Jayne Little - CEO, Skills 4 Ltd

As a single parent, I know what a challenge it can be to strike a good balance between work and parenting at the best of times; homeschooling has taken that challenge to a whole new level! Here are my sanity tips for working parents; I truly hope you find them helpful!

1 Compartmentalise your role.
I love being a parent and I love my job too! It’s fantastic to have two hats; I just need to remember to wear one hat at a time. Trying to read work emails whilst talking with your child means you won’t be doing either job well. It’s important to compartmentalise your roles or it will end in tears (most likely yours)

2. Structure is key – but make sure it works around you
Structure your days so you can spend some guilt-free time giving your children your full attention and also some time focussing purely on work. For me that means sometimes I have an earlier start, or catch up on work in the evening, but I am far more productive (and happier) when I structure my time rather than trying to do two things at once all day.

3. Stop comparing yourself to others
One of the biggest wastes of our time is comparing ourselves to others. Most of us know some ‘super parents’ who love share that this week their child has learnt to play a new instrument; is learning a new language etc, whilst the rest of us are struggling to keep pace with reading, writing and maths. Everyone’s circumstances are different, it is unrealistic and unfair to draw comparisons– it is a waste of your precious time.

4. Focus on what you DO achieve, rather than what you do not
Why go to bed worrying about all the things you haven’t done? Instead, take a few minutes each morning to set three key intentions for the day. My daily intentions are based on my priorities and how I am feeling that morning; they could relate to work, to home or a mix of the two. They could be ambitious (writing a training module) or smaller (making a call I have been putting off) but I always set three.

As you climb into bed at night, focus on what you HAVE achieved – including your three intentions. Give no mind to what you have not done, tomorrow is another day!

5. Get outside
Love it or loathe it, we all know that exercise is great for you, for your children and for everyone’s mental health. Even if you feel overwhelmed, too tired, or too busy – make sure you get yourselves outside every day, come rain or shine.

6. Don’t underestimate ‘me time’
It can be hard to justify ‘me time’ when life is busy with work and children, but looking after yourself is key if you are going to continue supporting others. Whether you like to exercise, meditate, or just relax with a magazine, take 30 minutes a day…that is only 3% of your time!! (Based on a waking day of 16 hours)

7. Forget perfectionism
Another waste of your precious time! Its important to know when ‘good’ is ‘good enough’, this is a marathon not a sprint.

**8. Be mindful of Parkinson’s Law **
Work expands to fill the time made available for its completion. Get into the habit of ring-fencing your time. This gives you three advantages:
• Overcome procrastination.
• Get good at evaluating how long tasks really take.
• It stops you ‘polishing the daisies’ this is especially important when it comes to domestic chores. Rather than saying ‘I must clean the house this morning’, say ‘I am going to spend 40 minutes cleaning this house’, and then set a timer. In a house with children, it often looks as messy as ever two hours later, no matter how long you spend cleaning.

9. Review your support network, ask for help if you need to
“Asking for help does not mean you are giving up; it means you are refusing to give up.” The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, by Charlie Mackesy
Look at your immediate and wider support network to see who else can help lighten the load. Consider giving age-appropriate chores to your children; from sorting the clothes in the laundry basket to clearing up after lunch - all good life-skills!

10. Be grateful
Try to bear in mind (even on the tough days) that no parents before us have had the challenge – or privilege – of spending so much time with their children or the joy of teaching them and sharing in their achievements.