How to Be Productive and Positive in the “New Normal”
Working from home? These tips can help you divide your time, energy, and attention.
Working from home sounds like a dream come true: you get to earn, spend time with your family, and skip the notorious Manila traffic. But, as people are now discovering, it creates a whole new set of challenges.
The Three-Ring Circus
For working parents, the daily ritual of leaving for work and stepping into an office helps us shift roles and neatly divide our attention. From 9am to 6pm, you’re on Boss Mode: finishing reports, meeting clients, and barricaded by cubicles. Then you close your laptop, head home, and focus on your family. Today’s circumstances have changed all of that.
- You are everything, at the same time. Your kids don’t understand that you’re still working. They want to play, your boss wants a meeting, and both think you have “more time” for them because you’re “just at home.” There’s pressure all around.
- You don’t have a quiet, dedicated office space. Unless you have a big house and a room of your own, you’re probably trying to be as productive as possible on the kitchen table – surrounded by bored kids, messy toys, and noisy everything. (Raise your hand if you had to do a teleconference with the neighbor’s karaoke or pet roosters in the background.)
- You’re stressed. You’re already emotionally and physically stressed from juggling work and family, but there are other things on your mind too – like how contagion will affect your job and finances, or logistical issues like groceries. But since you’re the parent, you have to be calm and in control, when deep inside you want to crawl under your blankets and forget all your problems while watching Crash Landing On You.
If this is what you’re dealing with right now, these tips can help you take charge of your time, your stress, and your different roles.
Make that mental shift
Train your brain to get into work mode, even if you’re at home. Have a work ritual – apply lipstick, play a particular playlist, or wipe your desk area. These routines help you psych yourself for the day ahead.
Work with your energy levels
When are you naturally more energetic and focused? That’s when you should work on important tasks that require full concentration and decision-making: reports, calls, business plans. Schedule less mentally-demanding tasks like replying to emails when your energy levels have dipped.
Avoid ‘decision fatigue”
You have limited time and energy – don’t waste it on routine choices and chores. What everyday problems or distractions can be solved by planning ahead, making a list, or delegating it to somebody else?
For example, you’ll never have to scramble for a last-minute recipe if you have a rotating meal plan or pre-cook and freeze meals. Use free online productivity tools like Google calendar or Trello to remind co-workers about pending tasks.
Assign chores and a schedule for playtime, baths and naps so you don’t have to constantly remind the kids. If you have older kids, assign a daily “Officer-in-Charge” who’ll remind everyone what to do (but give younger kids a chance to be OIC too). Kids can be very responsible if you give them a chance!
Avoid switching tasks
Did you know that it takes your brain 25 minutes to refocus after a distraction? Avoid jumping from one task to another, especially if they are unrelated. Even the “simple” task of reading an email or replying to a chat requires a lot of brain functions: remember relevant information, analyze the problem, and phrase an answer. When you switch between tasks, your brain recalibrates each time. It’s mentally draining and often leads to mistakes.
So work in organized chunks for 40 minute periods. Then, take a break to either rest or reply to a message or email.
Create work-life boundaries
If you don’t have clear boundaries between work and personal time, you’ll feel guilty when you rest, and resentful when you work. So set a very concrete and specific time for work and family – and let everyone know. Hang a do not disturb sign when you work, but when it’s time for family, shut down your laptop and ignore your phone.
Your kids will understand, as long as they know you also respect your time with them. For example, have at least 30 minutes a day of quality one-on-one time with each child – where they can pick the activity and have your undivided attention.
Have family meetings
You don’t have to do everything alone. You, your partner and your children are all at home and share the responsibility of taking care of the household and of each other. Have a family meeting and talk about how you can manage being together at home 24/7.
Divide chores. Ask kids to create their own schedules so they aren’t constantly whining that they’re bored (and you don’t have to nag them). Split household and parenting duties with your partner. Don’t forget to plan the fun things too – make a movie list to watch on evenings or weekends, online classes you can take together, or research new recipes you can try.
Times like these serve as a chance for your family to learn how to handle a crisis together – and for you to discover that you can be productive and positive whatever happens. You can do this, moms!
About The Writer
Dedet Reyes-Panabi was editor-in-chief of a parenting magazine for over 10 years, but has been writing for newspapers and magazines much longer than that (hint: back then, people still used film for photo shoots!). Today, she is a content marketing consultant for both local and international companies. She is full-time mom to two kids, three cats, and a stubborn French bulldog.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.