Productivity from a Work From Home Parent
Once upon a time, I used to work on the trading floors of some of wall street’s largest banks. I was the IT lady on the floor fixing trading application issues for traders. I was a tough lady. I was regularly yelled at by people who needed to “make their money”. Those people took their stress out on the most innocent bystander — “me”. You get the idea!
I didn’t know that this job prepared me for motherhood. All I know is that I know what it means to be patient. 2 years old tantrums are hard. Meltdowns are rough. But, I can sit through them even when they last an hour.
It literally takes weeks or years of badgering me to make me lose my temper.
The most difficult part about being a single mother who works from home with a toddler is that, in your mist of trying to be productive, inevitably you are faced with lots of tantrums. In fact, the more you work, the more tantrums you will encounter from your toddler. Your toddler has a sixth sense that you have an inner world outside of thinking about him.
He doesn’t like it!
So, how do I tame those tantrums? I use preventive measures.
I make my son my first priority during the day.
I squeeze work into the hours when he’s occupied.
Here are my top strategies:
Make your work schedule a habit
I started with one writing session at 3:00 am to 5:00 am on most days the first week I started to write on Medium. But, slowly, within the month, I realized that I needed to do more both for my blog and on Medium. Now I’m at 2 to 3 sessions during the day depending on whether my son naps.
- 5:00am -> 7:00am: Morning Session
- 13:00pm -> 15:00pm: Afternoon Session (depending on nap)
- 8:00pm -> 9:00pm: Night Session
Don’t get crushed, the lists are alive
As a mom, I usually have way too many to-dos on my to-do lists. I only write them down on post-its either on my iPhone or on my computer. It’s usually small projects with steps that are 3 to 4 steps long. I write the projects and not the steps. This is to eliminate clutter.
- Promote blog post on social media channels
- Write, edit, submit Medium post to publications
I usually have 3 sticky notes for each day: Home, Work, Clean. On each of these sticky notes is what needs to be completed for the entire week. If I do more work in the “Home” category today, then I will do more in the “Work” category tomorrow.
Prioritization is not just a one-time effort at the start of the day or the end of the day. It’s a constant process for any given moment.
- If one of my posts takes off on Medium after 9:00 am, I need to start promoting it on Twitter and Facebook, I take time from playing with my son to do that.
- If my son wants to go out to a play space, then I will push all my non-urgent work to tomorrow.
- If Medium needs more attention, then I will take a break from my blog work on my website to focus on it.
Multitask by focusing on one task at a time
At 9:00 am, I need to help my son play in his dollhouse, put a load of laundry into the washer and finish drinking my coffee.
How do I accomplish all 3 things with the least amount of effort this morning?
- First, I will put a load of laundry into the washer while telling my son to wait for me at his dollhouse.
- Then, I quickly make myself an instant cup of coffee.
- I take the coffee to where my son is at. I drink my coffee while playing with my son.
At 1:00 pm, my son doesn’t want to nap. But, I needed to write a blog post, manage my social media accounts and vacuum the living room.
- My son’s sitting on my lap stacking blocks on my desk.
- I outline my blog post on my computer in less than 15 minutes.
- I vacuum my living room while my son “helps”.
- My son gets 20 minutes on the Ipad while I write the actual blog post.
Everything gets accomplished. But, my blog post is probably not well written. Later, during my writing time, I will edit it before publishing.
Despite the craziness, my writing time in my morning and night sessions remain my most mindful times of the day. It helps that I love writing. Otherwise, I would probably need other mindful activities to recuperate from the day. Sometimes, loading the dishwasher steals 15 minutes of mindful time during the day while my son plays. That time also helps me to stay mentally sharp.
I have found silence to be my best friend.
Feed my soul by being present
This is probably the most important point here.
If I’m prioritizing constantly, how do I stay present in the moment.
Well, I try to always focus on the task at hand.
- If I’ve decided to sit next to my son as he plays in his dollhouse, I will eat the “food” he serves and talks to his dolls.
- If I’m writing a blog post outline on my phone while my son plays, then my mind will be on the blog post.
I feel that staying in the moment is meditation in its highest form. I try to “hyperfocus” on that “one” activity that’s happening at the moment. Everything else becomes noise for that moment.
When you are on online forums socializing with your fellow blogging mates, it’s easy to see all of their accomplishments and think “Wow, that was fast!”. The thing is I could’ve done that if I had 8 hours to work each day. But, I don’t.
So, I need to stop comparing myself to others.
At the moment, I have about 5 projects for work that I am juggling. It’s not easy just to finish all the tasks. I am grateful to even complete 30% of these tasks. So, I will take what I can get. I would love to do more. But, I also need to sleep and eat like a regular human being.
Everyone gets frustrated
Do I wallow in my frustrations? Yes, of course, I do. There are days when my son’s completely unreasonable. He’s just being two years old. There’s nothing I can do to appease his endless tantrums for no reason. I hold him all day long on those days. He simply does not let me work. Sometimes, I don’t write a line in two days. I’m frustrated. I’m worried. I need some time away from my son.
During those times, I try to go out with my son to take a walk. I try to put his development into perspective and just wait it out.
My work can always wait. It’s always going to be the second job. My first job is to take care of him. I just have to live with that.
About the Author
Jun Wu is a Content Writer for Technology, AI, Data Science, Psychology, and Parenting. She has a background in programming and statistics. On her spare time, she writes poetry and blogs on her website.