The two words ‘school holidays’ can send business owners into a spin. What school holiday activities can business owners take advantage of to help keep themselves sane and keep the kids alive during the holidays? Blog updated 3 December 2020.
2020 has clearly been a disrupted school year. For most of us downunder (Australia and New Zealand) we’re lucky enough to be out of lockdown. This school holidays is going to be more ‘normal’ than previous holidays this year. However with travel still restricted and indications of us not being out of the woods yet, please make sure to adhere to any restrictions in your area.
In the October school holidays, we saw a number of people go on road trips (more so than usual). Instead of flying away, families are staying local and checking out local sites and places they may never have been. There was an old New Zealand tourism campaign, don’t leave town till you’ve seen the country. This slightly odd phrase meant don’t leave NZ, as in see what’s on offer in your own country, and it seems like this year many are doing this.
Every school holidays, I see posts in the first few days with business owners crying out about the pain of juggling their small business and the school holidays. Or worse, the photos of ‘drawings’ where they shouldn’t be or injuries from where the kids shouldn’t have been! So here are some tips to make life a little easier.
Remember you’re working unless you’re not!
When you work in a corporate job, you plan school holidays well in advance as you know you may have to physically go to work during the holidays. In 2020 even this will change though. Some statistics recently show 1/3 of all employees are still working from home. This means more employees are like business owners working around their at-home kids.
As an employee you typically work out what days you’ll take off, what days are covered by activities, family and the like. Too many smaller business owners forget they need to treat their business like an external job, and plan ahead.
The difference is often because your small business still needs to tick over when you’re not there,. Whereas in corporate life all the urgent tasks are attended to while you’re away by your manager or other staff (still of course leaving a hefty pile for your return!). However, being a small business owner this should not stop you from taking a break. We all need a break every now and then – yes even me!
Special interest camps and school holiday activities
If the stars align – your child is interested, and you can afford it, send them for a few days to a camp (tennis, basketball, music, whatever suits). Even shorter activities like ‘Apple Camp’ or school holiday workshops offered by your local small businesses may give you a few hours a day where you take your laptop and do some work while your child has fun and is supervised by someone else. Note with young kids you usually need to participate and supervise too.
Swap playdates with friends and family
If you know other working parents, maybe arrange to have the children stay at one house one day (maybe even with a sleepover). The next day switch them over. Do that two or three times in the holidays to help keep the kids entertained and give you whole day breaks to concentrate on your work. Family visits also work well here. Grandparents often enjoy the kids’ visits, just don’t take advantage of them! The grandparents are ‘enjoying’ the grandkids for a sleepover as I write 😉
Check out all the new online offers
COVID-19 has definitely changed what is available online. It’s not just YouTube, Netflix, TikTok and socials – there are plenty of activities which you may not mind your kids checking out. They can do art, craft, science experiments, learn an instrument – so many choices. Check out some suggestions on the Visit NSW Website.
Old fashioned school holiday fun
For the younger kids chuck them some sheets, blankets, pegs and have them create a dining or lounge fort. I remember as a kid being kept entertained for hours creating and playing in our secret fort. Puzzles are good solo or with others, and of course board games if you have a few kids of similar age who won’t let their competitive streak ruin the game!
Manage your kids expectations
If they’re old enough, explain you have to work in the morning but in the afternoon you will play a game or do an activity with them. Maybe if they’re little angels, at least one of those activities becomes a special one. Brushing kids off is not a good idea. Bargaining can gain you some focused work time. Make sure as a family your communication is clear as to whom is doing what when. Too many meetings I’ve had someone’s small toddler wander in when supposedly the other half was on watch.
Separate office space
Ideally have a separate office space, where it is clear when you are in the office you are at work and are not to be disturbed except for an emergency. Being in an open plan space is not ideal, as it is too easy to be distracted and bugged. Consider visiting a co-working space for real segregation (and to get the other half to really be on watch).
Change your exercise routine for the holidays
Instead of hitting the gym go for a family hike, cycling adventure, swimming, surfing – whatever you and your family all can enjoy together. You keep the kids entertained and you get some exercise, again obtaining dual purpose from an activity, and freeing up some other time to work.
Take your laptop or phone with you
Take the kids to the park (enclosed if needed) and let them run around and burn off energy. While they do, take your laptop or phone and get some work done. As a bonus you get some Vitamin D and fresh air plus a change of scene. It’s a win win situation (as long as you keep one eye on the terrors, oops I mean angels).
Restrict your distractions for times allocated to working
Apart from taking care of the kids distractions, there’s little point making solid work time available and then wasting it on meaningless and unimportant tasks. Remove distractions by not turning on the tv, jumping onto socials or having the message and email notifications dinging. Turn them off and give yourself undistracted work time.
Adjust your routine
Get up earlier or go to bed later JUST for the holiday period or a few days thereof. This almost ensures you get a few kid free hours uninterrupted. Be careful not to make this a permanent change unless adopting a permanent shift like the old adage early to bed, early to rise. I will not be adopting this one – will forever be a night owl!
Be realistic about your to do list
Make sure you block quality time to spend with the family. Leave gaps in your calendar for the unexpected which will ALWAYS crop up when we least need it. It’s like a magnet right? You need to get something out with a tight deadline and your kid falls out of a tree. Prioritise what you MUST do and go easy on the rest. Your to do list can wait, your kids being young and needing your attention can’t.
Doing big chores
Don’t add additional pressure by using the holidays to do a big chore like spring cleaning the home. Unless of course, you can get the kids to help (and they are actually helpful!).
Put your kids to work (luckily NSW at least has flexible laws)
My stepson often complains he’s bored (especially when he’s lost his phone privileges!) but likes images and some computer work. I’ve found it good to pay him to do some small jobs for me which can be clearly explained. He’s doing something he enjoys (more so when he’s getting paid), it helps me a bit, and I get a break from the ‘I’m booorrreeedddd’. He’s 13 and he’s legitimately on my payroll and paid above award, so there are no issues with slave labour! I also find this a good compromise as it is a low cost yet local service (sometimes a bit too local when he sits at my desk).
Enjoy a holiday yourself!
If you can, take at least some days off completely. And when I say completely, I mean COMPLETELY! It’s healthy and can be good bonding time for you as a family. Camping in a remote location is a good way to force yourself to disconnect – you can’t when you have zero service!
Many businesses slow down during the holidays and some networking groups take a break too (if they’re in action at all due to COVID-19). Use the time to recharge your own batteries too.
Get your processes sorted and delegate or outsource
One of the main ways you can get away from your business is to delegate to staff you trust if you have them, outsource some tasks, close the business temporarily or even hire in a locum to cover for you. All of these options other than closing require you to have clearly documented processes.
Need help in setting your business up to run for a few hours or a few days without you there? We will in the future have some training courses on this topic. For now you can obtain one on one assistance by contacting our Founder Jane Tweedy who is also a trained business coach and advisor. We can also connect you with reliable virtual assistants to help you take the load off!
Do you have any ideas to add which keep you sane? Love to hear them in the comments.
Blog by Jane Tweedy, Founder FAQ Business Training