How to work (efficiently) from home with a three-year-old
Being a solopreneur with a to-do list the length of your arm is stressful right? Having to get through that list when you work from home with a three-year-old tugging at your arm takes it to a whole new level!
Seven months ago I made the transition from full-time office worker, where conversations are spoken in ‘fluent adult’ and moments of quiet reign supreme, to being a work from home dad who shares his office with a three-year-old. I also now have to negotiate at the level of a three-year-old, begging for a run of 30 minutes of un-interrupted work.
Don’t get me wrong, I cherish what I do and love the time I have with my beautiful daughter. With my other two children already at school, I know those pre-school years are priceless and you can’t get them back.
But at the same time, daddy’s gotta get some work done!
While I never want my daughter to feel like her daddy’s work is a higher priority than her, there are stretches during the day where work requires focus.
"Getting up just a touch earlier each day means I’m nearly 20% through an eight hour work day by 7:30 am."
So, over the past seven months of working from home as a solopreneur, I’ve developed a daily process and routine that allows me to complete my business tasks whilst providing my daughter with the attention she craves. It’s working incredibly well for me so maybe it might be of help to you too:
1. I rise early
Ok, I’ll admit I don’t do this every day, but I do it more often than not. I rise at around 6 am, which gives me 90 minutes of un-interrupted work time before my three children rise and the morning school run chaos starts!
I rarely only work eight hours per day, but getting up just a touch earlier each day means I’m nearly 20% through an eight hour work day by 7:30 am.
2. I ask my daughter for help
I went for a bit of reverse psychology with this one, and I’ll admit it was an accidental success, but a win none-the-less! Here’s how it goes…
Rather than tell my daughter that I need to work instead of play with her all day, I turned the tables and went for a detailed sales pitch that went like this:
Darling, I don’t feel like working today and all I want to do is play with you at the park. But I have important work to get done. Do you think you could be my coach for the day and whenever daddy says he wants to stop work, do you think you could tell him “No daddy! You must do your work today!”
She took that task on like a champ! We start each day with a similar discussion about daddy needing to work and asking for ‘Coach’ to help out. I rarely refer to her by name now and she answers at any time of the day to ‘Coach’!
3. Set clear expectations
Three year olds may not understand length of time, but they do respond to routine and I’ve made a point to develop (and stick) to a daily routine that my daughter now expects. It goes like this:
- I work between arriving home from school drop off and lunch
- Just before lunch, I take my daughter (a serious park swing lover) to the park up the street. We talk non-stop on the swings for 15-20 minutes.
- We return home and eat lunch (30 minutes)
- I re-commence work up until school pickup.
I will usually get 4 to 4.5 hours of solid work done using this schedule between school drop off and pickup. In addition to 1.5 hours in the morning, by early afternoon I’ve usually had quite a productive day.
The key to this schedule is being consistent with it; my daughter, even as a three year old, understands that she will get my undivided attention in the middle of each day before lunch. She knows what to expect, and so do I.
4. Give complete attention
I’m a big believer that children don’t count the length of attention you give, but rather the quality of attention that you give. 15 minutes of undivided attention rolling round on the living room floor is worth more than 5 hours of splitting your time between tending to them and doing work.
I’ll take short 3-5 minute breaks to make a coffee a few (too many) times each day and I give my daughter bursts of attention during those times.
But I make sure that our lunchtime trip to the park is quality time. I fill up her love bucket and can get back to work in the afternoon feeling good about myself for having made that investment of time in her.
And that’s it. The above has taken me from being completely stressed to my eyeballs at not getting enough work done due to having to ‘deal with’ a persistent three year old, to now moving through each day with a feeling of calm and productivity.
Got any tips of your own to share? I’m all ears when it comes to learning from others in a similar situation who also work from home. Please let me know what works for you!