Working 9-3: Getting work done during school hours


You’d have thought that having a child in school meant all the time in the world to focus, right? But for lots of freelance parents, figuring out how to work in school hours can actually be a bit of a challenge.

By the time you’re home from school drop-off, made a cup of tea and checked your emails it’s suddenly time to head back out the door!

Maybe you’ve gone from long nursery days to suddenly 9am till 3pm? Like all things parenting, it’s yet another adjustment.

Making the most of the time available to you is a skill you’ll need to hone if you want to meet deadlines as a freelancer with school-aged kids, and even more so if you want to leave for pick-up feeling satisfied rather than frustrated!

Here’s what the DIFTK community recommend when it comes to getting work done during school hours:


Breathe. You may surprise yourself!

Here’s the good news: you’ll always find stuff to fill the time you have available to you.

If you’re used to working an 8 hour nursery day, you may be panicking about how you’re suddenly going to get as much done in less time. But in reality, we tend to fill the time we have (often with procrastination, endlessly scrolling social media or putting the washing on… again). Actually, we can get what we need to get done within only 5-6 hours instead.

You know how you adapt to survive and became a lot more efficient when you have kids? Well, expect the same levelling up to happen again when your kids go to school. You may surprise yourself!


Prioritise your most important tasks

Some daily admin business tasks can be a huge distraction — oh hi email inbox, we’re looking at you!

If you’re guilty of getting sidetracked by new messages or easily falling down social media rabbit holes, set yourself some boundaries and prioritise your most important tasks first.

That means not checking your emails or social stuff until actual work tasks have been completed.

What those are will be completely dependent on your business and goals, so check in with your to-do list at the start of each day, ignore your inbox, put your phone to one side and give the important stuff your attention first.


Set up a school pick-up alarm

Nobody wants to be clock watching.

Getting into your flow (and staying there!) is crucial when you’re short on time so set a school pick-up alarm. That way, you can stop worrying about what time it is and get on with your day. 

Maybe set two for good measure?


Allow some wiggle room

The key to a successful day of work while the kids are at school? Allowing yourself some wiggle room.

Don’t overload yourself. Avoid booking in important calls that finish 15 minutes before pick-up, or cramming so much on your to-do list that even taking a wee break adds a time pressure.

Go take that pee in peace people — it’s one of the bonuses of the kids being at school!


Get organised

If you’re used to winging it in terms of your daily or weekly work schedule, now is the time to up your organisation skills.

Think about batching tasks, automating stuff where possible, using a project management tool… Try dedicating certain days of the week to get certain types of tasks — for example, Monday is your admin day, Thursday is your marketing day, Friday is your finance day etc.

Routine is great for the kids, and it’s good for us freelancers too. Experiment and see what works for you.


Consider an after-school club

We hate to say it, but sometimes meeting that deadline while only working in school hours just isn’t going to cut it.

It’s times like these that after school clubs or a mutually beneficial ‘play date’ can be a life saver!

Have a look into what your school offers, chat to other parents. Not only will it extend your work day by an extra hour or so but the 3pm school rush can be intense, and by picking up a little later you’ll get to miss it entirely.


Be realistic, maybe even… ruthless?

Look, flexibility is what we’re in this freelance game for but watch yourself.

All schools are different, but there’s usually a tonne of invites that crop up when your kids start school — from PTA meetings to guided reading sessions (you know the stuff), it’s easy to say ‘yes’ to all these things because we have the flexibility to be there.

But be realistic about what you can take on and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’.

Or, you know, just mute those class WhatsApp notifications so you’re none the wiser. You’ll thank yourself later.

More from the blog…

Similar stuff from the DIFTK podcast…

Episode 16: School newbies! Adjusting to working within school hours

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