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Q&A: Working from your parents’ house

I recently got an interesting question, of which I’d like to share my answer with you.

Here´s the question:


This is a random cry for help but I am writing my dissertation and just moved back in with my parents at the same time. Uninterrupted writing time is impossible, I am now the maid and house project do-er of all things and I haven’t written a word. My defense is in October and I’m teaching part time at a local university. I have my dual monitor set up and all my resources here at the house so working elsewhere hasn’t really worked well for me. Any advice on navigating this without being a terrible person and telling my parents to leave me alone!? I’m also almost 30 and have been out of the nest for over 10 years just moved back in to save money. I feel so ungrateful but I can’t get anything done and I need to graduate! Thank you so much…

This is what I answered:

Hi Reader,

Thanks for reaching out to me through my blog.

I understand you are in quite a complicated situation, and that it might be hard to work from your parent’s house. Way back when I was still studying in Brussels, I returned homw to study for exams while my parents had health problems, and it was difficult balancing studying and taking care of them (and worrying). After my PhD, I returned to my parents’ house while I prepared for my move to Ecuador, and tried to work over distance for TU Delft. My mom was very happy to have me back with her, so it was hard for me to shove her off and tell her that I really needed to concentrate on writing that paper… Long story short, I understand how being back at your parents house can not be an ideal situation, and how you also try not to come across as grumpy and ungrateful.

With that said, I think there are a few things that can help you:

1. Make a to do list
If you need to fix things in the house, cook, run part of the household and all that, it helps to make a todo list. You can’t fix all the problems of the house in a day or in a week, so you might want to make a list of what you want to/need to do first, and then distribute that over time.

2. Make a planning and a schedule
Distributing tasks over time, you might for example think of what you can reasonably do in 1 – 2 hours a day. Clean the bathroom, cook, and replace the shower curtain, for example on one day; groceries, making soup, and giving the kitchen a good cleaning the next day? You can, for example, block the time period 5pm – 7 pm for those tasks. You can use google calendar to make a weekly template. Put in your calendar your teaching hours, including the commute, and then see if you can reasonably fit, for excample, 10 blocks of 1,5 to 2 hours in your schedule for writing, so that you know that those need to be your uninterrupted writing times.

3. Pomodoro?

Have you tried the pomodoro technique of working in short bursts of time? You can set a timer for 20 minutes to draw a specific figure, write a certain paragraph, revise a literature source. After 1 pomodoro, you get 5 minutes of break, psosibly to interact with your parents – you can come out of your room and have a quick chat with them. After 4 pomodoros, you take a 30 minute break – have a coffee with your parents and talk a bit with them.

4. Noise-canceling headphones
I love noise-canceling headphones. They are big and chunky, help to obliterate all the noise from outside, and they also signal to other people “I’m busy, please come back later”. They are rather pricey at about 300 euros, but if you can spare the money, it’s a really good investment.

Do these ideas help you? Please let me know how it is going.


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