I love my kids. Really, I do. But having them at home with me 24/7 in the past three weeks, while I need to work and run a department is one of the hardest things I had to go through lately. Yet, as time goes by, it gets a little bit better every day. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
You can probably do the same in less time
No matter how “comfortable” your kids are, this period is a tough one. And with little kids, you won’t be able to work for 8 or 9 hours as you’re used to in your office. But perhaps you don’t need to. What matters now is to get through this, and make sure that having your kids at home doesn’t hurt your business.
While working from home, you don’t need to go from one meeting room to another, you don’t need to spend time on commuting or other logistics, and you can simply focus on the work that needs to get done. Since kids require a lot more time these days, cut on all the unnecessary distractions, Social media is a big one, and yes–perhaps simply work faster because you might not have all day.
Prioritize like you might only have 2 hours to work today
Since you no longer have the time privilege you’re used to, prioritization gets a new meaning. During these weeks I already had a few days when I simply wasn’t able to work for more than a couple of hours during the day. That means you need to start your day as quickly as you can, and prioritize things extremely well. What are the 3 things you must finish today? The 3 things without which you won’t be able to go to bed at night.
As many companies around the world, at Investing we also run all tasks through Jira and communicate through Slack. Yet for my personal tracking, I use both Asana and Any.do. What I love about Any.do is the simplicity. There’s an open task, and there’s ‘done’. That’s it.
I have 4 lists but most of the time I look at a combined view and prioritize between them as if they were one. A call with the CEO, a 1000 piece puzzle with kids, a weekly ‘meeting’ with an employee, online grocery shopping, calling the bank, and approving a traffic report, are now all listed together.
Prioritizing these every single morning is the most important thing these days to make sure the crucial things are done, and that you and your other family members don’t kill each other. GTD’s (Getting Things Done) two-minute rule which I LOVE, often isn’t possible with little kids at home. The rule in short: If the next action can be done in two minutes or less, just do it right now. Don’t postpone, don’t list it elsewhere.
No 3.5 y old boy can wait for 2 minutes if he wants you NOW. So yes, there are tiny tasks on that list too.
Prioritizing like you might only have a couple of hours to work today will ensure that you do the most important things first, and that you do them fast. Then, everything else becomes a bonus.
Knowing you’re done with the most crucial things for the day will make you feel better, it will allow you to spend time with the kids without feeling awful not being constantly online, and very often–will still allow you to have enough time later on that day for more items.
Delegate, delegate, delegate
At some point in life, every single manager is told by their manager that they need to delegate tasks better. Why? Because delegating effectively will both allow that manager to grow, and allow the employees to develop.
With the very little time I have for actual work these days, I try to delegate everything. Honestly, I barely do anything right now. I just observe, assess, delegate, and confirm. Or at least as close to this as possible.
This new situation brought me to realization that I just can’t commit to 2 hours of research. I need to let others in my department do the things I’d often do myself. People who don’t have kids now help those who do. Everyone’s now doing what’s needed to get through this.
In 2008, I read ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ by Tim Ferriss for the first time. There are two principles I took from it that I think of very often. The first one is a popular one, the Pareto Principle (the 80-20 rule), and since then I see it everywhere. But the second one is the idea of automation and delegation of work. What’s amazing about working online today, is that you can outsource almost anything. So I don’t officially have a virtual personal assistant, but I do outsource many of my tasks to an SEO freelance. And these days he helps me even more and saves hours of work for me every week.
Optimize your routines
Kids must have a routine. They need to wake up at the same time every day. Otherwise, they won’t go to bed in time. Every parent knows that. These days when the kids are home, it’s all about a routine. For them and for the parents.
A few things in my current routine that help me:
- Work before they’re up: I wake up at 6AM every morning. Same hour as before the Coronavirus came for a visit. I start my day early, and work for about 2 hours before the rest of the family is up.
- When working during the rest of the day, you have to close the door.
From this point it’s up to the spouse. At least until you take a break and then she can work. Kids around the age of 6 or older, might be already able to understand that mom and dad must work. That won’t last for hours, but it’s worth trying to explain.
- Noise Cancelling Headphones: My best purchase ever.
- Take many breaks, in fact – just block out hours during the day to simply be with the kids. Even better if you can be with each of them separately, even if for 15 minutes each time. They need that full attention right now. When the break is over, just go back and close the door again.
Keep your kids busy and entertained
Your kids will be testing the boundaries, that’s for sure. And how much will they be bothering you during your workday is first and foremost a question of how entertained and busy they are. Of course, this is very different for different ages. My kids are 7, 3.5, and 3 months. Which means we’re speaking of 3 totally different “entertainment plans”.
Yet, the two older kids are able to do quite a few things together. For example, a daily “Yoga Class”. All you need is a mat and YouTube on a large screen. A daily workout for kids turned out to be their favorite activity. I hope we can keep this after they are back to school too. Choosing their movies for the day was another good idea, it’s a difficult one, but do yourself a favor and insist on this. Don’t let them watch beyond what you allowed (and yes, you’ll probably allow a little more right now, and I think it’s OK).
Large legos, puzzles, online homework (or other e-learning programs), involving them in cooking, or making them help listing the needed groceries, are just a few different ideas of things for them to do. More ideas were recently listed by parents on the new Remoters Watercooler community, and here are just a few more by CNN.
On top of that, try teaching them something every day for half an hour, it could be anything really. English, maps, math, anything you enjoy and they can understand. You can also let them speak with their classmates on Zoom from time to time. You can help them out but they’ll be fine. After all, it’s the same generation that figured out how to skip ads on YouTube at the age of 2.
Remember you’re not the only one struggling
The whole world is now experiencing this lockdown together. Your clients, managers, or colleagues you’ll be speaking to, they all understand! I no longer apologize for having my kids on some of my calls. And truth is that they help make the calls shorter and more concise.
This new situation is a very tough one for parents of young children, and this might drive us crazy, especially as we don’t know how long this will take. On the contrary, we could just decide to see the half full glass. A lot of people around us are losing their jobs these days, the ability to work online from home and being able to provide our families is something to be grateful for.
I used to spend about 90 minutes every day just driving to work and back home, and while I miss my Spotify and Audible, this is actual time I can spend on other things now.
Try looking at this as an adventure, or at least tell that to your kids. This isn’t exactly a survival scene from Cast Away, but it is sort of an adventure. And what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?
This is an opportunity to learn about ourselves, about how we work, about how much time we spend at work on things that don’t actually matter, and of course about our families and how we all interact. I personally never spent so much time with them, but… is it purely a bad thing?
Guest Post by Igal Stolpner, VP Growth at Investing.com
Igal runs the Growth department with a main focus on international SEO.
He also runs multiple sites as an affiliate when the kids are asleep, building sites since high school, and beyond anything else he enjoys music.