By: Kristie Santana
Ten months ago, we were all swimming in the realization that we were living through unprecedented times. Now, as we linger around the one-year anniversary of Covid-19 upending the routines we once took for granted, we are coming to terms with our “new normal.”
We sincerely hope that we will soon be able to hug, travel, and go to school and work the way we once did. In the meantime, we are being challenged in ways we never imagined. And our sole objective at this point would appear to be: “Remain sane enough to come out on the other side of this in one piece.”
With many of us managing our careers and our children’s education from home, our work-life balance can feel like such a jumbled, crazy mess that “staying sane” seems like a crazy idea in and of itself!
The first helpful step would be to relieve the pressure to uphold exactly the same standards we may have had in the “old normal.” Perfectly clean house? Straight A’s? Long, in-depth recap emails after every work-related meeting? Not so much.
Identifying what our realistic “new normal” standards are, will help us recalibrate the pressure we put on ourselves. We all want to avoid what happens in physics when a vessel is under increasing pressure to the point of structural failure.
In short, we don’t want to implode.
Here are a few constructive tips on how we can alleviate some of this pressure and become flexible enough to handle the increased “crazy” in our lives.
Make Scheduling Your New Best Friend
Keeping a routine is not new advice. It was what got us through our “old normal” as well. But in the “new normal,” our approach to scheduling is what needs to shift.
In the past, blocking out long chunks of time for certain tasks was pretty normal. But as our work life and family life converge, many of us can be caught between to paradigms:
Trying to maintain long, focused work blocks and struggling with constant interruptions.
Trying to devote 50 percent of our attention to work and 50 percent to our family 100 percent of the time.
Neither of these options leaves us feeling 100 percent great about our parenting or our job performance.
Instead, maybe rethink your time blocks into smaller increments of fifteen-minute, thirty-minute, or one-hour segments, and clearly designate each block into specific work tasks or family tasks.
Also, think of ways that you can quickly signify to yourself that you are transitioning from work mode to parent mode. Daisy Dowling, Founder and CEO of a consulting, training, and research firm that focuses on working parents, uses the example of a tennis player bouncing the ball three times before a serve.
Create a simple physical act that preps you mentally for the specific gear you’re entering into. Ideally, one that signifies “I’m great at my job” and another for “I’m an awesome parent.” These will physically help you shift gears mentally and prompt you to 100 percent focus on the activity at hand.
Breaking everything down into smaller, highly focused activity times helps to avoid unplanned interruptions, which ties into what our next tip is.
Broaden Your Team Base
Everyone in your family is basically in the same boat. You and your kids are all figuring out your work-life balance. So bring them in on the process of creating your family’s schedule.
In the “old normal,’ your kids wouldn’t need to know when all of your meetings are for the next day. But now, the more everyone discloses their entire schedule with one another, the better you all can work as a team to schedule your life in between work and school obligations.
Doing this can help you schedule “coworking” times for your whole family. Whether it consists of younger kids coloring, and older kids listening to class with headphones while you reply to emails, determining the times your whole family can be in a similar quiet-work mode together prevents noise and distraction friction.
Equally important is scheduling those tiny blocks of break time and communal rest. In essence, the family meeting will be your new best friend that will make your other best friend, scheduling, more effective.
Another big part of broadening the team base is to encourage your kids to choose a few independent-living skills they can learn and start to practice. For example, as you work with your family to schedule as a team and they witness you managing your time between work and family, they will start to appreciate the value of managing their own time. You can be honest and let them know that you’ll need their help with keeping themselves on track and organized.
For school-aged kids, find out what they think will help them stay organized. Color code folders? A large digital clock? A dry-erase board with their class login schedule? The more they feel involved, the more they will feel personally responsible for managing their time.
Through your family-schedule meetings, pinpoint times in the future that may bottleneck with important events for your family. Let’s say you have a presentation the same day your child has a big test. Try to figure out how you’ll provide easy meals and avoid an attention crunch immediately before. Spread out the prep for both events over several days before, so the whole family isn’t scrambling on the big day.
Other great resources for broadening your team base can come in the digital variety.
Invest in a virtual assistant or virtual sitter or tutor. Or reach out to relatives or friends who might be willing to schedule designated FaceTime or Zoom calls for digital craft hour or storytime.
Keep “What Really Matters” in the Forefront
As you mentally adjust your expectations, it will be helpful to designate a time every day to congratulate yourself on the things you did do, instead of just focusing on the things that still need to get done.
These can, and should, be things that support your top three priorities, as Dowling says: “The health and safety of our families, being able to just do our jobs, and/or hang on to our jobs…and the third is keeping our own personal battery high enough that tomorrow we can wake up again and deliver on numbers one and two.”
This is why, despite the absence of travel, you should still take your vacation days. Designate time to step off the “Work from Home/Stay at Home/Home School Parent” treadmill and just recharge as a family some days.
About the Author
Kristie Santana has been practicing as a certified life coach for over 15 years. She is the founder of the National Coaching Academy and co-founder of Life Coach Path. Both are resources for students looking to pursue their passions and become certified coaches