It by definition is an oxymoron - having space for concentration and productivity or 'working' and kids just don't go together, they don't click, and they are by no means an easy feat. But for your sanity ( especially during this time of COVID-19) I want to offer my perspective on how I run a design studio full-time and manage 2x kiddos who are not in before or after-school care.
No.1 - Workspace
Define a clear work-space for yourself and make it clear to your family that you when you are in your work-area that you are not to be disturbed. If you are working from home with preschool aged children it will be an impossible task to be productive in a space where your children can see you. When I started out I knew that the only times I could work were when they were asleep, in care with another adult, as they got older when they were on a device also. If you need to work with them in the house and they are old enough to be alone in the house without supervision then set them up some activities in one room and move yourself to another to work. Try to focus on 15 minute blocks where you can achieve small tasks ( break larger ones up into small tasks) and then check back in with them to ensure they are stimulated by that task or move them onto another. This enables you the best opportunity of not being interrupted.
No.2 - Choose work-time for productivity
When I first started out working from home, just about every evening I was up till midnight or later catching up. Of course this eventuated in burn-out, weight-gain and never-ending tiredness. It wasn't until I stopped for a Christmas break that I realised life was slipping by and although I was so grateful for the ability to mix work and family, I wasn't really enjoying my life, I was surviving it. I still work evenings now, but I restrict myself to a 9pm cutoff. So I know I have from 8pm - 9pm to do an extra hour of edits, and I focus on early morning starts rather than long evenings. I have also found quiet mornings are extremely productive. There is no magic pill for this working from home thing when kids are involved but the most important factor is that you look after yourself and create habits for a long-game. When you work for yourself especially, your health is your top priority.
No.3 - Get your other half on board
Taking turns to work from home and manage the kids is key. Without support from your other half and clear communication about work time the family/work boundaries are easily blurred. If you are finding kids running in and interrupting your productivity everyone loses. If you have a lock on your office door, headphones on and a clear estimate of how long you're going to be, it's much easier to create that focus and get what you need to do done.
No.4 - Take it easy on yourself and listen to your body
There is often an obligation to work harder or feel you need to do more when you work from home ( if you are employed by someone else), or even a tendency to overwork yourself ( without someone to tell you to knock off). Remember to keep in mind that you are only human and your little people only little for a short time. You can turn down work, extra hours etc, but you can't turn back the clock. It's something I often have to remind myself and it's key to remembering why we chose to work from home in the first place. When I have a deadline I break my own rules and let my daughter colour in next to me. When I know a big month is coming, I order meal plan boxes and ask hubby to come home early from work. This month we enter 3 more weeks of lockdown due to COVID-19 and I have spaced out all my projects and thus reduced my revenue to allow for the disruption to my schedule by having to homeschool the kids. Plan out your workload according to what's possible and always factor in extra time ( you might finish earlier but it's more likely a kid will get sick and need you).
No. 5 - Knock of the guilt
We live in a new modern era where family and work life are more blurred than ever before. It may be new to us but it will be what children learn in normal. I have struggled with the guilt of not being 100% work or mother for years. But I am slowly learning to let it go, as I hear the pride in my kids' voices when they talk about what I do. When they were little I was lucky with long naps and lots of snacks, a supportive partner and understanding clients. Always be honest and don't feel guilty when it comes to your child getting sick or a deadline meaning you can't attend that athletics day - this blended work and family life is what living is all about and the more we share about it, the more normal it becomes. Just do your best and one day your kids will look back and think man my parent was a legend managing all that!
If you have any feedback about working from home I would love to hear more in the comments below.
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