Science fiction grandmaster Ray Bradbury tells a story about how his dystopian science fiction masterpiece Fahrenheit 451 is literally a “dime novel.”
He wrote most of it during the summer, trying his hardest to write while his two daughters peeked in the window and asked him to come out and play with them. He could not resist. As deadlines approached, he went to a local college and used a coin-fed typewriter so he could work without interruption. The book was literally written with the help of a stack of dimes.
Solopreneurs and others with a home-based business know the first half of this story already. You live it every summer, every spring break, every teacher conference break day. It’s a real challenge both to your productivity and your relationship with your family. Here are four solutions family men and women just like you are applying to help them get things done during the summer.
- Block Your Schedule
Schedule the day in one-or-two-hour blocks where you give the kids your full and undivided attention, then set them to a self-sufficient task for the next block while you focus on work. Younger kids might need shorter spans, while older kids can handle some of the household chores you’re dropping in favor of quality time. For example:
- Start the day with a two-hour work block before the kids get up. Focus on your most vital tasks
- Two hour block for breakfast, wake up and morning games
- Put in a video or set up a board game, then spend an hour on communications, billing and other short tasks
- Two hour block of playtime, library trip or other cool kid-and-parent time.
- Lunch with the kids
- One hour of after-lunch mellow time while you do another hour of communications and administrative tasks
- For the work that requires the most uninterrupted attention, leverage the early morning and late evening hours while the kids are in bed. If that means sleeping less at night, so be it – enjoy nap time with your little ones during the day.
- “Mommy’s Helpers” are pseudo-babysitters usually about tween-aged who will come in and play with/supervise kids while the parents are at home doing other things. They cost a lot less than hiring somebody to do the work you’re doing, and could give you two uninterrupted hours during the day.
Find a local friend or family member who’s also a solopreneur or simply works from home – you’ll be surprised how many there are these days. Arrange to trade off kid responsibility and work time on a day by day, or morning/afternoon shift. This gives you uninterrupted work time while simultaneously having your kids spend more social time than they might have during a normal summer.
- Check parenting community boards in your area for meetups where mom and dad micropreneurs agree to congregate at an indoor play space with Wi-Fi to share the load while being productive.
- Though it might disrupt the usual family schedule, married parents can essentially do this with their partners. Be sure to communicate your needs clearly and define responsibilities to avoid this turning into another work-related stressor.
- Hire Your Kids
Even small hands can apply postage or help sort papers, and teenagers can take on a surprising amount of admin and organizational work. Not only does this let you be productive while enjoying quality time with your kids, it can give the older ones a start on building a resume. Gamifying tasks – which will probably be the only way to get some younger kids on board – can make it more fun for you, too.
- Check with your accountant or tax lawyer to find out some of the tax benefits of this strategy. Some tax laws encourage hiring family, which can help with college planning and other savings.
- Combine this with blocking out work and play time to create a rhythm to the work day and ensure you all get some off-duty hours as well
The challenge of summer is that your kids aren’t in school anymore. One solution is to send them to some kind of enriching activity for long enough to get your work done. Check with your local parks and recreation department for a list of inexpensive half-day and full-day summer camps in your area. While you’re at it, check in with their karate teacher, piano instructor and scout leaders since daytime activities for summer are a growing trend in all of those industries. Your library will also have a schedule of activities a nanny could take them to. When micropreneurs start researching this for their own area, most are surprised at the quantity and quality of available options they hadn’t heard of before.
- Most areas have a higher-priced, but incredibly cool summer camp option like Portland, Oregon’s Tracker Camps where kids learn archery, wilderness survival, cryptography or how to survive the Zombiegeddon. Consider splurging for a week of awesome, during which you really crank out your own work load.
- This challenges some parents because it feels like missing a chance to be with your kids. Keep in mind that you are a working parent, and that most working parents lack the luxury of spending the day with their kids. If you spend half the day with them, and send them off for enriching adventures for the other half, you are still way ahead of the game.
What’s your favorite adorable story of kids getting into your workflow? What’s your best solution for navigating those waters? Sound off in the comments to share with your fellow Kabbage solopreneurs.