Strangely, one of the most common questions that we get from our clients is how do you cope during school holidays, how do you juggle? They ask for tips. So I thought I’d share some insights, and reassure them that they are not alone!
I know Easter was a while ago. It’s actually taken me a week – a whole week – to get back to normal after my unproductive 2 weeks of the school holidays. It wasn’t all bad of course, I spent time with my children – one of the most important things in my life.
But I paid a price. I lost motivation.
Some days my kids were in holiday clubs and I’d have a whole day free t o work. But on some of these days I chose not to. I was still in holiday mode from the bank holiday weekend. The sun was shining. I wasn’t rushing to the laptop. Very unlike me – as anyone who knows me will confirm – but for some reason that’s just the way it was over Easter for me.
Every day was unruly. Very few things were ticked off my To-Do list, despite the fact that I always had at least a few hours available for working each day – whether that was the evening or whilst the kids were playing outside.
When I analysed it, I concluded that it was purely down to one thing. Disorganisation. Yep, that contributed to everything.
Mistake 1 – Losing control of your To-Do list
When you have so little focused work time, naturally tasks on your To-Do list don’t get done, they just kept rolling over into the following day and your To-Do list becomes bigger and bigger, like a snowball rolling down a hill.
Your To-Do list for a day should be proportionate to the amount of time you have. My problem was that I hadn’t factored in that I wouldn’t be working as much as usual, I hadn’t factored in that a large majority of time would be spent with my kids and my working week would be a heck of a lot shorter than normal.
This was an epic fail on my behalf, seeing as in my book Sort It Out! I talk about always looking at what meetings and appointments you have on a given day, and if it’s packed full of stuff, make sure your To-Do list is very small because otherwise nothing will get done and you’ll end up disheartened.
Mistake 2 – Not familiarising yourself with your To-Do list the night before
I was having so much fun in the Easter holidays that most evenings were spent flopped on the sofa exhausted with a glass of wine. If I could have forced myself to have just spent 10 minutes at the end of each day to assess what was left on my To-Do list from today, what needed to be carried over, what’s on tomorrow (realistically), then I wouldn’t have started each day on a back foot.
Think about it. There’s 2 scenarios…
First thing you look at your To-Do list for today, there are 10 items on it, which are categorised and there’s nothing showing as overdue. You know exactly where you are and what you need to do. You have a spring in your step, you feel in control of your day.
You wake up, not having a Scooby Doo what you need to be doing today. Because the last time you looked at your To-Do list was yesterday morning (in fact it was rather large then and you didn’t really know where to start , so instead you chose to faff about with tidying some dishes and making yet another cuppa).
Back to today… you look at your To-Do list – there are 17 items overdue from yesterday. You skim down to have a quick peek at what’s a priority for today. You find it’s a report for a client that’s due by lunchtime. It’s going to take you some time.
One of the overdue tasks from yesterday was to ask one of your team for some info that was needed for this report. That team member is on leave today. Also on yesterday’s To-Do list was to research some info for the report and run it by your client’s accountant before the final report goes out. The accountant is tricky to pin down; the chances of him getting back to you anywhere near lunchtime today are virtually zero. So because of your disorganisation you’re now in a panic.
It only takes one, maybe two days of being behind with your To-Do list to get into that kind of pickle, which most of the time ends in stress. Not only that but it directly leads to procrastination. If you’re looking at a list of tasks and you know there is no way you’ll get them done today, probably not even tomorrow, quite often a reaction to this would be to not bother with any and bury your head in the sand.
Mistake 3 – Breaking a Habit
It takes on average, I’m told, around 3 weeks to form a habit. After the 3 weeks it’s a lot less of an effort. So once you’re in a habit that’s taken you 21 days of blood sweat and tears to get there, you don’t really want to be breaking this and having to start the 21 day cycle all over again.
Difficult to form but super easy to break, habits are something that should be given a huge amount of respect.
Of course there are days when you don’t want to do something, we’re all human after all, but as long as you don’t let that run into 2 days, or 3 days. Because then you’ve lost it, and it takes a lot of effort to get back on track.
If you normally have a routine for work or a process you go through each day, then try to stick to this as much as possible (even if you only do a little) so as to not break the habit.
Mistake 4 – Thinking you can combine working & spending time with the kids
I’ve learnt this the hard way. And it sounds obvious. But if you try to kid yourself into thinking that you can juggle children and work at the same time, and do a good job of both, then you are wrong! Silencing the kids with sweets so you can take a client call can only last for so long!
It’s a lot less stressful to carve out your week and allocate certain periods of time when you know that either you won’t have the children or they will be occupied for a period of time. Having a set time for work and a set time for the kids means you can focus on one at a time and it saves a lot of pressure. But mixing the two just doesn’t work. It always ends in frustration. I’ve been there many times.
There are lots of holiday clubs available, some for very little cost. There are always other parents in the same situation as you who would be more than happy to have a reciprocal arrangement where you have their kids for a day and they have yours for another. This works well.
Don’t neglect your To-Do list. Be realistic – don’t overestimate what you can achieve in the time that you have. Spend a small amount of time at the end of the day looking at what you need to do tomorrow, and a little bit more the day before you’re due back to work properly.