questions about what you’re doing. Not real conducive to quiet time. Start with 5 minutes!
- A bedtime [including for the adults] makes it a goal. Without a goal, who knows where you’ll end up? And we all read about how key sleep is.
Whether formal or informal around the supper table, take time to talk about: What’s up for the next day’s schedule; What projects are due in the next two weeks [no surprises, please]; What events are happening at school [which need extra time – sports gear, special event days, bringing in food, etc.]. It’s like a “status” meeting you’d have at work, so that you avert crises. Talk about drop off and pickup for kids; who is going to which games; is either parent traveling or changing work hours that week. All of these require different time organizing systems.
- Having the family together for these meetings helps everyone, not just one parent, to understand how much there is to manage. It makes it easier to enlist everyone in getting things done. It prevents stress from landing on one partner or parent. And it teaches life skills to the kids.
Your Office & Workday
If you are self employed or work from home, you may not have a “regular” workday and there is no escaping that reality. The “flexibility” has downsides, too. Make sure you have a private, dedicated space, not a kitchen counter, dining room table or other “not really an office” space; this affects how seriously people take you when you say you are working.
- Stick to your hours. Even if they are broken up by drop off and pickup and spending time after school together, decide what your version of regular work hours and stick to it unless a crisis happens. If you don’t take your hours seriously, nobody else will.
If you have trouble navigating these waters, or feel like the snowball never melts, reach out and ask about short term coaching and virtual productivity or organization services. Thanks for being here.