4 Strategies for Single Parents Working from Home

October 31, 2019

A man is working at home with his kid
Carolyn Young

Today, many of us work from home, and if you’re a parent this can be a double-edged sword, particularly if you’re a single parent doing it on your own.  It’s great to be home with your children, but they can hinder your productivity.  To work and care for your children at the same time effectively, you need balance, an organized home office, and a strategy to achieve those things.

Plan Every Day

Time is your friend, and your enemy.  It’s precious, but it often seems to be in short supply.  Every day, write down everything you need to accomplish, both for work and the kids, and create a schedule that includes planned activities for your children.  You can even put the schedule on your Google calendar, or whatever calendar you use.  It creates a bit of a psychological effect and makes tasks concrete and non-negotiable – and if you don’t get to a certain scheduled task, put it on the next day’s calendar.

Your plan should look something like this:

  • 8 a.m. Breakfast for the children (and yourself of course)
  • 8:30 a.m. Get the kids started on whatever they are doing that day (school, playdate, watching a DVD, etc.)
  • 9 a.m.  Work task 1
  • 10 a.m.  Work task 2
  • 11 a.m. Work task 3
  • 12 p.m. Lunch
  • Etc…

The point is, you need to create a structure for your day, and stick to is as much as you can.  Of course, the unexpected will always come up and change the plan, but at least you’ve laid the foundation.

Don’t Get Distracted

You have three priorities during your work at home time: work, children, and yourself.  {Don’t leave yourself out of the equation – you need to eat and take breaks here and there.)  DO NOT get distracted by things like:

  • Social Media – No need to comment on someone’s food picture or political comment.  Save it for later.
  • Cleaning – The laundry can wait.  Plan your cleaning time separately from your work time, in the evenings or on the weekends.
  • Personal emails – Answer WORK emails only, unless your personal emails are urgent.
  • Personal business – Bills or a call to the phone company or the cable guy can wait.  Put those tasks on your calendar at a time that doesn’t interfere with your work or child time.

An Organized Home Office Means Productivity

Streamline your tasks as much as possible and keep your home office organized.  Time spent looking for a document or a file is time wasted.  Keep what you need most in accessible places, and make sure everything is in its place, even your computer files.  Invest in tools to help you like drawer or desk organizers, colored files, and labels.  Consider your whole workspace – is your furniture arranged to provide maximum efficiency?  You might even consider a standing desk that is adjustable and can easily be converted for standing or sitting.  There is evidence that standing desks help with energy levels and productivity, and also provide health benefits such as reduced back pain.  Some of these desks even include other features like programmable presets so that you can set your ideal sitting and standing heights.

Don’t Turn Help Away

If you don’t have to do it all alone, then don’t.  If grandma offers to take the kids to the zoo or pick them up from school, or another parent invites them for a playdate, say YES.  Any time that you can work without worrying about the kids in the next room is valuable.  If you can afford a babysitter a few days a week, that’s more bonus time.

The Bottom Line

Using strategies that increase your productivity without impacting the care of your children will make life better for you, your wallet, and even your children.  If you’re stressed, your children will be too, so doing everything you can to make your work at home life easier and more productive is a win for all of you.

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