Struggling to focus? Find what works for you
Don't fall for articles suggesting "THIS ONE THING ALWAYS WORKS" or the "MUST DO TECHNIQUE USED BY ALL CEOS"... Finding things that work for you takes a bit of exploration and support.
We know that homeschooling and work the first time around was, well, let's admit it, not ideal - but at least the novelty was vaguely amusing and we had Joe Wicks shouting at us to keep active.
9 months on, as schools close in many parts of the country with more potentially to follow, It's you'll entirely possible you'll need to make plans for how to manage this again.
Many are calling for employers to furlough their staff - yet for us, this is a clear demonstration of one of the many stark differences between employment and self-employment, and for single parents without another to share the load, it is even more of a challenging task to balance work and parenting. In fact, most of us have come to the realisation there isn't a balance - it's one after the other - and thus often leads to looooong days as we work into the night to catch-up, or reducing our working hours - which of course might also mean reducing our income.
Whilst there are hundreds of articles extolling the virtues of schedules and keeping separate workspaces and fun little tasks to keep kids entertained, it is absolutely a stressful time, and can put even more pressure on your already stretched mental health. So with that in mind, whilst our practical suggestions for coping with homeschooling are below - these are of course to be taken as suggestions, not shoulds. Whatever you're able to manage is more than can be expected - you're doing a fantastic job.
Many of us are already homeschooling again - but if you aren't in a Tier 4 or contingency plan area yet, start to consider what options are available, and what your ideal solution would be. Create some possible scenarios and discuss with other working parents in your class bubbles about what could be done to help each other out. Much of the stress comes from suddenly being told school is out - so preparation helps.
Explain your home situation, and discuss a way which allows you to manage time with family, and time with work. Perhaps this is reduced hours, or a flexible working pattern, or simply just respecting that you cannot work all day. This might also mean discussing a new deadline, bringing in help from others, or simply updating expectations. It's entirely possible your client is in a similar situation and may have empathy for your situation. Don't expect to maintain the same level of output and work though - guy might be able to do it for a few days, but it the lockdown stays in place for a month or more, you will burn out rapidly.
Find a new schedule where you’re creating space for family, space for work, and space for you. We know this isn’t easy, but a routine can help everyone understand when you are able to play, when you will be schooling, and when you need some focus. Don't forget to put breaks in the day - not just for the children, but for you too. Take the family outside for a walk regularly, as a screen break, or just the daily exercise. Don't feel like the schedule is there to control you though, if you're finding it too much, you're allowed to relax your own rules. Don't be tempted to work late in to the evenings and weekends though, sticking to the schedule is as much about making sure you switch off, as it is being productive.
There are so many amazing resources and activities which have been shared for kids to spend time doing. Make full use of them, and let your kids play. Dig out all of the bookmarks from March, and revisit them, or let the kids work with you - set up a co-working space for the family, give the kids exercises and tasks that even might help you, like researching online, finding images or planning meals for the rest of the week - and embrace their suggestions, even if they might be a little outlandish at times.
Lean on wonderful supportive communities like Doing it for the kids, for advice, resources and connecting with other parents, where you'll find so many people not only sharing useful resources and tips, but also simply just having others to talk to. If you've a support bubble with another family, think about how you can use it to give yourself a break, or someone else to help out. If you're really struggling, speak to someone.
Give yourself a break, and be kind to yourself. You’re already doing an amazing job under hard circumstances, and whilst the holidays might have been a break from work, it didn't necessarily feel like we came back refreshed - it continues to be a long year, and as the saying goes, you need to put your own mask on before helping others. Looking after others means looking after yourself too - and beyond just taking rest, being kind to yourself is important. The combination of exhaustion, stress and anxiety is probably enough to deal with, without adding guilt or self-flaggelation to the mix.
You might also want to join our #littleleapers channel on slack, where our members who are self-employed are supporting each other. If you're not already a member, join Leapers to access our slack community.
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