If you’re already running out of hours in the day to work on your business or career relaunch before the holiday season has started, you’re probably wondering how in the world you’ll be able to keep up once your holiday season commitments really kick in.
In the holiday season especially, other commitments will creep in and change your work schedule. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve got a few that have worked for me.
Skim through this list, try one or more that might help you out, and post a comment down below if you have any more suggestions for readers that come after you! We need all the ideas we can get!
1. The wonders of the modern library
Now, you may need to “shop around” for the right library in your area before you put this tip to use. The closest library to me has a few nice tech options to distract my 4- and 5-year-olds, plus the usual books and a few toys. But, if we drive about 30 minutes, there are several libraries with larger children’s sections (and many more toy and tech options) to distract the kids.
When not to go? I can use this method at our small library if I am smart about the day of the week or time of day that we go. On a public school holiday, I’d probably have a harder time getting a slot at an adult computer at the same time I had my kids sitting at a kids workstation (without hogging it for too long.)
Pro tip: While you’re at the library, check out the kids DVD section for any special episodes of their favorite shows (or, better yet, put a hold on their absolute favorite character’s holiday special a few days prior, so you have the perfect something ready and waiting for you to take home for your next attempt to carve out some work time.)
2. Leveraging screen time
Okay, okay. If you’re okay with screen time, then you’ve probably used this technique before I’m sure. (I sure have.) Whether you’re using an tablet loaded with games or a recorded show on a television, the trick is in the marketing!
I can’t do this all the time, otherwise it’ll get stale, but once in a while, I’ll take a look at the DVR (or the live TV Directory, or the Amazon catalog, etc.) and see what looks good. A few hours or even the night before, I’ll start talking about an episode of Jake or Elena or Sophia (ideally, one of the long episodes that they’ve never seen), mention some special feature of that episode and get the kids excited about it…
Knowing that you only have a set window before screen time boredom creeps in (I’m lucky if my kids last 45 minutes), make the best of the time you’ve got by having a specific task queued up for yourself and be ready to go.
What exactly do I mean? Well, look at your to-do list or planner earlier in the day, and have the tools ready that you need to do your task. Paper and pen (probably the most realistic option) or maybe pull out your laptop and go through the whole log in sequence (or make sure your phone or tablet is fully charged) before you get the kids set up to watch their show…
And, don’t get too greedy (here’s a lesson I never learn) and try to add another show to get one more thing done… inevitably, my kids hit their maximum tv time limit and sibling fights will break out after more than two shows. (Of course, this varies with age and personality!)
3. Early or late, but not both (Or, at least, not often)
If you’re working from home and have small kids, you are probably familiar with carving time out of the morning or evening for work. No, it’s probably not healthy for any of us for the long term.
But, when you’re bootstrapping a business and these are literally your only free hours of the day (aka hours where you aren’t spending any income on childcare in order to do the startup work), there are weeks and months (but, hopefully not years) where these will be your work hours.
You may be tempted to stay up extra late, or get up extra early, some days in order to get work done. As much as you can, plan for these additional time commitments and pick your priorities for each day, knowing that you simply cannot do everything every day. You know your body, listen to it.
4. Strategize the gift shopping
For so much of my holiday shopping, it’s now done online. I actually spent a bunch of time talking about my favorite tips and tricks for online shopping in Four Holiday Season Tips to Set Aside Money for Your Business or Job Search.
There’s some shopping that just makes better sense to do locally – at least for me.
I hunt down a special treasures for the stocking online or a special trip to a mall, but most of the stocking stuffers are trinkets that I’ve picked up throughout the year or at the Dollar Store, 5 Below, etc.
It’s sort of hard to do this with the kids checking out the shopping cart loot, though.
So, assuming you have a spouse or family member able to stay at home with the kids (or see #5 for ideas on free childcare), head out for your local gift shopping after the kids are in bed.
Even on a night when you don’t have a brain cell left for a minute more of work, you can take care of your local shopping list. Then, if you have any kid-free daytime hours another day, you can work from a coffee shop or home (instead of using those hours for shopping.)
5. Swap childcare
I’ve read about big groups of friends getting together or more formal arrangements with larger groups online. That never worked out for me, but just this year I was able to set up a childcare exchange with a friend and WOW.
I actually went out to a late lunch date with my husband and didn’t spend more on babysitting than our afternoon out!
Do you have a mom friend or two whose own kids really seem to click with your kids? If you’ve already had some successful play dates together, consider working out a childcare swap with this mom friend.
Everybody needs extra time to themselves at this time of year, so whether this other mom also works from home or just would like the time to catch up on errands blissfully alone, it’s worth trying to set up an occasional swap. Maybe even set some regular 2 hour stretches right up until the holidays!
Has this post helped you come up with an idea or two to carve out a little more time for yourself and your work this holiday season? Let me know in the comments or suggest your best tips for finding time during the busy holiday season!
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