I admit it. I enjoyed the weeks before summer in my quiet office. While the kids were in school, I roamed the house with a cup of tea and a laptop in search of a change of scenery for creative inspiration.
I chatted with clients while folding laundry and enjoyed hours of uninterrupted silence conducive to writing and thinking. Once school let out for the summer, I was banished to my office with the French doors closed and the mute button became my best friend again.
But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love the fact that my children have been home all summer and I’m excited about the shift it brings to my routine and our family life.
Having worked from home for 19 years, I’ve learned a little bit about how to stay productive without becoming a work-monger. And because my children have never known anything except a work-at-home mother, they’ve grown up sharing their home with a business. Together, we’ve come up with a fairly decent system for spending the summer in work and play.
Here are our favorite tips, and they should work for toddlers to teens and will even be helpful if you’ve got a babysitter or nanny on board:
1. Create a Schedule
Yeah, I know … boring! But having a loose schedule will give everyone the structure they need to accomplish what has to be done, and enjoy the long days of nothingness. At the very least, establish regular working hours – even if they fluctuate from week to week. And do your best to treat those office hours as sacred time without distraction or interruption. This will help you prevent trying to work at the waterpark (not very productive as I have learned from experience).
Bonus tip: I started asking my kids to create their own summer routines a few years ago. I give them parameters like “one hour of reading time,” or “30 minutes of exercise,” and “no more than one hour of screen time.” They have fun and learn a valuable skill by outlining their own daily schedules – and they are far more likely to stick to the routine when they create it themselves.
2. Plan. Discuss. Repeat.
Because summer schedules seem to change each week, it’s even more important to hold that weekly planning meeting with your family. Review the schedule for the week and set realistic expectations for office hours, meals, transportation, play dates, etc. If you have a childcare provider, outline the week for her as well. It only takes 20 minutes and gives everyone an opportunity to participate and be heard. Plus, it gives you an idea of what your top priorities will be each week so you can tackle them first!
3. Protect Your Boundaries
One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your family is the gift of clearly defined boundaries.
Do your kids know when you are “at work” and “at home?”
Do they know the rules of when they can or cannot enter your office?
Do they know how to behave when you are on the phone? (No matter how old they are!)
Do they know WHO to go to when there is a babysitter in the house and mom is in the office?
Do YOU know the rules about answering a work related call while playing Candy Land or teaching your teenager to drive?
Do YOU respect your children by focusing on them 100 percent during the time you are not working?
Give this area some serious thought and work with your children to create and honor boundaries that work for everyone.
4. Write a Business Bucket List
You may already have a bucket list of fun things your children want to do this summer. But do you have a bucket list of your business goals for the summer?
What are the things that you put off until summer to explore, learn or implement in your business?
Are there any road trips or excursions that might be good for your business and fun for your family?
Do you have a weeklong beach or mountain retreat planned that would be perfect for writing your book or several blog posts?
Are there some things your children can actually help you accomplish this summer?
What about your babysitter – can she sort papers or stuff envelopes or do research while the kids are napping?
Make a list of business related projects and goals that are perfect for summer.
5. Get More Rest Than You Think You Need
Let’s be real – your summer isn’t filled with lazy days lounging poolside with freshly painted toenails and a frozen margarita. Last time my life looked like that was on my honeymoon! In fact, there are no lazy days of summer. Only fun filled crazy days of summer! We are a family on the go – even when we’re in slow motion. Which means I need to make sure I get a full eight hours of sleep every night – so I can keep up with my kids, my business and my health.
6. Take Advantage of Quiet Mornings
Hear me out on this one – even if you’re not a morning person, you may want to consider setting the alarm an hour earlier and brewing a pot of stronger coffee so you can tackle your biggest work projects in the peace and quiet of early morning. Sleepy teens and tweens will not even come near you at that hour. And, if you’re lucky, the younger ones will be happy to eat breakfast in their pajamas and watch Veggie Tales or go outside and play before it gets too hot. So mom will have a few hours of uninterrupted work time before the day really begins.
7. Say No to “Opportunities” That Can Wait
It’s a myth that business is slow in the summer. Even in the corporate world where clients are on vacation and it’s difficult to schedule meetings, there is still a LOT of work to be done in the summer. People are taking advantage of lighter schedules to do some planning and creative brainstorming.
That’s all great news if you are looking for work. But if you’re trying spend more time with family, then be careful not to take on anything new that will infringe on your personal time. Be especially careful not to accept a project simply because you are afraid the client will never ask you again if you refuse. Trust in your own talent and know that the work will be there when you need it – but your children are only home for a few short weeks this summer.
Whether or not you had childcare this summer, I hope these tips will help you stay productive next year in your home office and enjoy your family time too.
When September hits, you will skip the neighborhood back-to-school celebration where moms send off the school bus with mimosas in hand. Instead, you’ll be one of those moms at the bus stop in tears because you’re sad to see them go. You’ll be ready to devote more time to business, but you’ll be grateful for the summer fun memories you created. (And if you’re a homeschooling mom like so many of our readers, you’ll be all set with new schedules and boundaries that will serve you well all year long!)
What did I forget? Do you have any summer survival tips for working from home? Please share them with us here!