This school year is proving to be a challenging one for me. I’ve always been careful about how many activities I let my kids take on, so that they still have time to play and have unplanned fun, but I’ve taken on a rather heavy load myself this year. It’s adding to the regular challenges of working at home.

This school year, I have my youngest in a parent participation preschool, which we attend together twice a week, three hours a day. My youngest two play soccer, which means three evenings of taking them to practice a week, and two games to attend each Saturday. I’m also managing my oldest daughter’s Destination Imagination team as a way to handle the school’s parent volunteer requirement. That one will take some serious time as competitions get closer, but is just one hour a week with the team now plus occasional trainings for me.

Add in all the usual work at home obstacles, and it’s a pretty full load. There are days that I’m lucky to have two hours straight to work.

I’ve dealt with tough schedules like this before, however. I had my oldest in an online charter school one year, which was a huge time commitment. I know what these tight schedules take. That doesn’t mean they aren’t challenging.

Dedication

Dedication is the biggest thing you must have when you face work at home obstacles. You have to dedicate whatever time you have available to getting work done. I don’t really like working with so many interruptions, but that’s what it takes.

Cut the Distractions

I’ll admit to a fondness for Candy Crush and a habit of spending too much time reading the entire internet. That last may be somewhat of an exaggeration, but I can safely say I can get way too absorbed in reading all kinds of stuff online.

Times like this, however, I have to focus on reading a lot less. This isn’t easy for me. Just one quick article usually leads to another, and if it doesn’t do so directly, there’s often something new in my feed reader to catch my attention. In terms of productivity it’s an awful habit.

My usual way to handle this is to switch my reading or game playing time to later in the day, after I’ve had some productive work time. Setting a time limit doesn’t always work for me, although it can be effective for others.

Some distractions aren’t so easily managed. My youngest is one of those who likes to be by my side every chance she gets. I’ve had to lock my door to keep her away some days so that she’ll play with my husband or her siblings, but that usually only helps a few hours before she wants me. Having my husband take the kids out someplace fun usually works better.

Find Work Hours Where You Can

Just because you’re running all around doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get some work done. Some days this can mean working in 15 or 30 minute spurts, just so you can get something done. Not fun, but better than not working at all.

You may also be able to work during downtime caused by your children’s activities. Two of my kids play soccer, and I take them to their practices. That doesn’t have to be downtime; I can take my laptop or the iPad and get a bit of work done while they practice. I don’t work during games – the kids like knowing that I saw how they played.

I can’t do that during Destination Imagination team meetings – it takes a lot of effort to keep the kids on track even though I can’t offer direct advice on how to do their project or work on it myself. Just keeping everyone participating can be challenging some days. Pick the times you work around other activities wisely.

Have a To Do List

A good to do list can save a lot of time in your day. You don’t have to stop and think about what needs to get done every time you find the time to work; you check your list and you know.

Get Up Early or Stay Up Late

Lots of people say to get up early if you need more time to work. That doesn’t work for me – I’m a habitual night owl. Getting up early just means I’ll be groggy all day, and I don’t like coffee (sacrilege, I know!). Staying up late works better for me.

If you need more work time, do whichever works better for you. The point is to find time to work when no one else will be bothering you for any reason.

Stick to Your Schedule

Even when you’re overscheduled, sticking with it is better than not. Find the days and times each week that you can work on your at home job or business, and make sure you work at those times.

Remember to Say No

Being overscheduled often comes about by failing to say no often enough. Other times the initial overscheduling issue can’t really be helped, but you can say no to anything new that would add to the problem.

In my case, there’s not really anything I wish I had said no to. My youngest’s preschool is good for her, soccer takes some time, but not too much, and managing the Destination Imagination team is taking care of the parent volunteer hours my kids’ school requires anyhow. If it weren’t that, it would be something else, and DI is way too much fun.

Now, if someone wanted me to commit to something else, I very much doubt I’d do it. Too hard to find the time. It’s time for me to say no to things.

Overall, I’m happy with my current level of somewhat overscheduled. Having a really tough schedule isn’t entirely a bad thing, just be sure it’s not more than you can manage. You don’t want to take on so much that all your hard work to earn an income from home goes down the drain.