The Blog.

School Holiday Sanity Strategies

7 Apr 2011 | Business Life, Personal Productivity

No sooner have we started a new month and school holidays are upon us again!

Thanks to my lovely friend Jenny Flintoft for reminding me what a particularly crazy month this is for those of us with kids at school in the UK!

And when I asked on Twitter, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the school holidays, the answer was:

So amongst the craziness and juggling, how do you stay sane?

I’ve had quite a few discussions with mums recently about juggling work and school holidays. Some, like Jenny take to working at night, others like Naomi who commented on my other post Four ways to be more productive with less stress and less guilt this half term make the decision to stop working altogether. Some even find ways of involving their kids in their business, which I guess is either creative genius or complete chaos, depending on how well that works out! Personally I do a combination of late nights, a couple of days of holiday club, and working less hours.

The thing that struck me is that everybody’s different. Yes we’re all in the same boat and it’s great to get different ideas of how things can be done, but the quickest way to lose your sanity and find yourself swimming in guilt is to keep comparing yourself to everybody else, wondering if that’s what you ‘should’ be doing:

“Maybe I shouldn’t be working at all. Maybe I should just focus on the kids – they grow up so quick and it’s only a couple of weeks after all. On the other hand, maybe I should try and do one thing at least, on my business to keep the momentum going after all the hard work I’ve put in to get it going…”

Then you have all the things that other mums are planning to do with their kids – swimming, painting, football, baking, trips out, Disneyland…

So here’s how you stay sane: Stop Saying Should!

Most people have good reasons for their choices – the important thing is to find your reason and make your choices around them.

What are the five most important things to you this school holiday? Forget should, what are you going to do about them?

Design your school holiday plans around those things. Schedule time to focus on the different aspects, so you’re not trying to do everything at once and end up making half a start and getting nowhere.

Then whatever it is you’re doing, whether it’s making daisy chains in the garden, queuing at Disneyland, getting into the flow of your next creation or singing Incy Wincy Spider for the twelfth time, take in every sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. Rather than think about all the things you’re not doing, be fully ‘there’ and notice what you are doing.

One of my clients was talking about how before having children, she used to love taking off somewhere for a couple of days at a time, to fully immerse into a project. And while the time frames are a bit different now, there’s nothing stopping her from immersing herself for 1-2 hours at a time instead of 1-2 days.

In other words, it’s not so much about how much time you have or haven’t got, it’s what you do during that time. So whatever it is you’re choosing to take time for this school holiday, quit the comparing, stop the ‘should’s and savour the moment.

Here are my top five things this holiday:

  • Dancing – nothing formal, just getting some great music on and boogying with the kids!
  • Getting outdoors, whatever the weather!
  • Spending time with friends – especially ones who go to different schools, that we don’t get to see much in term time
  • Strategy – I’m attending an event this month which I know always gets me fired up and focused on next quarter’s strategy
  • Completing the technology and systems changes I’ve been making to strengthen my business – and I’m dancing with excitement just thinking about completing this!

So, bearing in mind everybody’s different, what are YOUR top five things this school holiday? I’d love to hear from you in the comments box below!




  1. Naomi

    I have to be honest with 3 weeks ahead looming of holidays with the boys I have planned way ahead. I have managed to get heaps of work done this week so I can relax more the next 3. I will probably work an hour a day and will continue seeing children as usual as it does not interfere with my day plans. I love the holidays and don’t worry about work. I guess its because I still get to do what I love at night. I think it is easier for me because I am not dictated by another schedule. Good luck and happy holidays Grace.

    • Grace Marshall

      I love how organised you are Naomi 🙂 I have also planned ahead more this month because of the holidays, but I do remember one half term that literally sneaked up on me! It’s true that as business owners we are in charge of our own schedules and sometimes we have to remember to be the boss and make decisions around what’s important to us, rather than just react. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts Naomi, and happy holidays to you!

  2. Karen Skidmore

    I remember my first school holiday when I started up in business – Easter 2005. I got myself in such a pickle as I wanted to get on and do so much but my 2 little darlings (aged 5 and 3 then) just wouldn’t watch enough CBeebies. After 2 weeks of them getting square eyes and me getting very stressed, I vowed never again!

    Spending time with my children during school holidays was why I started my own business so I have worked hard over the past few years creating a business model where I can take my foot off the paddle during the hols. I think I look forward to the holidays more than they do 🙂

    • Grace Marshall

      My two are 5 and 2, so I’m a few years behind you! You’re so right, it’s good to remember why you’re in business in the first place. I often remind myself of that when one is ill and plans change, that this is why we do what we do. It can be crazy and challenging at times, but it sure is well worth it 🙂 Thanks for stopping by Karen and taking the time to share your experience.

  3. Anne Perez

    Fortunately my boys are a bit older now – teenagers. The challenge is making sure we spend time together – otherwise they spend the whole holidays watching screens. We’ve had such great weather that we’ve had BBQs together for the past couple of days. A fun time together. Now, I just have to schedule my work around being a taxi driver for their activities.

    • Grace Marshall

      Thanks for your comment Anne. I’ve just been encouraging my son to make a list of different things we want to do this holiday, so that we don’t end up watching screens either, and he’s only 5! Motherhood is definitely a good learning ground for adaptability isn’t it?

  4. Anonymous

    Thanks for this post, Grace! I am already planning for summer when the kids will be home from school. It’s always a challenge to when they’re home because I’m torn between things I “should” be doing with them, and things I “should” be doing for my business. Thanks for the perspective and the reminder!

    • Grace Marshall

      So glad it’s helped you Erin! It is so liberating to step away from the ‘should’s and make your own choices about what you want to do. Have fun planning your summer 🙂

  5. Anonymous

    I think it comes to planning ahead so that you don’t have really big deadlines while you’re also juggling the kids. No launches, no huge editing, nothing major, if you can. Work while they’re at school as if you are about to take 2 weeks off…because in reality – you probably ARE – -and this way you don’t have to beat yourself up about it!

    • Grace Marshall

      That’s such a good point, I once managed to schedule a product launch with a one-week school holiday right in the middle – boy was that stressful! This time I’ve got no major deadlines and planned ahead and got some things in place for the first week back. The rest I’ll do while they sleep so I can enjoy more 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your comment Carrie!

    • Grace Marshall

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your link Grit…

  6. Kate

    Hi Grace, great post. I think we all feel this when we work from home. I have the added difficulty that for me to be able to have a client come for a treatment the kids either need to be settled in bed and quiet or Ian has to take them out. I consciously choose not to book clients in for the school holidays and if I have to I book them in the evening so to all intents and purposes the children don’t realise I’m working. I did have my workshop last Sunday but Ian took the children to his Mum’s for the weekend so I could do that and they had a great time. A big part of the reason I work for myself and not out of a salon is so that I have the flexibility to put my kids first and like you Grace we are making a real effort to make the days together count so if I do have a client coming another day they’ve had some focused Mummy time too! 🙂

    • Grace Marshall

      Yes! Flexibility is one of the big reasons why so many of us choose to go into business while raising a family, and I guess when it comes to times like these, we get to put that into practice! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts Kate.

  7. Lynne Lee

    I plan things around school holidays, block out time for the children and resist the temptation to squeeze things in.

    If I schedule posts, and plan appointments early in the morning or after 8pm and say no to BIG things until they’re back at school it works.

    When I have client calls I put a big notice on the door that says quiet mum at work and they know not to disturb me unless there is an emergency.

    If I’ve forgotten to put up the sign and someone walks in, I put up my hand with my palm forward so they know to stop and walk out without speaking.

    Because they don’t need my attention all the time I’ll sit in the same room as them while they watch TV or watch a movie and do things on my laptop that don’t require that I focus – everybody wins 🙂

    • Grace Marshall

      “Because they don’t need my attention all the time” – that’s so true Lynne. I’ve found that when my kids know what to expect, they stop demanding everything all of the time, and it’s easier to block out time and make it count, rather than run ragged just reacting to everything.

      “Resist the temptation to squeeze things in” – now that’s to do with training yourself rather than the children! Thanks for sharing your strategies Lynne.

  8. Becky F

    I have to be honest, I am really struggling this holiday as my husband is still working away, so there is no one to take over so that I can cram a few hours in. I’m afraid it’s very late nights and lots and lots of calls to make as soon as they go back to school. One thing I will say is thank heaven for Blackberry!

    • Grace Marshall

      Bless you Becky, and thank you for being honest! My husband travels quite a bit for work too and I’m always amazed at how much harder it is when he isn’t around in those few hours around tea time and bed time. Focus on the top priorities rather than trying to get ‘everything’ done, and give yourself credit for what you ARE achieving. As I said in my “Yes You Can!” report, baby steps can move mountains. Good luck and thanks for taking the time to comment!

  9. Becky F

    I have to be honest, I am really struggling this holiday as my husband is still working away, so there is no one to take over so that I can cram a few hours in. I’m afraid it’s very late nights and lots and lots of calls to make as soon as they go back to school. One thing I will say is thank heaven for Blackberry!

  10. Becky F

    I have to be honest, I am really struggling this holiday as my husband is still working away, so there is no one to take over so that I can cram a few hours in. I’m afraid it’s very late nights and lots and lots of calls to make as soon as they go back to school. One thing I will say is thank heaven for Blackberry!

  11. Becky

    Hello lovely Grace. i am PREPARED! I am about 18 blog posts ahead of myself and bang up tp date with my reviews. I have been getting up at 5 for the last 2 weeks and doing an exctra few hours a day and I will work 5.30-7.30 in the holidays and do an hour at some point during the day whilst they play independently. Oh a little thing like Easter can’t phase me…it can wear me out but it can’t phase me!!!!

    • Grace Marshall

      Wow Becky that’s very impressive, talk about being prepared and disciplined – love your philosophy! Thanks for taking the time to share 🙂

  12. Tanya

    Hi Grace – well I got here eventually! I’ve learned from experience not to plan major work projects for during the hols. I went into my own business in order to be able to set my own agenda – which is why I’m happy to ease up during the holidays so I can enjoy time with my children (they just turned 10). On the flipside, I accept that there may be other times when I’m pushing myself hard – again I love the fact that I get to make that choice!
    It’s a work in progress though – and sometimes it’s tempting to keep doing the ‘in a minute’ thing with the kids – and then get immersed in some work. Ultimately though I think to myself, when I’m old and grey, it’s the precious moments with the children which I’ll be remembering, and which will fill me with joy – so like you, I remind myself to be completely ‘present’ with them when we’re doing things together – whether that’s baking, or bike rides, or dog walks.
    Meanwhile of course, like most mums, I carry on sneaking some work time in during the evenings/later at night, during the hols – and of course – make sure I’m super focused on doing the core business building activities (apart from commenting on friends’ posts lol 😉

    • Grace Marshall

      Yay! Another mum doing business on her own terms – LOVE it! And I certainly appreciate you taking a moment in between your core business activities to share your comment 🙂 Thanks Tanya

Image if author Grace Marshall

About Grace

I coach, train, write and speak on productivity. I help people adopt new ways of working and thinking about their work to replace stress, overwhelm and frustration with success, sanity and satisfaction.

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