If you are a parent that works from home you will know that once the school holidays begin your work/home life balance will take a nosedive. No matter how good your intentions are to be the ‘perfect’ all-rounder, in reality, something has to give because there is no way you can continue with the same workload whilst trying to entertain the little ones… or not so little ones!
This has been a new concept for me as I only went freelance this January. So far I have just about managed the half terms and the bout of chickenpox which led to a 4 week Easter break instead of 2 and I learnt very quickly how difficult it is to keep up with writing whilst looking after a three-year-old. Now the six week holiday is upon us I am looking into ways in which I can still work and earn money whilst enjoying the time off with my son but without having a mental breakdown at the same time.
So, here are my top tips for surviving working from home during the school holidays:
1. Prepare prior to the children breaking up
We all know when the holidays are going to take place so the best thing to start with is to plan in advance. If you know you have a large project to tackle clear this before the holidays kick in or at least make a large dent in your workload. Look at your diary and plan in when you can work and when clients/customers can contact you. On the flip side also book in activities with your children and schedule days where work isn’t going to happen at all.
Time-consuming jobs need to take your focus beforehand, for example, planning a large event, planning multiple blog posts, form filling in, tax returns etc. Clear the way for them to have the finishing touches applied once the kids are off, that way you will feel more relaxed knowing that the bulk of the work has been prepped.
2. Use online presentations
Online presentations are such a handy tool if you want to reach out to your clients/customers or are searching for new ones. You can prepare this before the holidays start and make it go live just as they break up. With these sites, you can present your business in a way that benefits you and that makes your services stand out from the crowd. With the choice of adding charts for your data, videos, audio, transitions and even streamlining from YouTube you can make a hard hitting presentation which can then be accessed by a whole host of potential clients. It is a great way of marketing yourself without having to sit on social media every day creating new posts or via advertising. You will be provided with stats on how your presentation performs which means you can edit it to amend any areas that may need tweaking.
3. Reduce your workload
This will depend on the type of business you run or work for. If you can reduce your hours and workload then this would be the time to do it. If you are lucky enough to work flexible hours you may even be able to make this time back during term time or in the evenings. If you have customers/clients perhaps book them in for September instead of August.
4. Schedule on social media
I cannot stress this enough, if you use social media heavily for your business scheduling during the school holidays is a must. There are even free ways in which to do this too. Facebook has its own scheduling option, you can use TweetDeck on twitter to schedule your tweets otherwise there are plenty of sites that offer this across the board, such as buffer.
5. Look into your childcare options
If your budget allows for this there are kids summer camps available which offer hours from 8am until 6pm which will keep them entertained and leave you free to work from home. If your child is too young for these types of full on days you could look into local nannies or childminders. However, if money is an issue ask family members to help and support you for this period. I am very lucky to have both my Dad and Mother in law at hand and both have helped out once a week in previous holidays to allow me to have a full working day. They love having Jake and he loves being with them so it’s a win-win situation.
6. Hire a VA
A VA or Virtual Assistant is becoming an ever popular option for those who need extra support within their business. There are a number of jobs they can perform for you including making bookings, scheduling posts to social media, proofreading and editing, making travel arrangements, event planning, running competitions and so much more, which will free up your time to get on with the important areas of running your business, reducing health and stress risks or giving you more time with your family.
7. Make notes
Keep a notepad on you or nearby to be able to make notes on any ideas that may pop into your head. My ideas often crop up when I am doing something else and if I don’t make a note I find it just gets lost somewhere in my overly busy brain. Post-it notes are also a great tool to pop a reminder on and then sticking into your diary.
8. Make lists
You want to make two lists because you need to keep work and family life separate.
On the work one make manageable lists of jobs. If you have a large job on break this down into bite-size chunks which can be easily tackled. Keep the list to the important tasks, filter out things that can wait and prioritise the big jobs. Ticking these off will not only help to keep your mind clear but it will also be satisfying to see that you are making progress when you may feel that you aren’t.
The family list should cover all the activities you want to commit to over the holidays. Everyone can pitch in and choose their favourite thing to do. This list will also need to include those boring jobs such as housework, shopping and running errands. If your children are old enough to carry out tasks you could also draw up a cleaning rota to have extra help.
9. Be prepared to alter your work schedule
This needs to be clear in your mind if you haven’t got sufficient childcare to work your normal hours and schedule. As I mentioned above if you plan and prepare your diary you will be able to balance your workload the best you can over the holidays. This may also mean that you will be working in the evenings or during nap times- depending on age- rather than during the day.
8. Explain to your children that you may need to work
It is important to be upfront and honest with your children about why you may need a little quiet time or moments where you need to take a phone call or return an email. My son is three and he can now understand that at times Mummy needs to work to get the money so we can have fun days out. I won’t work all the time because that isn’t fair on him but catching up with messages, making notes, typing up a blog quickly may be needed at certain times of a day.
10. Work during the down times
I find that on a rainy day Jake often just wants to curl up on the sofa and watch a film which gives me a perfect opportunity to work on either the laptop or my phone. You can’t be active every day during the six weeks off and it’s nice for the kids to have some quiet time of their own to just get on with their own play or art or video games etc. They don’t need to be stimulated by you every hour so don’t feel guilty about using this time effectively.
Remember not to stress. Enjoy this quality time with your children and run the household the best you can. So it may not be as clean as it usually is, there may be toys in every room, the stairs may be cluttered and the bathrooms may be a bit grubbier than normal but you are not superhuman and you can only do as much as possible without burning yourself out. Once the holidays are over you will get right back on track and have it running all shipshape again. For now, use these tips, adapt them to suit your own business and family needs and remember to still have fun!