Many of us parents who work from home are scrambling to figure out how on earth to be productive and not just lose months to the current chaos.
Among other entrepreneur parents I’ve talked to, there are a couple different strategies:
- Some are trading off childcare shifts with their spouse or partner – so they each basically work half the day and take kid duty the other half.
- Others are continuing to have an outside babysitter or nanny, perhaps with the stipulation that this person ONLY work for their family and not multiple families.
- Others are getting work done by letting their kids have unlimited screen time – hey, no judgment here. We’re all doing what we can.
My approach has been to get work done in bits and pieces throughout the day, using tiny scraps of time – little 10-15 minute “snippets.”
Let me walk you through my day and show you how it works:
7:30 AM – I typically wake up before my daughter, so I get one snippet of time first thing in the morning – I use that to reply to any urgent customer e-mails (and then my assistant takes care of the non-urgent e-mails later).
8:00 – 11:30 AM – My daughter wakes up, we have breakfast, and then it’s play time with the cousins. It’s two 2-year-olds and a 7-year-old, so they still need supervision and an adult present… but if they’re playing together and occupying each other, I can usually get another two snippets of work in while keeping an eye/ear on them.
I’m constantly bouncing back and forth – doing a bit on my computer, then stepping away to break up a fight, then back to my laptop, then grabbing a snack for the kiddos, then back to work for a few minutes, and so on.
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM – Lunchtime. I let my daughter use her tablet or watch TV while I feed her and eat my own lunch at the same time. After we’re done, I let her keep watching/playing for another half-hour or so, and that’s two more snippets of time for me to work.
12:30 – 3:00 PM – Bath time, then nap time – as soon as my daughter goes down for her nap, I do about 15 minutes of handstand practice, grab myself a snack that I won’t have to share, and then I can get about another 45 minutes of work done. If I’ve got a task that requires greater focus, I do it during naptime because it’s less likely that I’ll be interrupted.
3:00 – 5:00 PM – More play time, and I can get another two snippets of work in while moderating and supervising their play.
5:00 – 6:00 PM – I sneak out for an hour-long walk by myself – for me, this time is not only exercise, but also a break to clear my mind and do some deep thinking or strategizing without any distractions.
6:00 – 7:00 PM – We have dinner, and after that she gets a little more screen time, so that’s about two more snippets of work for me. Then I turn off the screens and play with my daughter until it’s time for bath time and bedtime.
Adding up all those scraps of time I just mentioned:
- 3 in the morning
- 2 mid-day
- 3 during her nap
- 2 in the evening
- Total = 10 snippets of time.
- Let’s say they’re 15 minutes each, so the bits and pieces add up to 150 minutes (2.5 hr/day) to work.
Since every day is the same – there are effectively no weekdays or weekends any longer – it adds up to about 17.5 hours/week to work – which isn’t bad!
It’s not ideal… but it works for now
This bouncing back and forth between a bit of work, a bit of family time, a bit of work, and so on – it’s definitely NOT the way I prefer to work. I’d much rather have a 3-hour chunk of time to dive in, work hard, then be done for the day.
But present circumstances make that difficult. My daughter is clingy, the house is small, and even if my husband took a shift of primary childcare, it’s way too easy for my daughter to come find me – so it’s pretty much impossible to get a long, uninterrupted session.
Even though it’s fractured and scattered, 2.5 hours of work time is pretty significant. It’s long enough to make progress, but little enough that I have to be selective about what I choose to work on – I need to spend my precious little time on the highest-impact activities.
Avoiding the working mom guilt
I’ve often felt tension in walking this tightrope between being a mom and an entrepreneur – feeling guilty for dividing my time between my child and my business, and feeling like I’m never giving enough attention to either one.
Back in the U.S., I was able to successfully split up my day by sending my daughter to half-day daycare, so mornings were work time and afternoons/evenings were family time.
But how am I handling this now, since I’m constantly back and forth between my daughter and my computer? Isn’t she bothered by seeing me repeatedly walk away from her to get back onto my laptop?
This is the rule that’s working for us:
- When she’s occupied with something of her own (tablet, toys, drawing, playing with her cousins) that’s when I can work. She may come to “check in” with me or ask me for something frequently, but she’s doing her own thing in parallel to my work.
- When she’s asking for my attention – when she wants me to play with her more actively – that’s when I don’t attempt to multitask. Instead, I put the devices away, and I’m fully present with her.
When the daily routine is so monotonous, being able to work and make some progress is a lifesaver
Our daily routine is pleasant… but repetitive. It’s hard to feel like life is just on a “survival” loop, without any forward motion, and with no end in sight.
In this context, I’m so thankful that I’m able to invest these snippets of time to make incremental changes and improvements in my business.