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Bargaining in the Home Office Boardroom

Here's a tip for those with kids at home. Whether you bring home a briefcase full of work you must finish up or you work from home full-time, inevitably you feel the push and pull of demands on your time. We have found that when the children are clamoring for your attention, there really is little point in yelling at them or time-outs. Remember the days when you bargained in the boardroom? The same holds true in the home office. Sometimes, a simple egg timer can be a saving grace. Set if for 20 minutes and explain that you will read a story, relax with them, dance to their favorite CD with them—whatever they want—the 20 minutes is theirs. Your part of the bargain is you cannot answer the phone or do anything on your desk. The idea is to make the children feel as important to you as that briefcase full of work. For them, sometimes the Attention Monster is simply about knowing they are important to you—as important as your beeper, your phone, your computer, or your desk of papers.

In return, when the timer goes off, they must give you 20 minutes of total peace. Let them take the timer into another room and busy themselves until it goes off. While this may seem like a very simple solution, it really does work. In fact, it works so well, you may ask, Why didn't I think of it before?

Why does it work? Saying to a child, "I need to get this done . . . I need some time right now," doesn't give them anything measurable. It is vague. The timer gives them a measurable unit of time. By also playing for 20 minutes first, you have soothed them at a time when they really felt they needed you; consequently, they feel more secure. The amazing thing about this is that often, when they go away for "your" 20 minutes, they get so caught up in something new they forget all about the time limit. But appeasing them, bargaining in your own boardroom, is part of the give and take of time management at home.

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