Let’s be honest. This work-from-home arrangement has shifted from being temporary to something that is probably here to stay. We don’t know about your experience, but the setting has proved itself a whole other dinosaur to tackle as soon as it started.
As a small family with a three-year-old toddler, it’s a challenge to get things done and make sure everyone is well cared for. While we’re still adjusting, these are some tips that have helped us strike an effective balance at home.
1. Create blocks of time.
Mark has full-time work, and I manage the home, take care of Tikoy, and run a small business on the side. Since we don’t have a helper, the chores and taking care of our little boy is a tag-team effort.
I reserve my mornings primarily for chores and preparing Tikoy for the day: bath time, “nature walks,” and other play activities with him. In the afternoon, Mark and I share our to-do’s and time with our little boy.
2. Don’t overfill your schedule.
When you do create blocks of time, don’t fill every minute with tasks. By now, we’ve learned that being flexible is a valuable trait parents can benefit from and allows us to accommodate some urgent things that may come up. What’s crucial for us is to allocate focused time for our important roles and intentionally taking breaks in between for everyone’s sanity.
3. Close your day.
One of the drawbacks of working from home is that the line between work and home gets blurred. We’re no strangers to working until 11:00 pm or not resting on the weekends, and that’s unhealthy. For us, we decided that at 6:00 pm, we shut down our laptops and mute work-related apps so we can “come home.”
4. Set expectations with the family throughout the day.
So much strategizing needs to be done to have a smooth workflow at home. To do this, Mark and I go over our schedule every day and agree on who can Tikoy stay with and dedicate some time with him during coffee breaks or merienda. If Mark has a “not so serious” meeting, Tikoy can play in the background (or sometimes join the discussion as well).
We also set expectations with our toddler. We find that he likes being involved in our day-to-day routine. He will probably not understand the whole point of important appointments and engagements, but it’s a start. Sometimes, we’re surprised by how he cooperates.
5. Put up physical boundaries.
Having a designated work area helps us focus, minimizes distractions, and improves productivity. It also signals to our toddler that mom and dad’s work-related stuff is off-limits and that when we’re sitting on the office chair, we shouldn’t be disturbed as much as possible.
Read more about our DIY ideas in recreating your workspace at home here.
6. Create a space for independent play.
We observed that our toddler thrives in independent play. He likes to create things with his blocks, magnet tiles, and assembling his train set. He gets absorbed in what he does, which isn’t just good for building his imagination and motor skills—it also affords us uninterrupted time when we need to work.
Assign a space for your child with open-ended toys and materials. We set up Tikoy’s play area to contain everything he can tinker with. But we agree on one rule: all of his things shouldn’t go beyond his play mat. This minimizes the occurrence of painfully stepping on a block and easier fixing up at the end of the day. Needless to say, the area must be child-proofed and that parents should be able to easily look over the space.
7. Never expect everything to go smoothly.
When you’re a parent with a small child, having a perfect work-day is a rare occasion. Even when we prepare as much as possible for uninterrupted work, we also keep in mind that things don’t always go as planned, and it’s ok. Accepting this lessens the frustration when Tikoy suddenly throws a fit while we’re in the middle of submitting an urgent report.
We’re grateful to be part of family-oriented organizations that are forgiving and have humor when it comes to the realities of working from home. We hope these hacks could be of some help to you!
We’re sharing with you our recent talk with Paolo and Lippy at FranklinCovey’s Conversations. It’s a fun, unscripted session where we spoke our thoughts on productivity, parenting hacks, and everything in between.