For many parents, trying to float between work obligations, childcare, assisting kids with remote learning, and taking care of household items has been difficult. Adding to this is likely stress around the uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic, adjusting to new routines or lacking an effective one, not having sufficient time for self-care, and trying to adapt to constantly changing or evolving obligations in different domains. If you are someone who struggled with keeping your life organized before the pandemic, there is an even greater chance that you may be struggling now. Regardless, here are some practical strategies to help you take more ownership in organizing your life during the pandemic.
Make a daily schedule. Include items such as:
- required work calls
- times when needing to be available to assist children with remote learning/provide childcare
- block out time for meals
- Block out time to do specific work tasks
- Reserve time for specific household chores (i.e., laundry)
- Block out time to workout, relax, etc.
Putting these items in an electronic calendar (including a family calendar so others can see your availability) is one good option. Other options include writing it out on a whiteboard each day, typing it and keeping one copy on your computer and printing and hanging up another copy in a common area of the home, or keeping a copy in the notes app on your phone.
Estimating completion time for tasks and blocking out sufficient time in your calendar is important to make the schedule work realistically.
Trying not to overschedule things will allow for wiggle room as needed.
Keep a master task list of things that you need to complete.
- Using a task list app such as Reminders, Google Tasks, or Todoist may be useful. Alternatively, writing items on a whiteboard, Google Doc, or Word document, may work well.
- Schedule items to be completed on specific days and during specified time slots if that makes sense for you.
Think about physical organization.
- For example, if you need to keep track of your child’s worksheets or other items that are printed out for Zoom classes, consider printing everything for the week and putting them in folders labeled by day. This makes it easier to find it last minute.
- Consider a central location for important information (i.e., child’s weekly class schedule, list of assignments), your schedule, etc. If you like doing things electronically, keeping this information in an app/computer program such as Cozi, a shared family Google Drive (with folders), or even listed out in a shared notes app or Google Doc could be useful. If keeping things physically is more helpful, think about using a bulletin board, small file system in a common area, or another similar approach.
Get regular physical activity if safe to do so.
- If short on time, try to at least work physical activity into family time and even think about how you can get movement in while working (i.e., do reading or respond to emails while using a desk elliptical, take five minute timed breaks between tasks and do pushups or situps).
- Incorporate relaxation time in if feasible, especially right before bed.
- Watch a television show that you enjoy, try not to watch the news if that makes you more uneasy right before bed, do a puzzle, or play a board or card game with a family member. Most people are on screens far more these days.
- Trying to take breaks from the screen throughout the day, and limiting time right before bed can be helpful. While it may feel good in the moment to scroll through social media right before bed, if you find that that impacts your sleep, try putting the phone down 30 minutes before bed and see if that helps you to fall asleep better and stay asleep during the night.
- If you find that you are getting into frequent conflicts with your significant other over parenting or anything else, set aside a few times a week to have a discussion on specific issues that are arising and problem solve solutions.
- It may be helpful to write down what was discussed and agreed to, so both people can refer back to it later if needed. It is also far more productive in most cases to discuss issues when not in the heat of the moment.
These are just a few suggestions to get you thinking. Obviously, each person’s needs are different, as is what one is willing to try and able to implement/maintain. In some instances, when collaborating with family members, one also has to take into account what is feasible for all people involved.
If you are really struggling with this and finding generalized tools online are not sufficient for you or that you are unable to follow through on systems that you’ve setup for yourself or your family, consider seeking out professional assistance. This comes in many forms, with most options being available remotely. Furthermore, in many instances, taking a small amount of time out of your busy day for an appointment to figure out ways to be more efficient and feel relaxed can make a world of difference.
Copyright 2020 Carey Heller, Psy.D.
*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship, and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*