School newbies! Adjusting to working within school hours.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland give their thoughts on how to adjust to working within school hours thanks to an excellent question from Jon Richards.

Jon runs Obladee, a design studio specialising in branding and identity design.

He says:

“With our oldest just starting school, I’m wondering how others deal with the change of routine with set drop off and pick up times? Is there any tips or advice of how to adapt to these new work hours from parents that have school kids?”

This episode is supported by the brilliant Cowly Owl, who make mobile & tablet games for the whole family to play together.

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:


• We tend to fill up the time we have available to us, so less time doesn’t necessarily mean lower productivity. If anything, it may push you to be more efficient with the time you have!

• Don’t check your email straight away when you get back from the school drop-off. Ignore your inbox and concentrate on the tasks that you really need to get done. You can come back to your email later.

• Set an alarm for when you need to leave the house to pick up the kids. That way, you’re not constantly clock watching all afternoon and should be less distracted.

• Leave some wiggle room in your day. Don’t schedule back-to-back meetings or important calls for 2.45pm. More likely than not, your day might not go quite as you planned it so leave a bit of flexibility in case things change.

• Be realistic about what you can do in the time you have. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you haven’t made a dent in your to-do-list. Give yourself manageable tasks and you’ll feel like a winner by the end of the day!

• Sign the kids up to an after school club or class. That way you avoid the school pickup rush hour, get a bit more time at home and the kids are happy too — winner.

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:01:05] – Frankie
Hello. You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie, and this is Steve.

[00:01:15] – Steve
Hello. Yes, welcome back. Look at that. Two months off and she’s still got it.

[00:01:19] – Steve
Welcome to another one where we take the questions from the Doing It For The Kids community, do our best to answer them, and then, of course, we also share the answers that you guys give in the community itself on the next episode.

[00:01:47] – Steve
Okay, let’s go all the way back to episode 15 then. And you’re like, ‘I know what it was. It was one of my favourites!’ But I’m going to tell you anyway.

[00:01:54] – Steve
The short version of the question was: “Is it a good idea to turn down properly paid work to carve out time for business building?”

[00:02:02] – Steve
Okay, remember? Good.

[00:02:04] – Frankie
No, I don’t.

[00:02:06] – Steve
You don’t? Well, Lisa Clavering remembered anyway, because she got in touch at the time. She’s probably listening. She’s probably just heard her name and gone, ‘Did I?’

[00:02:17] – Steve
Lisa said:

“I always hear that quote about how the most successful people say no to almost everything, but it’s pretty easy to say no once you’re already successful, right? I think when you’re building a business, you need to do what works to keep everything going. Yes, pipeline investment is important.”

That’s a good phrase, isn’t it?

[00:02:36] – Steve
“And you should keep some space in your life for some of that building up stuff but paid client work that you want to do and ticks your boxes is also a business building opportunity.”

[00:03:12] – Frankie
And on that point, Dave Smyth said:

“I’ve always interpreted the advice about marketing your business as making better use of non-billable hours. Working out how much time you want to spend on billable and non-billable things was something I didn’t do for ages, but it’s been really helpful.

For instance, you might work out you have 30 hours a week and allocate 20 to billable work. Once you’ve done this, loads of things get easier. Working out your rate, knowing your schedule…
It also means that if a client gets in touch and wants to book you, you can decide whether to eat into the non-billable time, book them into a free week in the future — hello, cash flow! — or put them on a waiting list.”

[00:03:43] – Frankie
Scarcity marketing. Love a bit of scarcity marketing.

That’s so hard to say. Scarcity marketing.

[00:03:50] – Frankie
Dave continues:

“Rejecting short-term work for the promise of long-term gain can be flipped too. You never know when the dry period might crop up. Focusing on current work and not looking to the next project. Feast and famine is an absolute freelance classic. The time you spend marketing your business, even if it’s only to a small degree, is really valuable in the long run.”

[00:04:08] – Steve
So wise.

[00:04:08] – Frankie
And that was the short version.

[00:04:12] – Steve
Ingrid Fernandez has been in touch as well.

Ingrid says:

“I haven’t previously felt comfortable turning down paid work in favour of business building but all that leads to, from my experience, is overwork because the business building stuff still needs to be done to some extent.
So I’m getting better at blocking out times in my diary for both paid and unpaid work and I tend not to move things around unless something urgent comes up. I try and think of it as balancing working on my business and working in my business. The business needs both if it’s going to survive.”

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:07:49] – Frankie
This week’s question comes from Jon Richards. Good story about Jon Richards, turns out we were both YouTubers at the same time. In a former life, I was featured on his-

[00:08:00] – Steve

[00:08:01] – Frankie
Yeah, I know. This is a whole other world of excitement. I used to do vlogs and sing songs that I’d written on the internet. And Jon had an account where he profiled musicians and I did a video for his channel, and then he’s been in my group for ages and then he messaged me on Facebook. He was like, ‘Hang on, I just clocked that you are ‘insert username here that I’m not going to tell you so you can’t Google it’’.

But yeah, me and Jon have like some weird former YouTube life action. There you go.

[00:08:29] – Steve
Do you know, there are so many questions, but go on.

[00:08:33] – Frankie
Jon is a designer, runs a design studio specialising in branding and identity design.

Jon says:

“With our oldest just starting school, I’m wondering how others deal with the change of routine with set drop off and pick up times. Are there any tips or advice on how to adapt to these new work hours from parents that have school kids?”

[00:08:48] – Frankie
I’m in the same position as Jon here, so I’m going to default to Steve.

So Steve, wise sage school-aged children freelancer…

[00:08:59] – Steve
So what’s he after? Tips?

[00:09:01] – Frankie
It’s about adapting your schedule and your working within school hours. The constraints of school hours, pick ups, drop offs.

[00:09:07] – Steve
What were your nursery hours when your son was in nursery?

[00:09:11] – Frankie
Crazy long.

[00:09:12] – Steve
Okay. So yeah, I think if you’ve gone from something like that to suddenly the 9am till 3pm thing… I mean, 9am till 3pm is when they’re there, right? But really that means you’re probably not getting back to where you work and sitting down and properly working until about half nine.

Or like, when our son started school, I still had to take our daughter to nursery, so I dropped him off at quarter to nine and then basically I wouldn’t start work until 10 by the time I got back from nursery. So yeah, really you only have about 5 hours, is that, to work in?

[00:09:48] – Steve
Here’s the good news, I swear, I think we fill the time we have to a certain extent.

Now, sure, there are some tasks which can only be done. Like, when I edit videos — you can’t really shorten some processes. They have to fill up a certain amount of time. But so much of our work day, I think we end up filling the time that we have.

If you have 8 hours, you end up taking 8 hours.

[00:10:13] – Steve
But I think you will soon adapt just your whole way of working to fill the 5 to 6 hours. I think that’s the good news.

You know how you became a lot more efficient somehow when you had kids? I reckon the same happens again when your kids go to school. That you-

[00:10:32] – Frankie
Level up?

[00:10:32] – Steve
Yeah. That you adapt and you just become more time efficient.

[00:10:37] – Steve
Things I do though, I think I’ve said before… Like, I go home or to the office and I don’t look at my email straight away, I crack on with a task. I think it’s quite useful to have the first part of your day at least, to use that time for the key tasks that you want to get done.

So that’s at one end of the day. At the other end of the day… I find that, yeah, you don’t have to pick up your kids until 3.15pm, but you start worrying about it and thinking about it about 1pm. Or maybe it’s just me?

[00:11:04] – Steve
So I like to set an alarm to remind me to go and pick them up. Because once the alarm is set, then your brain switches off from having to remember that thing. That then means you have more time to work in that afternoon as well.

[00:11:18] – Steve
I think another good thing to do is to leave some slack in your day. So a bit of wiggle room, a little bit of livin’ la vida loca!

[00:11:27] – Frankie
I did not expect Ricky Martin to make it into this episode. Not going to lie.

[00:11:35] – Steve
I’m quite bad at this. I will try and cram as much into that time as possible. For example, I will schedule calls at 2pm to end at 3pm, thinking, ‘That’s fine, I’ve got 15 minutes to get to school’. But I think if you pack too much into that day, then when other things crop up, it’s going to knock you back and then that’s going to start to stress you out as you head towards school pickup time.

[00:11:59] – Frankie
Touching on what Dave was saying in the comments about the previous episode, is there an argument for getting a bit more organised about what happens on what day? Maybe Fridays are a marketing day, Thursdays are like admin and finance or scheduling things into the time you have in a more structured way?

[00:12:17] – Steve
Batching makes total sense too, doesn’t it? Batching certain tasks in certain ways. I now leave all my finance stuff until Friday afternoon, for example. I think that’s a good idea. It’s probably a good idea whether or not you have kids at school or not, really, isn’t it?

[00:12:30] – Frankie
Scratch that then.

[00:12:31] – Steve
No, but what’s cool about that is the fact that you’re thinking about that and you’re wondering, ‘Should I try that?’ And I think what’s kind of good is if you just experiment with different things, so try them out and then choose what works for you.

[00:12:47] – Frankie
I’m currently very much of the ‘make it up as I go along’ type freelance approach where it’s like… I literally get up, I’ve got Trello boards that I don’t even know how to use. Basically, I’ve got a Trello account, it’s like one board with like 1000 things on one list.

[00:13:04] – Steve
Like the scrolling credits at the end of Star Wars?

[00:13:07] – Frankie
Exactly. Endless scroll, yes.

My current approach is vaguely look at that at the beginning of a week maybe and go, ‘What do I need to get done this week?’

It’s all very liquid, fluid, and frankly a bit disorganised.

[00:13:20] – Frankie
Whereas if you speak to Dave, for example, everything is compartmentalised and I’m the complete opposite. And I wonder whether now my kid is at school, is this the time to bite the bullet and actually organise my shit?

[00:13:33] – Frankie
Because all the advice you get given about having school age kids, right, is like: Be organised. Get one of those charts where it’s, ‘Let’s brush our teeth, have our breakfast’, tick, tick, tick. ‘Put our shoes on, put out their uniform the night before, the clothes they are going to wear’, whatever.

And I wonder whether I should take that approach to my business. I mean, frankly, I should take that approach to my life. I should be laying out my outfit the night before. But let’s be honest, I wear the same two pairs of trousers all the time…

[00:13:58] – Steve
One thing as well, about that whole 9am till 3pm thing — if you can get them in to an after school club? Bingo, you’ve hit the jackpot! There are some clubs which probably run every single day, because, unlike us, people don’t have flexible days. I’m talking about maybe a sports club or whatever it is.

[00:14:17] – Frankie
Yeah, we signed up for a dance one.

[00:14:18] – Steve
There you go. So those are great. Not just because it pushes the time they leave school back to say, 4.20pm or 4.30pm, but the school run rush hour is intense. And so actually, if you can just nudge it back to 4.30pm, it’s just so much nicer picking them up at that time.

[00:14:38] – Frankie
And is it also a question of just being more ruthless?

[00:14:42] – Steve
Yeah, I think so. Yes, it’s saying no to things.

I mean, for example, the school were asking, ‘Does anybody want to join guided reading?’ We go in at 9am and you read with the kids. And I’ve never done it because I thought, ‘Well, no, I need to crack on with work’. But I nearly did it this year. Nearly did it because I thought it was probably the last opportunity I’ve got to do it with our children.

[00:15:01] – Frankie
It’s a good point. You feel like you should do those things because you have the flexibility, too. But then if you signed up for all of that stuff, you’ll be at the school more than you’ll be at your desk.

[00:15:10] – Steve
All schools are different, but our ones will have, like, ‘come in and meet the teacher’ or ‘work sharing’. For us, anyway, there’s quite a lot of those things that seem to crop up. I guess that also helps if you’ve not stuffed your day full of hopes and dreams of work. When you’ve got that little bit of wiggle room, it makes it easier to do those things.

[00:15:31] – Frankie
I did a post about school starting and being confined to exactly this — the two drop-offs and pick-ups a day. Somebody just wrote something like, ‘Do not join the PTA. Make sure you make no eye contact with the PTA’ or something like that.

[00:15:49] – Steve
Here’s the thing, though, right? Yes, avoid the PTA. As soon as they sniff a weakness in you, you’ll be volunteering at cake sales for the rest of your life.

And yet, I can almost hear some members of PTA in the group going, ‘But what about all the good we do?’ And they do amazingly good things for school.

[00:16:05] – Frankie
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:16:07] – Steve
You have to be realistic about what you can do with your time. What you might find is that in a few years time, when your kids are a bit older, that then is a good time to join the PTA.

[00:16:17] – Frankie

[00:16:18] – Steve
So it might be when they’re in Year Four, Five or Six, rather than early on.

[00:16:24] – Steve
Oh, yeah, there’s another thing. I just opened up my fruit salad while we’re recording this. Oooh, blueberry! As part of that structure of your reduced hours — the idea of thinking about what you’re going to have for lunch or snacks.

[00:16:39] – Frankie
Oh, yeah, that was it. We talked about that on the Instagram Live the other day, didn’t we? So if you’re doing your kids’ packed lunch, you could literally do your own one at the same time.

[00:16:46] – Steve
Yeah. Or just to think about it. Just to know what it is that you’re going to have. Even if you’re somebody who likes to cook your lunch fresh, you know it, you’ve made a plan so that, again, your brain isn’t having to think about it. You just stand up and you crack on and you do that if you’ve thought about it in advance.

I’ve said before, I make my kids and my wife fruit salad in the evening for her to take to work the next day and for them to eat. So why not make myself some too?

[00:17:15] – Frankie
I feel like, in 5, 10 years’ time you’re going to do a TED Talk and it’s going to be called ‘How Fruit Salad Changed My Life’.

What would your advice be?

Let us know your thoughts using #DIFTKpodcast on Twitter and Instagram, and join in the conversation in the DIFTK Community.