With school getting back in session, life is about to get a little tougher for working parents. Juggling hectic family schedules with fulltime employment means there are multiple opportunities to get distracted from your responsibilities both in the office and in the home. With how busy every member of the family is these days, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Deadlines, client calls and interdepartmental meetings don’t always fall nicely around school schedules, science projects and soccer practice, so there are a few tips to keep in mind if you’re trying to make all your competing responsibilities play nicely with each other.
Become Best Friends with Your Calendar
For most people in the modern workforce, maintaining a calendar with meetings, calls and important deadlines is already second nature, but if you’re not already using a detailed calendar, now is the time to start. In the smartphone era, you’re never far from a calendar where you can track every aspect of your week. Go beyond just using your calendar for work commitments and start building out a detailed, daily schedule for your personal life, including your kids’ activities. Decide on a color coding system to make different aspects of your life easy to distinguish when you’re on the go. Keeping a thorough calendar of all your responsibilities allows you to make more reasonable decisions when it comes to planning your week both inside and outside the office and helps you track your commitments so you never leave a coworker in a lurch, a kid waiting or your work clothes hanging on a rack at the dry cleaners.
It’s not enough just to schedule your days and weeks; you need to build in time to review your calendar regularly. Make time at the beginning and end of each day and week to make sure you’re on track to meet your commitments and thoroughly review your full schedule at the end of the week to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success the next week. Transfer key items that aren’t complete to your to-do list for the next week and make sure there are no upcoming conflicts between your schedule and your kids. It helps to get all of those must-do items out of your head and onto a calendar where you can manage them visually.
Establish Routines and Stick to Them
Kids do better when they’re on consistent morning and evening routines, and you stay more organized when you stick to a regular schedule throughout the day. In your personal life, getting your kids into a routine for waking up, doing homework, taking a bath and getting to bed can take some of the frustration out of family time. At work, creating a reasonably predictable routine creates stability that helps you stay on top of the various pressures you face throughout the day. Not all the pieces of your life will fall into an easy routine, but if you get as many of your responsibilities to move like clockwork, it’ll be easier to schedule the things that fit in as neatly and help you keep track of your commitments.
Don’t Forget to Sleep!
Nothing slows a person – including a working parent – down more than a lack of quality sleep. It can be easy to burn the midnight oil or wake up extra early to try and squeeze more productivity out of your day, but failing to get adequate rest can have consequences throughout your life. It affects the quality of your work, your decision making abilities and your attitude both at home and at the office. Your family and your colleagues deserve to get you at your best, and you can’t get there if you’re tired and groggy from not getting enough sleep.
Ask for Help
It’s stressful and nearly impossible to balance all of your professional and family responsibilities by yourself. If you stop to take a look around, you might be surprised by the opportunities you have to ask for help from friends and family or from reliable professionals. Talk to other parents at your kids’ school and see if you can take turns watching the kids after school and taking them to soccer practice. A community of trusted friends can help to take some of the pressure off of everyone and you’d be surprised by how many parents are facing similar scheduling challenges. Even more outside help is available if you have enough disposable income to pay for it. Find a nanny, babysitter or tutor to watch the kids and help with homework on the days you need to stay at the office a little later. You can also look for afterschool programs at your workplace, your kids’ school or in your community. The old idiom “it takes a village to raise a child” is even truer now that most parents also hold fulltime jobs, and while an entire village may not be at your disposal, you may be surprised by the help available for the working parent.
Being a working parent is a tough challenge, but the skill and dedication you’ve used to build your career to this point can be applied throughout your life to keep things flowing smoothly. With some careful planning, disciplined execution and reliable help, you’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to juggle all your responsibilities and head into the new schoolyear in midseason form. You’ve got this!