Is it possible?
Did you come to this article hoping to find a way to successfully work at home and homeschool? You’ve seen and read about many others succeeding, but your unique situation just can’t find its groove? So, you know it’s possible. But you don’t know if it’s possible for you.
Well, the simple answer to that question is, yes, it is possible for you to work at home and homeschool. And many bloggers and gurus have already told you that. They have provided tips and hacks to get and keep you on track. They want to make sure you have everything you need to succeed as a work at home parent and as a homeschooler.
And I understand your desire to succeed. I was there. I searched for all kinds of hacks, tools, and gurus – desperately wanting to succeed – same as you. But, as so often is the case, because we want to succeed, we embrace any (and every) applicable hack and tool.
And then the inevitable happens. It gets overwhelming.
The Juggling “Act”
I don’t think I need to tell you that a work at home parent is just naturally inclined to juggle more than one project. And homeschooling parents are naturally inclined to juggle more than one assignment. Add to that homemaking and you’ve got yourself a three-ringed circus.
The struggle usually enters when we try to juggle all the hacks, help and gurus we find. (I’m telling y’all, I opted-in to so many groups, my inbox was on fire!)
And that’s not to say that we don’t receive good information. Every group that I joined was great! The tools provided by many were answers to prayer. I hardly missed an email or Twitter party. (Facebook Live hadn’t come into its own yet, but I would have been there too.)
The point is we are present for EVERYTHING.
Except for our work…our homeschool…our home…
Why? Because we are juggling too much! We forget to put at least one tool down when we pick up a new one. And it gets overwhelming.
So, what can we do when those tools become overwhelming? What do we do when we can’t hack the hacks we’ve chosen? When we’ve packed our master notebook full of worksheets, spreadsheets, to-do lists, review lists, schedules, and follow ups, how do we come up for air?
Here is what needs to happen. Gather together the tools, hacks and helps. Then prepare to make some considerations. And get ruthless. Put anything that is not a have-to, need to, or want-to out the door, in the recycling bin, the fire, or the library.
In other words, you must eliminate. And you must get ruthless about it. And while the minimalists have just let out a victory shout, I understand it’s not easy to do. Because I’m not just talking the material stuff. I’m including the ‘systems’ that you’ve grown accustomed to. And the hacks and tools that once worked In. Their. Season.
If it’s no longer working for you, tell it goodbye. Or, Happy trails if that’s the case. Stop the juggling “act”.
While it won’t be easy, it will be worth it.
Eliminating things you’ve grown accustomed to is never easy. It doesn’t matter if it causes dark circles under your eyes or gives you a slight tick. The first inclination is to try to find some hack to bring it under control. But I have a way you can get rid of the extra hack along with the source of your dark circles or ticks. It’s called being ruthless.
Now, most associate ruthlessness with cruelty or callousness. But, we want to focus on the other meanings of ruthless. It can also mean pitiless or merciless. That’s where we want to be with the important things in life. Showing no mercy to those distractions that would take away our focus. We don’t want to allow those little foxes in to destroy our growth.
And being ruthless can help in so many ways. While not exhaustive, I’m going to share a list of 9 areas being ruthless can help you win in life, work at home and homeschool.
Be ruthless with your schedule:
Let’s start at the very beginning. (A very good place to start. 😉) If you don’t have a schedule, you need to create one. Otherwise, you will find yourself like a dog chasing its tail. Constantly on the move, but never accomplishing a single goal.
Even if your homeschool method is a more relaxed one, as a work at home parent, a calendar is your friend. You don’t have to be rigid with your schedule. In fact, we’ll talk about ways to adjust the schedule when the unexpected happens. But, if you don’t have a schedule to adjust, you will be carried off by the whims of circumstance. So, you must be ruthless with knowing what is on your schedule and where you will place the non-negotiable blocks of time.
Having a routine is important. I would even go so far to say that it is crucial for a single parent – for you and the kids.
Now, don’t get schedules and routines confused. They are not the same thing. Nor are they opposites. They are closely related, though. In fact, I used to think that I had to choose between being a schedule-driven mom or a routine-driven mom. When it occurred to me that one comfortably nests inside the other. For example, within my schedule, I have designated time for my Morning Itinerary. That is a non-negotiable time block. I will not schedule any outside meeting within that time frame. (This does not include an emergency – which is never scheduled.) Within that scheduled Morning Itinerary, I have my Morning Routine. These are things that I always do in a certain order to make sure my day goes more smoothly. There are other things that happen in that scheduled Morning Itinerary, but they are subject to change from day to day. The Morning Routine is static – within a set (scheduled) time frame.
Know your kids’ internal clocks. This is a big one to plan your work day and their homeschool time.
I know that my oldest likes to wake early and stay up until she crashes for the night. Which is usually right after dinner and story time so, for her, we make sure baths are given before dinner. In contrast, my youngest prefers to get out of bed mid-morning (if her sister doesn’t wake her), then she’ll nap or rest, late afternoon before dinner. After dinner, she’s up until lights out. That’s about 9-9:30 Costa Rica time. Knowing this, I can keep the oldest occupied with independent and supervised work (I can try anyway) while her younger sister sleeps.
So, knowing your kid’s internal clocks can help you schedule your work day, their homeschool day and block off time to deal with home management. This way, you are more productive in your work, present for your kids and your home doesn’t look like Iron Chef: The Aftermath.
Know when you are most productive.
When do you feel as though you get your best work done? Or even your most work done? Is it in the morning? In the afternoon once you’ve had lunch? Perhaps in the evening after you’ve gotten all the kids to bed? That is the time that you are most productive.
Go through your regular day and determine when that really is. Now think about what other things come up during that time. Is it a time when the kids’ demands are many? Maybe your most productive time is in the morning. Think about waking an hour earlier to take advantage of that quiet time to work. If you are more productive after bedtime, think about going to bed an hour later. Make sure to include that time of productivity in your schedule.
Whatever time you choose, you will need to be ruthless about sticking to your bedtime routines to set your day (or night) up for success. Don’t have any bedtime routines in place yet? Create some. Check out this article to find out why they are important to your kids and get some ideas on bedtime routines you can quickly incorporate into your schedule.
Eliminate time wasters.
We are all aware of how social media can be a huge time suck. The urge to be deeply involved in another person’s feed can be problematic. So much so, apps were created to control it.
Television and electronic games are also obvious time wasters. But did you know you can lose time and productivity with household chores? Things that eventually must be done, but don’t necessarily need to be done at that moment?
I used to think I had to wash dishes after every meal. And there are days I still must fight those thoughts. I’m one of those households without an automatic dishwasher. And I grew up thinking that dirty dishes in the sink were a huge issue. You did not want someone walking in your house and seeing your dirty dishes. So, with a dishwasher, you can place the dirty dishes inside and no one would be the wiser. But because of that old thinking, I was washing dishes 3 – sometimes 4 – times a day. Now think about what else you could get done in that 10-15 minutes? A quick phone call? A follow-up email? A checklist review? One-on-one time with your kids?
I know what I get with the old thinking. I get a beautiful sink and countertops and no marketing is done for the day. No content marketing, no LinkedIn updates, no social media marketing and no client calls. Nothing. I get fussy children because I don’t have 15 minutes to play Whack-a-Mole. But I am ready for any visitor who comes for tea. Because that happens every day – as opposed to marketing opportunities or chances to really engage with the kids. (Sarcasm.)
Those dishes kept me from being productive and engaged. So, if you find the dishes are hindering your productivity, you need to become ruthless and designate a time for them. Or any other household chore that is taking a life of its own. Of course, your designated time could be after every meal. That could be part of your routine. The point is, those chores will always be there and they will always end up coming back around. Give your chores their own time. Their own space within your schedule. Be ruthless and don’t let those cyclical household chores shackle your productivity.
Make time for the kids.
I cannot emphasize this point enough.
It’s not a piece of cake being a single parent. When you must bring home the bacon AND fry it up in the pan, your 24 hours can quickly slip by. That’s why it is so important that time with your children – outside of (or in addition to) homeschool – be prioritized in your schedule. Be ruthless about not allowing interruptions. You can even make it part of a daily routine. This way, your children know they will have one-on-one time after a certain event happens.
Some tips that I found helpful: Announce your time together. And close your time together. For example, “Riley, you ready for Mind Body and Soul Time?” (You can title it whatever you wish.) And when your time is done, “I had fun during our time. I can’t wait for tomorrow/this evening/ after snack to have some time with you again.” Let your one-on-one time be something THEY want to do. Be totally present for them. No checking watches, emails, or phones. Set a timer and forget about it until it rings.
Time to Act
Now, I’ve given you a list of things to prioritize in your schedule as you begin to get ruthless. But, let’s be realistic. With all this stuff to get into your calendar, how can you make this work for YOU? That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? Being ruthless with all the stuff that you are currently doing that is overwhelming and no longer working.
So, gather all the planners, calendars and journals that you are currently using.
And here’s what you need to do.
I know it’s going to be difficult but pick one. JUST. ONE.
And commit to that one program for 60 days. Not even 90. It’s going to take you at least a month to get in the groove of using one program. The inclination is to try to fill up the white space.
Let me know in the comments below what you’ve chosen. I’m rooting for you.