School’s out for the summer! If you’re an entrepreneur with children, you may feel anxious about how you’ll complete your work while taking care of them. Plus, when the weather is gorgeous, who wants to be stuck indoors? Your kids will be going stir crazy, but you’ll still have work responsibilities to complete. So how do you balance both parts of your life? Here are seven tips for running your business when the school year ends and everyone’s schedules shift.
Create a Schedule
“The number one way to accomplish more during the summer is to plan ahead,” says Robin Walker, founder of the Women’s Business Workshop. “Figure out when and where you can work best from home, and what your kids will be doing during that time. ‘Winging it’ only sets blurry expectations for the kids and a lack of focus for you.” As long as everyone is on the same page, it doesn’t matter whether you use a weekly print-out, a hanging wall calendar or digitally sync your schedule across all your devices.
Set Clear Expectations
If your children are of school-age, then they’re probably old enough to understand that parents have responsibilities. This will make it easier to divide your time between work and play, and your kids are more likely to respect your need for quiet time during work hours. Younger children might not understand this concept. Walker says, “For younger kids, connect one of their activities to your work time. For example, every day your preschooler watches Daniel Tiger while you work at a nearby table. Make sure your child knows that this is your work time. When the show is over, you can play together, but when Daniel Tiger is on, Mommy has to work. This will take a little training, but eventually, the expectations will be set to not interrupt you during the show.”
Reconnect Throughout the Day
You might have been able to work six hours straight while your kids were in school, but it’s not fair to them if you carry that schedule into the summer months. “Surround working hours with special family-time traditions, like morning dance parties, read-aloud time on the couch and phone-free outside time,” says Melissa Droegemueller, an Early Education Advisor. “Be sure to make lots of eye contact, listen well and create memories during this time with your children and they’ll grow to respect the boundaries of your working time.”
Teach Your Kids to Be Independent
It’s incredible how much of the day can be spent doing the same repetitive activities with your children. As they grow, allow them to take on some responsibility for the small day-to-day routines. Droeguemueller says, “Even though my girls are nearly six and nine, they can take up to an hour to eat a simple meal like breakfast or lunch. We make the process easy by preparing a week’s worth of pancakes and sandwiches over the weekend and buying a lot of kid-friendly fruits and veggies — like grapes, baby carrots, cuties and snap peas — that they can dish up themselves. We also keep their dishes and napkins in low drawers so they can set the table, too.” If your children are anything like mine, this tip can save you from spending an immense amount of time preparing impromptu snacks.
Encourage Entrepreneurial Skills
Your children may take an interest in your work when they have the opportunity to see it up close. Allow them to foster their entrepreneurial spirits by starting their own mini-businesses during the summertime. “Having your kids at home means you recognize their interests and strengths before anyone else,” says Droeguemueller. “As an entrepreneur, you can help them set up their own website, create a YouTube channel or ‘hire them’ to help with your business. Your children will get a front-row seat to what ‘following your dreams’ looks like.”
Adjust Your Work Hours
You might not want to hear this, but summer break may mean that your daytime office hours suddenly occur at night or on the weekends. Use the first two weeks of the summer to gauge how much work you can complete during the day with your added distractions, and adjust accordingly. Similarly, you might find that planning for a low-speed summer is better for your work schedule in upcoming years. If you can take some downtime, do it — and let it lighten your load. If not, you may be up late at night completing anything that isn’t done during the day.
While you might be able to adjust your work hours to complete tasks at different times, your clients still expect you to be available during normal business hours. Even if your kids do a great job of keeping themselves busy, you might suffer from the guilt of feeling like you’re neglecting either your work and your children. The best thing to do is to call in some help. Consider sharing childcare duties with a friend so that you both get some uninterrupted time for yourselves. Check with your family members to see if they would be willing to pitch in. Interview local babysitters — they may be home on college breaks. Don’t forget about summer camps that will entertain and educate your children for a few hours every day.
Running your business can be difficult under normal circumstances, but when summer vacation interrupts your perfectly-planned routine, it can take some time to adjust. Set yourself up with systems that will allow you to thrive in both your work and your family environments.