Increasing Personal Productivity During Distance Learning

6 tips for getting your work done with kids at home

Heather Jauquet
Sep 22, 2020 · 7 min read
Image of the author’s “office” provided by the author

This was my year to finally hit some writing goals for myself. My youngest is going to full-day kindergarten and for the first time in 9 years I was going to have large portions of time to myself to knock things off my to-do list. Having my last baby go to school full-time was definitely bitter sweet. Last year, I began dreaming about how I was going to use this time. Other than the never ending chores and errands, I was going to dedicate days on my calendar for writing. If I could get away with it, I was going to dedicate a portion of everyday to my writing. But thanks to the pandemic, my kids are all distance learning from home and my husband has been working from his home office since March.

Having five other people home means my house is never quiet. While each child has their own space for their school time, they all have different schedules so when one is on break, another is still in class. My makeshift office has always been the kitchen table. But since I was only able to dedicate 1–2 hours two days a week to my writing, it has never been an issue. Now, my “office” is at the end of the couch next to my kindergartener’s dedicated learning space. She’s fairly independent, but as she reminds me, she can’t read yet so I still have to help her navigate getting online for her class. I thought this set up was going to put a damper on my writing goals. Everyone else had a dedicated desk space, but me. But I have found that sitting next to her has actually made me more productive! How is that possible?

Have you ever heard that adage from Lucille Ball: If you want to get something done, ask a busy person. I’ve always wondered if it’s true, but if you look at anyone who volunteers or those who are on several committees at work, it’s totally true. It also seems like it’s the same 5–7 people doing several different jobs. But they have learned to time manage effectively. When I became a stay at home mom there were months where I was busier and worked more than when I was working full time as a teacher. I was volunteering weekly at my children’s schools and their after school activities. My day started before theirs and often times ended well past a typical duty day if I was working a traditional 9–5 job.

So here we are four weeks into the school year and in my makeshift office at the end of the couch I have cranked out more stories than I thought possible. I know that I only have x amount of minutes to get anything written before any of my four children are on a break. Even as I write this my teenager has just approached me talking to me about assignments and grades. Sometimes my children flit in and out of my peripheral vision to share something about their day and then move along before I can look up.

So how do I do it? How do I write while juggling 4 children’s schedules and their various breaks? How is it possible to get anything one with someone always vying for my attention? Here’s what I do:

  1. I write in time chunks. I write for 15 minutes at a time and take a break if needed. If no one needs my attention right away I keep writing until someone asks for my attention. 15 minutes seems like a short amount of time, but it’s dedicated time. I’m not wandering aimlessly on the internet. I know it’s just a matter of time that I have to stop, so I write as much as I can in the time given to me.

When I found that we were going into distance learning with the kids, I was mourning the loss of having time to myself to get things done. I honestly thought I would have to put off being productive in my writing for yet another year. My husband’s job isn’t flexible. When he’s in a meeting, he is in a meeting and no one can interrupt. I had no idea how many meetings that man could have in a day and now I do. I’m glad that it’s him and not me. Yes, the kids are in school, but I’m constantly called away to help them print something, access technology, follow up on an assignment, or answer a random question. While more independent day by day, my kindergartner wants me working next to her while she’s online for her class. That has more to do with anxiety and that some personal health issues that have cropped up for me so she’s in this phase of always wanting mommy around.

But now that we’ve found our groove, I am more productive in the last 4 weeks than I have been in the last 8 months. I can still get my work done while attending to all the ups and downs of distance learning. It is possible without neglecting my children or my work.

I’m not so arrogant to think that these tips will work for everyone due to job expectations and the ages of the children at home. Take these tips with a grain of salt. I know that this does not take into account families with younger children at home. That’s another ball of wax, but doable, and requires a lot more maneuvering of the day. It doesn’t take into account if you are needed in meetings many hours throughout the day, like my husband. And if you’re a teacher working from home while your children are also distance learning, thank you for your dedication. You are a true superhero. But for the rest of us, it is possible to check off your work to-do list amidst the chaos of distance learning.

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Heather Jauquet

Written by

Writer. Wife. Mom. Runner. Crocheter. Cancer patient in a pandemic.

Family Matters

A publication for parents and families of all types to share their experiences.

Heather Jauquet

Written by

Writer. Wife. Mom. Runner. Crocheter. Cancer patient in a pandemic.

Family Matters

A publication for parents and families of all types to share their experiences.

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