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As an author, you likely work from home, and having children home at the same time can make getting any writing done a challenge. Here are 6 tips for being productive with children at home.
1. Create a Schedule for Your Children
By keeping meals, nap times, and bedtimes consistent, children know what to expect and will be less likely to bother you at odd times about the basics. So no more interruptions of “Mom, I’m hungry!” or “When is dinner?” You can also schedule a “play time” when you’ll take a break from work and spend time playing with your children. Do the words “Mom/Dad, I’m bored!” sound familiar? If your child is especially bored, you can schedule activities, such as journaling, craft projects, reading, outdoor time, and so on. There are several online resources with schedules that you can use as a starting place.
By creating a schedule for your children, you’ll be better able to create and stick to a work schedule.
2. Create a Work Schedule
Keep your work times consistent. This will not only help your children understand when they can and can’t disturb you, it’ll also prepare your brain to start and stop work, so you can get more done faster. A visual “do not disturb” queue may be helpful for children, such as putting a picture of a red light on your office door when you shouldn’t be disturbed, and a green light when you can be (like if you’re taking a social break from work). Of course make sure they know they can bother you at any time for a real emergency.
Work schedules should be adhered to with other family and friends as well. If a friend calls during your work schedule, let them know that unless it is an emergency, you will have to just call them back when you take a break from work.
3. Be Prepared Food-Wise
Without children at home, it’s easy to get caught up in work and push back meal times or snack on something that maybe isn’t so healthy. But children need regular, healthy meals and snacks. If you prepare meals and snacks in advance, you’ll be able to provide your children the food and structure they need with little interruption in your work schedule. For example, you can cut vegetables and fruit the night before. Deciding on a menu at the beginning of the week—after seeking input from your children—is also a great idea. If they know what to expect, your children will be able to better help with meal prep, even if it’s just pulling out slices of bread for a PB&J sandwich.
4. Work in a Separate Room
If at all possible, work in a room that is dedicated to working. If you don’t have a separate room for that, then work in a quiet room that is rarely used. Avoid working in your bedroom if possible, as that may disturb your sleeping schedule. However, working in the bedroom is still better than working at, say, the kitchen table, where you will be interrupted very, very often. Even a walk-in closet can be a good place to set up your work station.
5. Coordinate Your Schedule with Your Spouse
If you still find that you are often interrupted and can’t get work done, try staggering your schedule with your spouse. Even a few offset hours in your schedules can make a huge difference. You’ll be able to get two or three hours of solid work in while your spouse spends time with the kids.
6. Make the Most of Your Work Day
Establish a routine to make the most of your work day; work on the harder tasks first while you have more energy (so maybe save answering emails for later in the day when your energy is flagging). If doing research for your writing is difficult for you, do it first thing; if you love the research aspect, then do it later after getting in some writing, rewriting, or editing.
Remove any distractions from your work place. Avoid social media. The brain works best when you work in short sprints (around 30 minutes), and then take a short break, so you could try using the Pomodoro Method to see if it makes you more productive. One of these short breaks could involve checking in with your children to say hi or ask how they’re doing or what game they’re playing.
How do you stay productive when your children are at home and you are working from home? We’d love to hear in the comments below!