The struggle is real for parents everywhere. Once that alarm clock jolts us into the circadian version of our own personal Groundhog Day that we call life, it’s a race against time to find more time in the day.
Get the kids fed and dressed and off to school.
Get ourselves fed and dressed and off to work.
Get through the day-to-day grind in the office and still find the energy to get home and get the kids fed and ready for bed.
Hopefully somewhere in that mess, we will have managed to find our own time to breathe and perhaps even take some personal time to toss in a workout so we don’t end up with that excess post-baby bump weight or the Dadbod.
If we’re truly lucky, there’s extra time for wine or bourbon.
It was tough enough when the daily grind was just about making sure your TPS Reports were finished in time and everyone had the right access code to the next conference call.
The game changes when the everyday stressors include a miniature version of you that is totally dependent on everything from getting properly dressed to eating a solid three meals.
Here are 10 tips for finding some extra room in the day to get more done (so we can all get back to the important things, like enjoying that wine or bourbon):
1) Learn when to say “No.”
Parents everywhere are really great at telling our children when they can’t do things or when we are a little too busy to do something for them – it’s a nice learning lesson to teach patience and how follow the rules. But, when it comes to our workloads, we toss the word “no” out of our own personal lexicon. Taking on far too many tasks is the first step to total burn out. Take an inventory of your day and the time available within that day, if a given request (both professional or personal) can’t fit within that schedule – and if you won’t get fired from your job for declining the request – it’s likely in your best interest to say, “No.”
2) Avoid Parkinson’s Law and get things done ASAP.
The procrastinators of the group follow this principle without even really knowing it: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, if we have a week to finish an assignment, we’ll take the entire week. Challenge yourself to do better and utilize systems to get things done ahead of time whenever possible. You never know when the next diaper blowout may hit the fan or an unexpected email will pop up that sucks more time away from your project later on. Take advantage of whatever time available you have now and see things through to completion as soon as possible.
3) Plan the night before.
Football teams don’t take the field without a game plan — and you shouldn’t even think about taking on the day without a strategy of your own. Spend a few minutes at the end of each day to break down the approach for following 24 hours. Make a list of the tasks and meetings or playdates, and spend some time developing a roadmap for navigating any potential pitfalls.
4) Set up a daily schedule.
Develop a schedule that will allow for productivity in business, competence as a parent, and sanity as a person. Build routines in how you’ll approach your tasks throughout the day, whether it’s emails or feedings, doctor appointments or conference calls. It’ll take some time to get into a rhythm between caring for your loved one and caring for your business; but once you do, it’ll allow for a more streamlined and productive day all around.
5) Start the day early.
History is full of successful entrepreneurs and heads of state that get most of their work done before the sun even comes up. The early morning hours are your friend. Pop up before the craziness of school bells and emails and knock out some of your most important tasks. You may find that the wee hours of the morning are your most productive of the entire day.
6) Prioritize your daily tasks.
Making a list isn’t enough. Especially when curveballs with the children come your way. Build this daily list of things to do based off of your top priorities and then (this is the key), you have to stick to them. Find the most important assignment of the day and make sure this is the first thing you tackle when the mind is fresh and the day is young.
7) Put the kids to work.
This doesn’t have to be some illegal sweatshop; but if you’re lucky enough to have some extra manpower around the house and can direct some of those chores to the offsprings, don’t be afraid to pass them off. When the day is jam-packed with work and parenting and everything in between, even something as small as saving 15-20 minutes per day can end up being a huge win. The older kids can get involved with things like:
• Cleaning their room
• Vacuuming and dusting the house
• Light gardening
• Packing school lunches
• Packing their own backpack
• Laundry (for the older kids)
• Folding and sorting laundry
• Washing and putting away dishes after meals
• Feeding and cleaning up after the pets
• Taking out the garbage
8) Outsource wherever possible.
Between all of the diaper changes and conference calls; soccer practice and meetings, the day can be quite hectic and loaded with menial tasks. Do whatever you can to lighten your load of the potential time-sucks in your day to allow for more focus on the important tasks. Schedule a cleaning service or have lunch delivered whenever possible. Look to resources like Upwork or Fiverr for freelancers to chip in on business tasks like data entry and small design work when you can afford.
9) Make use of downtime.
Maybe you have a long commute to the office. Or you’re stuck waiting in the pickup/drop-off lane at school. Or business travel means plenty of downtime at the airport. Whatever it is, try to maximize this time either improving yourself or getting things done. Listen to podcasts or audiobooks during the commute. Schedule time to work on a project during the flight delays. Or just say screw it and crank up the volume to enjoy your own personal carpool karaoke session before the chaos resumes.
10) Unplug from everything.
The last tip isn’t necessarily a hack into better productivity as it is advice for longevity. In this nonstop always on the go culture, we can easily find ourselves bogged down and eventually, burned out. Step away from the email. Turn off the cellphone. Shut down the computer. Find some time every single day to do that and recharge for the next wave of madness that will assuredly rear its ugly head eventually. Until then, relax … and enjoy that wine or bourbon – you earned it.
Previously published on The Huffington Post