With life under lockdown so different from our norm, and the uncertainty of how and when life may ever be ‘normal’ again, it is so easy to feel out of control and overwhelmed. The common structure and routines of our lives have fallen by the wayside.

We may flounder, struggling to keep an income going while managing small kids and a work and home life that have suddenly become one. This was not what we planned! We’re surrounded by distractions and temptations, and may be anxious about many things, including our children’s education and wellbeing. 

For me, it becomes essential to create structures and routines in the midst of this new normal. A weekly and daily schedule, and a little planning, have become my life savers in the past few weeks.

A weekly and daily schedule

It is likely that you and other family members have work or study needs which must continue in the midst of family life. A schedule for the week, discussed and agreed to by all, will allow each person uninterrupted time for their pursuits while household requirements are not neglected.

In our house, for example, on a Tuesday and Thursday my husband works full days and I take care of our child and home. On a Monday, Wednesday and Friday I work half days while my husband looks after our child. This means we each have dedicated work time where we can remain focused and productive, without having to deal with constant interruptions from a toddler.

Non-negotiables

We learned from Sasha Foster’s Business Basics training– ‘How to build a business that supports your personal goals’ – that to create an effective schedule, we need to start with the non-negotiables. That means a set amount of sleep each night, regular mealtimes, daily exercise and, for some, prayer. These are family activities that are engaged in together or separately, depending on your personality and situation. They create the parameters of your day.

My non-negotiables include quite time in the morning for prayer, enough sleep, and some time with the horses each day. A weekly re-assess with the family will ensure that where things haven't worked, they can be changed or improved upon. Keep communication channels open. 

A personal and work routine

For me,  a routine is a set of activities we do in a certain order, often to prepare ourselves for an activity or for the day ahead. 

Our day includes multiple areas where we can use a routine to get us into a certain mood or headspace. For example, a morning routine allows you to prepare for the day, to feel energised, focused and prepared. A quick routine before you sit down to work can help you to switch your mind from the chaos of home, to focused and productive work time. A bedtime routine will help your mind and body wind down and prepare for sleep, gradually over the course of an hour or so. Anyone with kids knows how magical it can be when you get the bedtime routine right for the kids!

For me, my ideal morning routine lasts about two hours, but can be compressed if need be! I like to wake up and spend a few minutes in prayer expressing gratitude for my loved ones. I will then get out of bed, go to the loo, unlock for the dogs and switch on the kettle. With a cup of hot water I will then spend the next 40 min or so with my bible, a few worship songs and in prayer. Hopefully the men are still asleep, and I will quickly get dressed and slip out of the house for a quick walk with Sasha, then feed and check the horses, do a 10 min therapeutic exercise routine with Sasha, and there we have it. I’m ready to face my family and my workday!

To get myself into the right headspace to sit in front of my computer, especially for writing or creative work, my routine is simple – make a cup of coffee ?.

The routines you create and take advantage of depend on you and your personality – embrace them, but don’t come to rely on them too much. Some days, you wont be able to get any of those things done, and some days you might get them all done.

A schedule for kids

One aspect of working life that almost certainly will not feel ‘normal’ is having to schedule your kids’ time in addition to your own. For seven or more hours per day they have been under the care of teachers. Suddenly, you have to set boundaries and plan their schedule, and you’re not used to it!

I think the first step is simply accepting that a large part of your own effectiveness depends on how well your children are slotted into a daily routine. You will never work well if kids are all over the place. If you have not already, establish an age-appropriate daily routine for them.  Older children should stick to a routine that is as similar as possible to the school day (or morning, at any rate), with a schedule of online classes or TV classes (there are dedicated channels for this), educational YouTube clips and extra reading, writing and maths tasks which you will have to research and plan! There is an enormous amount of help out there for this.

Most of us are not home schoolers, but I am told on good authority that with well-selected activities, a child can actually get an entire schools day’s work done in about two hours – spread across a morning, with breaks. Afternoons should not go all to pieces, but can include an hour of reading, artwork, exercise, cookery, or other!  

Fun activities

Why not keep a range of activities handy that kids or other family members can get into throughout the day when not working? I keep a set of activities handy; an exercise routine that is fun and enlivening, puzzles of various kinds, musical instruments, colouring pens and paper. And of course, for my toddler, my doggy exercise equipment makes for a great play area. Be creative about setting up these activities according to the things each family member loves to do. A visit with the chickens or planting some seedlings in the garden would suit some people, while others would rather draw a picture, read a book, or play a video game. There is room for all in a scheduled day.

A dedicated space for work

Our brains switch easily from ‘home’ mode to ‘work’ mode when we go somewhere to work. It’s a lot harder to make that switch when home and work are the same place. Creating a dedicated space for work can help us enter and exit ‘work mode’ more easily. So spend time setting up your home office, keeping a clear space around you, and removing all non-work-related items from your immediate vicinity, which will only distract you.

Children, too, will enjoy a work space and a play space. My toddler has a workstation next to mine, set up for calm activities he can engage in while I work. Older kids doing schoolwork will benefit from a designated work area which they can leave and re-enter, knowing what is expected when they are there. 

It’s going be a challenge!

None of this is easy. We’re all making huge adjustments and it may take time to get routines going that actually work. Be patient with yourself. Remember, this may be a longer-term necessity than any of us imagine right now, so the attitudes and skills we’re currently working on may stand us in good stead for the long haul.

There is a lot to learn. Those of us who have done the Business Basics training have already learned a number of skills we can apply immediately; among them are ‘mastering time maximization’, the 80/20 rule, and a number of others training videos focusing on the business side of our Vet Rehab practices. Now is the ideal time to work on the systems and strategies that underpin your work and transform that thing we all love – our vet rehab work – into a thriving business.

With a plan and a schedule we can come out of this better equipped to run a successful vet rehab business than we were when we started!

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