Julie Morgenstern is the person you talk to when you’re having a hard time getting anything done. The author of the bestselling book Organizing From the Inside Out, Morgenstern is a leading expert on how to structure both work and personal days. She’s also a parent, who knows that lowering expectations is pretty critical right about now.
What’s the best tool to make the new schedules and agendas clear?
I think a visual tool is the most helpful. If you have a wipe board, put the whole schedule for the day on it. The more complete the better. Wakeup time, meals, activities, snacks, entertainment, downtime, exercise. Everything. You want to make a visual reminder for everyone.
Think of it like a camp activity board. This way, families know what they’re supposed to do at what time of the day. And when someone gets antsy it’s easy to point to the schedule and say “oh just another twenty minutes. At 3 o’clock we’re going to have a break.
Many parents are working from home and caring for kids at the same time. What’s the best way to handle that arrangement?
I wholeheartedly recommend that the parents oversee the kids in shifts, two-hours on, two hours off. The parent who is “on” with the kids is in the room with them, overseeing their activities or schoolwork, while working on their own interruptible work — answering emails, filling out forms, whatever. This is important because if the kids need help or start squabbling, you can step in. The parent who is “off” has two hours of doing work on their own. During that time, they should prioritize deep thinking work: conference calls, proposal writing — things that demand your full attention.
Will this system always work? No. Sometimes you’ll have a can’t-miss conference call during your shift. But it’s a great starting point.