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Productivity hacks for working parents

By Sarah Clarke from Shine Brighter Consulting

If you’re anything like me, your working day is now punctuated by endless demands for snacks and refereeing. Working at home, be that in your own business or working remotely for a corporate, can be really tricky right now. Particularly if you have small people to care for.

Emotions are heightened, alone time is next to non-existent and our homes have become our places of work, schools and playgrounds overnight.

I’ve found it useful to remind myself that what I am attempting to do right now is not ‘homeschool my children whilst running my business’, but try to ensure my business weathers this storm and keep my children safe and happy during a pandemic.


As soon as I reframed what I was asking of myself and lowered the bar (you won’t see much sourdough or banana bread being baked over here – how do people have the time?!) I have felt much calmer. Find the bar, lower it and then lower it some more. That is all we can expect of ourselves right now.

It’s also a fact that employers have varying levels of empathy for the difficulties facing working parents (it helps if they have children of their own!). On the most part, they are being very supportive, but if you need more flexibility, and you have a good relationship with them, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Your wellbeing should be their utmost priority right now.

As a work happiness expert specialising in career and leadership coaching, here are a few productivity hacks that might help you optimise your working day.

When you’re plain knackered:

If your energy is flagging and you’re faced with an overwhelming to-do list, stop and take a step back. What is there in this enormous list that would allow you to play to your natural strengths and talents? When we leverage our strengths, we find flow, we lose track of time and we become energised. Handy for those times when we need to kick start the day in a positive way. We also tend to get our best results when we use our innate strengths so the feeling of satisfaction you’ll feel for a ‘job well done’ will spur you on to tackle the rest of your tasks.

When your motivation has gone AWOL:

Let’s face it, there are plenty of reasons why you might be feeling less motivated at the moment – whether that is in your career or whilst running your own business. Maybe you’re worried about what the future holds or you’d rather be watching Disney+ with the kids than preparing the latest P&L…? But what is well-known in the world of employee engagement and happiness, is the motivational nature of our values. Our values are those deeply rooted, fundamental beliefs about what we think is important in life. They are our moral compass and determine the choices we make in life and work. If you can ensure that your business or performance goals are aligned with your personal values, you’ll be much more motivated to work towards them. And by weaving your strengths into the execution of these goals, you’ll be even more likely to achieve them.

Unfortunately, we don’t all have the luxury of working for companies or doing work that is meaningful (i.e aligned with our values) – maybe something to consider once this storm passes! – but what you can do is try to find meaning in the work you have to do every day. For example, if altruism is a core value of yours, how could you support others in need (at work or outside of work) to satisfy that value? Could you leverage your innate talent and strength for empathy to help those in need – either in work or society- right now? Insert your own values and strengths here to get your own motivation and drive back again.

Eat the frog:

If there is something you have been putting off (perhaps because it doesn’t play to your strengths!) then often they often say that the best thing to do is to ‘eat the frog’…in other words, just start. After 5 minutes of working on it, you will hopefully see that it’s not as intimidating after all. The smugness you’ll feel after having eaten the frog will also spur you on.

Chunk your day:

The Pomodoro technique of ‘chunking’ your work into 25 minute bite-size stints has proven to improve focus and efficiency and the likelihood of finding flow. The chances are that you rarely have the luxury of even 25 minutes uninterrupted time anyway right now – so this might be easier to achieve than usual! The theory is, we shouldn’t spend more than 25 minutes working on the same thing as the quality of our thinking becomes impaired. Stop and take a break, walk around, make a cup of tea etc between each ‘pomodoro’ before getting back to work. The free Timmy timer app can help you with this.

Be human:

And finally, there is no right or wrong way to be coping in this crisis. As you have probably read elsewhere; yes we are all weathering the same storm but we are travelling in very different boats. We can choose how we respond but not what the storm throws at us. So don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help, show vulnerability and be human. Some of the most prized qualities in leaders right now are vulnerability, compassion and resilience. If you manage a team, this is what your people are looking for from you in these strange times. Consider ways to build your own resilience and wellbeing through mindfulness, reconnecting with nature, getting quality sleep (small people permitting!) and looking after your mental health. If your youngest joins your team meeting via Zoom, so what? Who will think less of you? We are all in this together and being human is the only thing we all have in common right now. We are all juggling and making it through every day the best we can.

By Sarah Clarke

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