I had a little snafu today. Monday morning started fresh and new, the sun rising over the Sonoran Desert for another gorgeous spring day. I was certain it was going to be a great one! When I wake up each morning, I reflect on things I’m grateful for, followed by a quick rundown in my mind of what key things I need to accomplish. I was about half way through the Vegetarian Chili recipe I am making for dinner tonight and thinking what items I still needed to get at the store when a sniffly coughing kindergartener woke up and immediately started coughing her head off.
Do you hear the sound of the screeching halt my plans came to? Right.
The difference between now and 17 years ago when my first born was a little one is that now, I immediately take the challenge of a poor sick child into stride and go into Plan B mode.
So in honor of today being a Plan B schedule, I’m going to share with you my top 10 tips for productivity challenged parents – maybe this will save you from the years of struggle I faced until I finally got the routine down.
1. Have your To Do List Done the day before. If you are waiting until morning to do your to do list, when you have a schedule change like a sick child or a forgotten teacher conference, you already know what you need to get done and you don’t have to try and remember everything when you are worried about your little one or otherwise distracted.
2. Don’t panic. Very often it can be tempting to throw the baby out with the bath water. You can feel like your schedule is ruined so today is a wash and just go completely awol from your business for the day. Take your schedule change in stride. And realize that you DO have a plan B!
3. Immediately identify the top three things you absolutely must get done for the day. If you need to just write those three things on a post it note and keep it with you. Forget about the rest until you see if you can get to it after you accomplish the top three priorities.
4. Don’t allow yourself to feel torn. When you need to spend time with your kids, spend time with your kids. Turn off the phone, don’t answer email, don’t text colleagues, just be with your kids. Granted, sometimes you are at a lengthy event and there is lots of waiting time where you don’t interact directly with your child, so that is a good time to check in with your email and texts.
5. When you need to work, work. One of the absolute best tips came from my mentor Craig Holiday who said talk to your kids about your goals. Come up with family goals, like …a trip to Disney World…. Or a smaller goal like going to park or movies. Then when one of the kids is asking you for something and you really need to work, remind them, “Do you want to go to Disney? Do you want to go to the movies today?” and then they say yes… now they know that means Mommy or Daddy needs to focus for a while to get work done. Give the kids a time frame. I will tell them “At 4 o’clock I can sit with you and read.” This way it is clear how much more time you need to work and when they can expect you to be ready to spend quality time.
6. Have a mobile working option. If you don’t have a laptop or at least an iPad, I highly recommend you get one!!!! Today, I have my laptop on my couch as I sit with my little sick child while she watches Curious George. If you don’t have a laptop, then you can simply get a notebook to do your writing in and then bring it back to your computer to type up later (or better yet, scan in to have your VA type up for you!)
7. Stay off email and social media. I learned this initially from Timothy Ferris in his “Four Hour Work Week” – Email and Social media should only be checked one to two times daily in chunks. So for me, I stay off email until 11AM. Then I spend 20-25 minutes catching up, replying and sending new emails to request information from clients and people I mentor.
8. NNTR – This is a super nugget I learned at Underground 8 this year – get your emails to be super concise and eliminate the constant back and forth of unnecessary replies by typing NNTR (No need to reply)at the end of your emails if you are just providing information. This will keep you from getting those emails that have just “thanks” or “see you soon…”
9. Plan out chunks of work time…. Work for a couple of hours, then focus on family for a couple of hours, rinse and repeat. Everyone has their own times that work for them, but here is what works for me. I generally take the first couple of hours of my day getting the kids ready, fed, and driven to school.
Then I get home, immediately start working and I work steadily for an hour. Then, I take a 10-15 minute break where usually I might throw a load of laundry in, clean out the kitchen sink, just stretch my legs, get some coffee etc. I work again for another hour and finish at least two tasks on my list. At lunch I will do my ride (I’m an avid cyclist) and grab a quick healthy meal. I get back, work for another couple of hours and then I’m out the door for pick ups. Late afternoon is kid time followed by dinner prep.
I work for another hour or so after dinner ( I bring my laptop to basketball practice since I’m off the hook for coaching now that my son is in competitive basketball – that is way out of my coaching abilities). I get home, do homework with my kindergartener, bath time, reading, bed for her. I then get back on the computer and get some solid work time in for about 2-4 hours. I am super productive at this point since it is quiet and I have no distractions. By chunking my time like that I feel like I haven’t missed anything and I’ve been available to my kids.
So plan out chunks of work time. You will be more focused and also make sure you have your time with your kids.
10. Keep other distractions to a minimum. You only have so much of you to go around. TV and internet surfing simply have to go by the wayside if you want to be productive and grow your business. There will be time enough for adding more recreation later. Right now, the life of a parent entrepreneur is such that you have to guard your time fiercely. Keep the volunteering to a minimum, this is not the time to be a scout leader or running your PTO. Once your business is thriving you can add in a project here and there. Otherwise your priority is your family and your business.
So there you have it. Its not magic, but just taking the time to think through your schedule and having a realistic set of hours that you work will make a world of difference in your productivity and success. From one busy parent to another, you can live the best of both worlds of family and work time.