As someone who has worked from home for over a decade, I feel that I’m uber qualified to offer those that are new to the at-home game some advice.
What I am very under qualified to tell you about is working from home while your children are distance learning at the same time. However, I’ve found a few things that are actually working for us so I’ll share those with you too.
Define Your Space
I worked for a large marketing agency in D.C. and then from home for the same company after moving home to Arizona. I managed a team remotely for roughly 3 years, traveling to D.C. as little as possible because I hate traveling.
When I first started working remotely, I loved that I could work from the couch! From the bed! From the back patio! Anywhere! And yes I did accomplish things, but the lack of a consistent space was a time suck. I was constantly working to adjust to a new space, or looking for something that wasn’t near me. More importantly, if I put down my laptop in a place where I could see it all the time, I could see every. Single. Email. that popped up no matter the time of day.
Since then I have always had a defined work space. I’m lucky that our homes have always had space for a home office, but you can make (almost) any space, work space. The trick is to find a spot that is away from the rest of your life – find a corner in a room if you have to. Just make sure it’s away from as much as possible. This will help with focus as well as being able to “turn off” work at some point.
Once you have a space, load it up. Get desk supplies, chargers, a plant, speakers, all of it. Make it pretty. Trust me, this is super important. If your desk feels nice, you’ll want to stay there and use it. Light a candle, get some chachkis, do all the things.
Define Your Day
In addition to having space to work, make sure you define your day. These are weird times so that can be rough, but it’s important. I can burn out easily, so being sure to shut down the laptop and wait to return emails until Monday is important. I work better in the morning than at night, so if I need extra time, I try to find it early before everyone wakes up. I structure my day around what time the nanny heads home so I know what time I need to be wrapped by…because working with a 5 month old on your lap is not work so much as trying to dodge adorable drool.
Yes, I said it. Sure you can work in your pajamas, but you will be more productive if you put on real clothes (workout clothes count, which is obvious if we’ve ever met because that’s 90% of what I wear) and *maybe* even take a shower. I know. I know. It’s crazy talk, but really, it makes a difference!
Help Your Kids Organize
What I have learned in three weeks of distance learning is that it sucks. And some other things too but that’s the big takeaway.
Prep prep prep. If your child gets their assignments ahead of time, lay out the work the evening before. Pull out papers, open books to the right page, all of this. Whatever can be done the night before, do it.
My 4th grader gets her schedule from her teacher, but my 1st grader gets a to do list. He breezes through it and is done by 9:15am and the second I turn my back, the TV is on. So, I put together a schedule for him that would keep him busy, entertained, and hopefully learning too. It also allowed him to manage himself, which he liked and it gave me the ability to simply say “what does your schedule say?” when he asked what he should do next. It’s not fool proof, but it’s a good start:
8:00 – 8:45: Reading assignment
8:45-9:15: Get dressed, walk the dog
11:00-11:15: Chore / Read
12:00-1:00 Lunch break
1:45-2:00: Chore / Read
If you finish any part early, grab a book or do XtraMath.
Need 1 hour a reading a day
So, what are your tips to managing this new chaos? I’m all ears!
My last thought on all of this is that it is temporary and we did not ask for it. Therfore we are not 100% responsible for the success or demise of this system. If we do what we can and have some sanity and patience left at the end of the day, then we’ve won. If we don’t have anything that remotely looks like patience or sanity left at the end of the day, that’s ok too. Screen time limits are out the window. Family time is all the freaking time now so enjoy some downtime away from your people without guilt. We’re going to make it, promise.