We all know that creating a successful career is challenging. For those of us who are also parents the challenge factor goes up exponentially. Time management and organization become critical factors in maintaining success on both the work and home fronts. Whether you work from home or at an office here are a collection of tips that can help keep any working parent on track.
1. Keep It Simple: you will be more successful (and happier) if you keep your life as simple as possible. Before you add personal commitments to your schedule or sign up your children for after-school activities be sure to give it careful consideration. Does your 8 year-old really need to take ballet lessons at a studio that is 10 miles from your home? Volunteering to help out in your child’s classroom can be a wonderful experience. But if it requires you to leave work early several times a month and adds stress to your work life then it may not be the right decision. Even adding relatively minor things can throw your day into disarray when you have an already crowded to-do list. In all things, aim for simplicity. Prioritize what’s most important to you and your family and make your decisions based on ensuring you can meet those priorities.
2. Schedule Key Tasks: your week will feel a lot less hectic when you create a schedule for important activities. Knowing that you will do laundry on Wednesday evenings, grocery shop on Sunday afternoon and pay bills each Monday morning will add consistency to your life and create peace of mind. If working out, keeping the house clean or having some personal time are important to you, be sure to include those in your schedule.
3. Make Your Mornings Easy: one of the most stressful times for working parents are mornings. Getting yourself ready for work can be tough enough. And exponentially more difficult when you have one or more kids to wake, feed, dress, equip and transport to school or day care. A few basic things can make this time a lot easier. Get up a half-hour to an hour before you wake your kids. This allows you to have coffee, get dressed and start your children’s breakfast before they are up. Do as much as you can the night before. This includes preparing and packing school lunches, laying out clothes for yourself and your kids and making sure that backpacks and briefcases are ready to go.
4. If You Work at Home, Set Rules: if your home and office are the one and same, and you have kids at home during the day, make sure you establish clear rules. Ensure that they know when they can interrupt you and when they need to be independent. Establish a daily routine and schedule your important work calls or busy times when you know they will be happily distracted.
5. Plan to Be Flexible: as a working parent we need to plan for the inevitable. Kids get sick and have to stay home from school. Work has exploded and we need to stay at the office late. There are many other situations that can throw our carefully crafted schedule and routine into chaos. Knowing that these common situations are going to happen, and developing a plan to take care of things when they do, is critical. Find a friend or family member who can pick up kids if you need to stay at work late. Talk to your boss and co-workers about how you plan to handle any days when you have a sick child who can’t go to school. Planning for these basic scenarios will greatly reduce your stress level and anxiety when the inevitable occurs.