Many entrepreneurs in South Africa run a business from home while holding down another full-time job: raising their children. If you’re in this position, you may think you can only achieve two of the following three on any given day: look after the little ones, get your work done, stay sane. But work-from-home parents can strike a work-life balance that enables them to cut down on the stress, improve their productivity, and keep the children happy.
Here are ten tips for parents who want to make the most of their time and establish a healthy mix between parenting work and work that pays the bills.
- Have a plan
- Motivate your offspring
- Get the kids out of the house
- Take advantage of free childcare when the opportunity arises
- Outsource if you can
- Set boundaries
- Use a calendar
- Get a project management tool
- Let go of the guilt regarding screen time
- Turn off notifications
Let’s look at each tip in more detail:
1. Have a plan
One of the best pieces of advice is to have a plan and to work the plan. Not only do you need to plan out what your kids are going to be doing while you’re working, you need to plan out every minute of your work time as well. If you don’t, you’ll end up staring at a blank screen, spinning your wheels and wondering why you aren’t making money.
2. Motivate your offspring
Use the promise of a family outing, where the kids will have your undivided attention, as motivation for them to let you work without interruption. The promise of a day at the beach, an outing to the zoo, or a weekend getaway can be used throughout the week to inspire your children to keep themselves occupied and on their best behaviour.
3. Get the kids out of the house
Getting the children out of the house for a few hours a day or week can be the difference between a business surviving or thriving.
Even if you have a nanny, like many South Africans who work from home and embrace the work-life balance theory, your smaller children will often demand your attention if they are in the same space as you.
You could put the children in day care if they are too young for school, or swap child sitting sessions with other people who work from home. With a parent swap, each parent takes a day where they host the kids so that the parents who aren’t hosting that day can do other things.
If you can get five parents on board, you can have four days a week without your children, giving you the time to focus on your business. When the kids are a little older, they will be able to entertain themselves independently with their friends for hours, allowing you to get on with your work even when they are at your place.
4. Take advantage of free childcare when the opportunity arises
If you’re a member of a gym, your local branch may have a childcare facility, plus a café with good coffee and a decent wi-fi connection. The hour or two of free childcare can be a lifesaver when you need some time to make a phone call or concentrate on the document you’re working on.
There are also some kid-friendly restaurants in major cities where the little ones can play relatively independently in safe playrooms or playgrounds. A few even have childminders to watch your offspring while you sit down with your notebook and cuppa.
5. Outsource if you can
If you’re running a tight ship, you might not be keen to spend money on external service providers to do your filing, bookkeeping and other admin. The reality is that you may need to work exhaustingly long hours to do your client calls and your billable work, and make sure SARS gets paid on time if you’re also juggling parenting responsibilities.
Rather hire help than put yourself in that position. It’s a more sustainable way to manage your time, business and take full advantage of the work-life balance effect. There are many virtual assistants in South Africa, individuals and companies who will do admin for you on a per-hour basis. You can also outsource work such as bookkeeping, running your social media accounts, or website management to reclaim some of your time.
You can also outsource some of your parenting work and personal administration if it makes financial sense. For example, if you can afford an au pair, you can ask him or her to pick up children from school, give them lunch, help with homework, and ferry them to extramural activities. You should consider outsourcing when:
- The amount you will pay the person to do the work is less than the value of your own time.
- It will take you so long to do the task or learn the skill to do the work yourself that it is not worth your while.
6. Set boundaries
If you have older children who can understand when you’re working, you should set clear boundaries to keep the peace at home. For example, you can make it a rule that they cannot enter your office or study or call you when your door is closed, unless there’s an emergency. You can also designate quiet spaces where they may not shout or play.
7. Use a calendar
Download a digital calendar you can access and update from anywhere that has an internet connection. You never know where or when you will need to add something to your calendar. Make sure you can share it with your business partners and/or family members, so everyone always knows what is going on.
8. Get a project management tool
Use a project management tool like Trello or Asana for your to-do lists and idea backlogs. While running your own business, there are several moving parts and a project management tool can keep you organised.
9. Let go of the guilt regarding screen time
Yes, it’s not ideal for kids to spend too much time on their iPads or other mobile devices, but sometimes giving them screen time is a better choice than getting frazzled and losing your temper. To offset that guilt, make sure the kids are playing educational games or watching shows that will teach them something. Screen time can be a life saver when you have a tight deadline or work emergency.
10. Turn off notifications
If you’re working from home with kids around, you already have enough distractions. If the sort of work you do allows, take a quiet hour or two a day to tune out the noise. Turn off your WhatsApp notifications, ignore all non-scheduled and non-urgent phone calls, and don’t check your e-mail.
Another time management tip is to use 30 minutes or an hour at the beginning or end of the day to answer e-mails, return phone calls and do quick update meetings with your team. Then spend the rest of the day focused on what you need to do. A good work-life balance can keep you productive and happy.
This article has been adapted from an original piece by Ashley Grant.