By Erica Wolfe-Murray
It’s hard to believe that it was just eleven weeks ago our world changed shape. Horizons contracted, commitments shifted, our inner worlds expanded – with all of us having to navigate new ways of living and a different future.
Combining the roles of parenting and teaching, whilst still working is one of the hardest balances to achieve so how do you keep your working impetus and productivity flowing with so many competing demands?
Be kind to yourself
Start by recognizing that for everyone else to be ok, first and foremost you need to be ok. With noisy, insistent demands from children, it is easy to overlook yourself. We are all adept at putting ourselves last in the queue. Remember that post-school drop-off coffee break, when you caught your breath? You need to ensure you find time in the day for those catch-up/check-in/’you time’ moments.
Identify when you work best
Each of us has a different working rhythm, whether in the office or at home. One of the keys to working productively is to recognize at which time of day you motor through work effortlessly, then ring-fence that time. It may be early in the morning, with another phase mid-afternoon. Or perhaps you nail it in the evenings. Whenever works best for you. Ensure you book it out, finding quiet, absorbing activities for children allowing you time to focus.
Devise a robust, flexible schedule
As days merge into each other without external or social activities to give them shape, developing a adaptable schedule gives you a structured framework. Map work needs in with your family schedule to ensure time for concentrated work, meetings and delivering outputs. And don’t forget to keep up on the admin.
Add in your new ‘team’
If your children are old enough, rather than trying to lock them out of what you do – can you include them in your working life? Teenage children are savvy about new technologies, coding, inventive marketing ideas, Instagram imagery, bringing a host of skills to the table as digital natives. Harnessing their talents could give your business a fresh boost.
Ring the changes
Recognise if your current way of working isn’t working. And do something now to fix it.
Perhaps your chair is uncomfortable, the laptop height is wrong. Are you hearing sounds from neighbours? Is your work desk organized badly? Irritating niggles in your working, space however small, can all impact your concentration. Sorting them out will improve your focus helping you motor ahead.
Get yourself prepped
Some days getting into your work mindset can feel harder than others. Prep yourself as if you were heading out to a meeting. Make-up, done hair, working clothes, tidy desk, shoulders set, back straight, game face on. It’s amazing how the physical tweaks can nudge you into a better mental space.
Limit your Zoom/Skype/F2F sessions
If your work now involves lots of face to face sessions on video sharing platforms, try to limit these to two days per week. They are exhausting, depleting your energy and draining your capacity for focused work. Not only are you having to concentrate on the content, but your mind is also working overtime searching for other behavioural and sensory clues we pick up when present in a room with someone. It is having to deal with background noise in each participant’s environments and make up for poor internet connections by straining to hear/interpret what is being said. If you can, alternate with telephone calls which are less demanding.
Apply your knowledge of yourself
If you are going through a phase where your output is waning, grab a cup of tea or coffee, find a quiet corner to reflect. Think back to other times you felt like this but weren’t constrained as you are now. They did exist. All of us ebb and flow – our emotions, hormones, eating and exercise patterns driving our feelings and capabilities. Think through those patterns and if you can, identify what can gently bring you back to where you want to be. It may be taking time away from your desk, doing something creative, being out in the fresh air. Whatever works for you.
As we start to move out of lockdown, there will be lots each of us will have learned about ourselves and how best we work. Taking these lessons forward into our working lives ahead will give a useful boost to careers and capabilities. Nothing is ever wasted!
Erica Wolfe-Murray works across the creative, cultural and tech sector helping companies to innovate through imaginative use of their intellectual assets/IP. Referred to by Forbes.com as ‘a leading innovation and business expert’, she is the author of ‘Simple Tips, Smart Ideas: Build a Bigger, Better Business’, finalist in the Business Book Awards 2020. It’s full of easy-to-use advice on innovative ways to grow your business and is available from Foyles, Amazon and all other good bookshops. To receive a 40% discount on the digital download, use SIMPLE40 code at www.ericawolfemurray.co.uk