Whether you’re working from home long-term or temporarily, here’s some helpful tips and resources to help you stay focused, be productive, and balance working at home while the kids are there too!
Looking for the ultimate productivity tool? You’ll want to print our free printable planner with daily and weekly planning sheets.
As someone who’s worked from home for the past 11 years (from the time my son was a newborn) I’ve learned a few tricks for being productive while the kids are home too.
That being said, I’ve never worked from home during a global pandemic until right now, and I’m guessing you haven’t either. There is no perfect way to do this. In fact, caring for and/or homeschooling kids and working full-time is downright impossible and if you’re attempting it at all you get a huge amount of credit!
Honestly, right now if I get 3 work-related tasks done and nap and the kids are still alive I’m calling that day a win.
With that in mind, I have a flexible schedule so take these tips with a grain of salt. I have done a lot of research on productivity and have a Masters of Education for the teaching piece, so I’d *like* to think I have a balanced perspective but I do understand this advice may not fit everyone. And please know that even with my M.Ed, homeschooling is still hard.
Here’s some of my favorite tips and resources to support you , and I hope you find them helpful during this strange and difficult time.
How to Be Productive & Focus While Working from Home
- Use a planner (get our free 2020 planner with everything you need here.) Even though it feels counter-intuitive right now, a planner will help you focus on the things you need to do vs. want to do, and schedule in breaks and homeschooling if needed. It’s SO important to set work hours right now so you can have a hard stop between ‘working’ and ‘not working’ whenever possible.
- Use noise canceling headphones and play brainwave music to help you focus. These are my absolute favorite headphones (similar) and are well worth the splurge if you are able. I use them EVERY. DAY. and stream ‘brain wave’, ‘studying’ or ‘working’ music which doesn’t contain lyrics for the best focus. I’ve tried listening to podcasts while I work and that is always a big fail because our minds aren’t made to multitask that way.
- Create a dedicated workspace. It should be in a place away from distractions and set up to work and only work (ie, try to find a spot you don’t have to set up each morning if possible.) That helps build brain connections that this space means working and focusing.
- Work in 25 minute chunks (or 55 minute segments if you’re really tuned in), setting a timer if needed. Take 5 minute breaks and then get back to working. This method is proven to help with focus!
- Have a consistent morning routine that signals the start to your workday. If possible, add in a ‘commute’ by going for a brisk daily walk before you start. This will energize you and get you in the right mindset for the day.
- Diffuse essential oils or make this Focus Roller for help staying focused and on task. Reapply as necessary.
Keeping Kids Safe & Busy While Working From Home
Let’s face it, it’s tough (actually, impossible) to homeschool well AND work from home well at the same time. Our goal is to get through this to the best of our ability while focusing on the mental health aspect of this huge change.
- Keep the kids busy with this free printable list of activities.
- Handle screentime by using tech tickets. You may need to increase the timeslots on these during this pandemic… no judging if you make them an hour or longer. 😉
- Timer cubes can help kids visualize the amount of time to work or play independently. They come in a variety of time slots too, depending on age. Set the timer cube and ask them to focus until it goes off.
- If you have online meetings, create a door sign that shows kids when it’s okay and not okay to interrupt. We’ve gone over what constitutes an emergency (are you bleeding? are you dying? is something on fire?), and if it’s not on the list, they CAN NOT interrupt when the sign is up. They had fun making the sign themselves and doing so added to the ownership and understanding.
- Here’s our favorite kids activities and kits (all available on Amazon) for keeping them occupied and learning while we work.
- Since I’m in charge of the homeschooling, I set my kids up in my office so they learn while I work. I can only do tasks that don’t require deep thought while they learn because I’m interrupted often, so I plan for that on my daily planner. Headphones for the kids are a MUST-HAVE as well, and this pair is under $15. Whether they’re watching educational videos, having online meetings with teachers, or listening to study music we’ve found headphones are essential for working in the same room.
- Two people working from home full-time and homeschooling kids takes a lot of juggling. Here’s how we make it work with my husband working full time and myself working part time hours:
- We switch off childcare timeslots. My husband takes an hour off each day to do ‘recess’ with the kids while I work like crazy during that hour.
- He also does bedtime to give me additional work time while he puts the kids to bed. It’s about 30 minutes of super-focused work time for me.
- I try to work before the kids get up. If your kids are old enough to make their own breakfast (frozen waffles or pancakes, yogurt, cereal, etc.) it’s such a help!
- On the weekends if we need time to work we’ll set aside blocks of time with a specific number of hours. This allows us to have time truly being present with the kids as well as time to totally focus on work.
- Here’s some tips for setting up a space for your kids to work independently, and also kids’ chore charts so they can pitch in around the house. You don’t have to make the chore charts as fancy as I did, simply writing chores on cards and assigning one a day can be a huge help.
Home Office Ideas
I also highly recommend a large desk calendar (similar) to help track goals, deadlines, and meetings. I like to have both this and I use my iCal.
Again, I can’t recommend these noise cancelling headphones enough (similar). They are a must-have in my book!
I just did a huge office makeover and will share it soon, but here’s what’s currently in my home office space and I love every single piece!
My Favorite Productivity and Business Books
Here’s my absolute favorite books for increasing productivity and streamlining my business.
While none of these ideas are foolproof, these tips have helped make working from home possible during an impossible time.