We’ve all had that moment in the last month where, while running a virtual meeting from our ‘new’ home desk, one of the family has made a cameo appearance. For mine, it was my 18-year-old son who, despite my having warned everyone that I was going to be on a work call so do not yell, fight, sneeze, cough, or breathe, clearly was not listening and walked the breadth of the room in nothing but his boxer shorts. Hitting the mute button I hissed at him to get out, at which point he dropped to the floor like he’d been shot and did a full commando crawl from the room - which everyone on the call could see. God give me strength.
I have been working from home for the last 8 years and I love it. The peace and quiet, the focus, the convenience, the whole PJs bottom with corporate top for the Zoom calls thing. And then the zombie apocalypse hit and peace and quiet went out the window.
And then the zombie apocalypse hit and peace and quiet went out the window.
But it’s going to be OK. Just like when your city office moved from actually being an office with a door, to open plan with a dedicated desk for your belongings, to hot-desking with a miniature locker - it’s time to adapt. You can do this.
Plan your day in batches
If you are not in the habit of planning your week, now is the perfect time to start. Sit down with your kids and have everyone create three To Do lists. If your kids aren’t old enough to write, then write it for them.
List #1: include all of the work/ school tasks you/ your kids need to achieve this week
List #2: include all of the family tasks you want to achieve
List #3: include fun family activities
From List #1, identify the two most important work (or school for your kids) tasks for tomorrow and lock them into your calendar during a high energy batch (see #3). The timing of your work tasks need to coincide exactly with your kids’ school tasks. So, for example, if you have to make a sales call at 9am, then you want your kids to be working on school tasks at this time.
From List #2 agree one family task for tomorrow and from List #3 agree two family fun activities.
Explain the rules
Batching is the concept of grouping like tasks together for a short sprint of work/ effort. Depending on the age of your kids, you want to batch your time in 30-60 minute sprints.
The rules are simple:
During a work/ school batch no-one is allowed to interrupt anyone else. If you have a question for your kids (unlikely…) or if your kids have a question for you (very likely…), it needs to be ‘parked’ on their ‘Parking List’. A ‘Parking List’ can be a simple sheet of A4 paper where everyone parks their questions to ask them after the batch is finished.
During a work/ school batch no-one is allowed to interrupt anyone else.
Time each batch with the oven timer: it’s central, loud and requires you to get up to turn it off.
When the batch starts, it’s heads down, bum up and work until the timer goes off.
When the timer goes off, it’s time for a family task (make dinner together, clean the house, start a garden project) or a family fun activity (a board game, puzzle, bike ride).
Alternate work/ school tasks with family/ fun tasks. That way, your kids are only ever 30-60 minutes away from spending time with you, and so less likely to be tempted to interrupt you when you are working.
Focus your energy
Know when you and your kids are at their best, and make sure you batch work/ school tasks for periods of high energy, good brain time. This is the most productive time for you all to work. Likewise, know when you are more likely to be tired or sluggish and batch this time for some family fun and an energy boosting activity. And work with your kids’ routines - if your kids are really little and still nap and go to bed early, or if your kids are teenagers and sleep until midday, then batch this time for work!
And finally, remember these simple truths: the zombies are not coming; you can be productive at home; now is the perfect time to teach your kids (and yourself) some great time management habits to set you all up for success in the future.
Kate Christie is a time management specialist, author and the founder and CEO of Time Stylers. Her fourth book Me First, is available now.
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