Working at home with kids can feel overwhelming. I’m going to share with you the most important thing you can do to make this process much easier.
I know you've got kids at home right now and if you're like me, you're struggling to get things done. My son is an amazing kid and he was an amazing baby. I am a tax accountant and he was born on December 27th. We rolled right into tax season. We had his little Pack ‘n Play. They had all the baby attachments on top and he would be in his little baby attachment asleep, right on top of the Pack ‘n Play. We were good to go.
And then he became mobile. That did not work anymore. Jeff and I really had to look at what work we were doing. How can we keep working? We've got this toddler that wants to move and talk and grow and not let us work. And if you try to put them on your lap to work, he's going to type at your keyboard. As your kids get older, it becomes more difficult.
Be realistic about what you can accomplish
This is really simple. This is not going to be a productivity tip. The most important thing about being successful with kids at home is being realistic with what you can accomplish. That's it.
This is something that I struggle with on a routine basis when I'm thinking to myself, why can't I get it all done? And why does my to-do list keep getting longer? It's typically because when I look at it, I'm trying to pack 12 hours worth of work into a four hour day. That is typically what messes me up. You need to be realistic about what your day will look like, especially now.
If you're still on lockdown where you are, it's much, much harder. All of these employers that think we're all just going to work eight hours a day at our desk while our kids are at home and the schools are expecting us to homeschool and the employers are expecting you to work and everybody's expecting you to be able to wear 17 hats at the same time. It's not possible. Something has to give.
A lot of people don't know this. If you are working for an employer, there is actually a provision in the Cares Act. I'm amazed by the Families First Act. I think it was the Families First Act that said that if you work for a company that has less than 500 employees, you can get paid if your children are home because their school or their daycare is closed. In all this, the government realized that it's impossible for people to try to homeschool and work at the same time, but employers don't get that. And I think we don't get that either.
I know that that's really hard and for us as business owners. Those of us that are fortunate enough to still have work, that can work from home, that still have clients that need us, there's still demand for what we do. It's really, really hard because I think that there's this pressure that says, okay, I've got to make as much money as I can because at some point the money's going to dry up, which may or may not be true. We push ourselves to think we have to go at warp speed and try to do all the things at the same time. And that's where we start to burn out and freak out and lose our “stuff.” That's when we lose it… when we're trying to do too much.
Behind the scenes
If I hear one more person that says I should be learning something deep and meaningful and wonderful because I have so much time on my hands, I'm going to lose my stuff. I'm pretty sure because, over the past two months, this has been probably the busiest tax season I ever had. And I'm so far behind on taxes. It's not even funny.
Many of you know, and many of you probably don't know that I teach at a university. We had to move all of our classes online and I was helping other faculty move their classes online because I've taught online for a long time. People don't really understand that teaching online classes takes a lot longer than teaching in-person classes. So I was doing that. I was helping other faculty and trying to help my students adjust to this. That was really time-consuming.
Then we had all the mess with the PPP loans and the SBA loans and the EID loans, and you can't get a hold of the banks. So I've been helping my clients with that. I've been helping other businesses with that.I've been consulting with other CPAs, so that took up a lot of time. And then there's just the stress of all this.
On a personal note
I'm a cancer survivor, so I don't know how much damage has been done to my immune system. Right now, all my tests come back okay. But I'm kind of worried about what this would do to my system. My mom is 80. I've got other family members that are immunocompromised, so Jeff and I have been very, very cautious. Just trying to figure out things like where are we going to get groceries from, and how are we going to get this or that? Day to day life is a lot harder now and it's a lot more stressful now. There's this baseline of stress that's right here, all the time. It's right at your nose. It's a lot.
(I'm writing and recording this at the beginning of May and we've been home for about two months). I spent the first two months reacting to this and trying to fit in everything that needed to be done on a daily basis as if nothing else was going on. As if everything was normal, as if my mother was still coming over two mornings a week, and as if we could go out on the weekends, and do our shopping, and we didn't have to fight with the online services, and we'd go to a restaurant once or twice a week for dinner just to kind of unwind.
We didn't have that anymore. I was trying to do the same level of Kristin that I normally do, and it was not working. It absolutely was not working because of the amount of information that was coming in. I use Voxer to communicate with my clients a lot. The volume of voxers, and emails, and messages on Facebook. And it was just… it was crazy. It was absolutely crazy.
I was being very reactive. I'm trying to push all this stuff in. Finally, last week during my mastermind, I just kind of looked at Jeff and thought, all right, I need to figure out what my schedule really looks like. What do I really have time to do?
How we schedule our day while working at home with kids
The way things work in our house, (this changes, but this is really working for us right now) Jeff and I both wake up at about 6:00 AM, which is about the time Erik wakes up as well.
I will get up and take a shower while Jeff watches Erik. Sometimes they'll watch an episode of Daniel Tiger, and then, as I'm getting ready and Erik's watching something on TV, Jeff will hop in the shower. I’ll take Erik downstairs and make him breakfast while Jeff is finishing getting ready. Then we'll clean up the kitchen a little bit. Then we'll play a little bit. Usually, about 8 AM, Jeff will go upstairs and work for about half an hour just to start to process his day, figure out what's going on, and then I go upstairs.
We switch at 8:30. I work and Jeff watches Erik in the morning. Then we switch in the afternoon. Erik usually takes a nap in the afternoon, but sometimes he doesn’t. I will work until Erik wakes up from his nap. I take a break for lunch and I go for a walk and I do some self-care stuff because God knows we have to do that today.
That's a critical thing… being realistic about what I can accomplish. I cannot take a 20-minute lunch. I take an hour and a half for lunch. I make myself something healthy. I eat slowly. I will listen to a podcast while I'm eating. Something that stimulates my brain. And then I go for a 30-minute walk. If the weather sucks, then I will do a 30-minute walk inside the house. I will literally do loops inside my house.
Erik usually wakes up about 2:30 or 3:00, but sometimes he doesn't take a nap at all.
So what I've decided to do is, my core work that I have to get done, gets done in the morning. I use the Passion Planner, and what I've started to do is block off my time. It's either client time or creative time. So I'm recording this podcast during that block.
And then I'll put in my afternoon block, which is for admin, and email and stuff that doesn't have to get done that day. So in case Erik doesn't go to sleep or he wakes up early, that kind of stuff can move forward. But typically the stuff in my morning block has to get done when it gets done. I think this is critically important.
Working at home with kids
When I started to become more realistic about the hours that I had, I stopped over-scheduling those blocks. I'll give an example: I’m recording this podcast, and I recorded two episodes today. So if you watch episode 8 and 9 on YouTube, you're going to notice I'm wearing the same t-shirt. Sometimes you’ve got to a batch record when you have the time. I'm going to update a tax return so I can get it out the door. I'm going to do three Instagram stories, which I've already done two of them. That's my morning block. That 8:30 to 11:30 block, that's what I have scheduled in that block.
My afternoon block is an hour and a half long. I basically have it from 1 PM until 2:30 PM so that I have a little bit of time to kind of decompress. If Erik does sleep till three, I'm going to go live on our Facebook page. I'm going to try to get some billing done. Then I'm going to check all my email accounts really quickly to see if there's anything that I need to deal with. And then that's it. That's all we got.
I think it is really important that we are incredibly realistic. It's the thing that really helped me. If you go to the Passion Planner website, you can print out a blank week. I printed out that blank week and I just sat down and said, okay, realistically what time can I get to my desk? Realistically, when am I going to have to leave my desk?
And I filled in those blocks. I created those blocks and I said, okay, now if I'm looking at these blocks, which block is least likely to get interrupted?
Think about your own schedule
If you think about your own schedule, and if you're watching your kids all day and your spouse isn't home, or you don't have somebody that can help you, then your block might be first thing in the morning. It might be during nap time or it might be after the kids go to bed. You have to look at those and say, okay. It might be if you're homeschooling, and your kids are a little bit older, and you have enough devices, then you might be able to do some work while your kids are attending school.
You’ve got to look at those blocks and say, what blocks do I have where I can focus? Then you pick which of those blocks is least likely to get interrupted. For me, the block that's least likely to get interrupted is just that morning block.
This is when I do the things that are critical. The content creation and the client work gets done in those blocks. The afternoon block, which could very well get interrupted, that's the less important stuff… that's my admin stuff, and the stuff I've got to do around the house, although a lot of that stuff I do at night and then some. Sometimes if the afternoon block gets interrupted, I will come back and work in the evening after Erik goes to bed. I try not to do that, but if the afternoon block is interrupted, I will do that.
Be realistic about what you can accomplish during the day. Make sure you have a really good handle on what your schedule actually looks like because it's kind of like Episode 8 when we talked about having a handle on the money that you're spending. The more you know what your actual time looks like, what your actual numbers look like, the better you will do in your business and the better you'll do in your life.
I want you to be the best business mama that you can be for your family. Take care.