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7 Productivity Tips for Working Parents…So You Can Leave Work at 5PM Guilt-Free

7 Productivity Tips for Working Parents…So You Can Leave Work at 5PM Guilt-Free

If you’re tired of always being the last parent to pick up your child from daycare, consider this: are you working as smart as you can? Clocking in extra hours doesn’t always mean you’re working harder. While it’s no secret that workplace pressure continues to rise, it’s nearly impossible to leave the office on time if you’re not working efficiently from 9 to 5, regardless of what’s on your plate.

If you’re ready to rid your child’s status of the last one standing (at daycare), here are 7 habits to get you working smarter so you can leave work on time, guilt-free.

Do the Hard Stuff First

For many, the most productive time of your workday is the morning. Instead of responding to emails or doing other low value work, use the peak time to get the hard tasks done first. Just as getting stuck on a roadblock has the ability to affect your mood for the entire day, checking off a notable item on your to-do list has the ability to set a positive and productive tone for the rest of your workday.

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(Mentally) Prepare for 5PM

I don’t mean packing up and getting ready to leave. Second to starting off your day with a punch by knocking off some major items from your task list, set the expectation with yourself to leave at 5PM. For me, one of the major reasons my productivity wanes after lunch is because I don’t own my afternoons. I get thrown a lot of ad hoc requests and even meetings sometimes, and before I know it, it’s 4:59PM and I’ve yet to finish my priority work.

Instead of going with the flow of the day, and working on whatever gets thrown your way, identify your key priorities and block time in your calendar for it. Then, identify the time you want to leave the office and aim to get your priority work done before that time.

Take More Breaks (To Avoid Burnout)

It might sound counterproductive but you’re a human, not a robot. Working too long is actually the killer of productivity – according to science, you can only focus for 90 minutes at a time. It’s called the ultradian rhythm: a recurrent period or cycle repeated throughout a 24-hour circadian day. Just like your sleep cycle has highs and lows, so does your brain’s ability to focus throughout the day.

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If you’ve noticed that the longer you stare at your computer, the less focus you have, its nature’s way of telling you it’s break time. Even a five minute bathroom break and water refill can help you get back on track.

Don’t Multitask

Let’s face it – humans are notoriously bad at multitasking. We’re just not meant to focus on more than one thing at a time. When you’re constantly switching gears, you lose momentum. You might feel like you’re accomplishing a lot but you’re actually spinning your wheels.

Not only that, but multitasking reduces the quality of of your work, and (surprise!) hinders your efficiency too. The biggest instigator of multitasking mayhem? Your inbox. Just because an email arrives, it doesn’t mean you need to respond. Set times for checking your email and you’ll be surprised at how effectively you pummel through projects when you’re not switching from screen to screen.

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Protect Your Priorities

No one will respect your 5PM check out time, if you don’t first. Be assertive by communicating when you have to leave, so you can set boundaries around your time. If your co-workers need something, let them know to speak up by a certain time, in order to avoid last minute assignments or meetings.

When you communicate your goals, you’re more likely to follow through and people tend to be supportive when goals are made public knowledge.

Give Yourself Transition Time

I never seem to do this, so I’m always scrambling to get out the door but giving yourself time to wind down from your workday is important too. Make sure you’ve cleared out any essential email, organized your files or workspace for the next day, and tied up any loose ends before you head out for the night.

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Block out 10 to 15 minutes before your planned departure to get yourself sorted, so you don’t revert to checking work emails during critical family time in the evening.

Know That Work Will Be There Tomorrow, And the Day After

Be honest: will there always be a to-do list? Yes. Will there always be fires to put out? Probably. The thing with time is once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. And while there will always be work that needs to be done, you don’t have to be a slave to it.

It’s a hard concept to grasp, no doubt, but the harsh reality is that there will always be more to do – so at the end of the day, you have to decide how much time to invest in your work each day.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Jennee Rasavong

Freelance Content Marketer

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Last Updated on August 22, 2019

14 Helpful Tips for Single Parents: How to Stay Sane While Doing it All

14 Helpful Tips for Single Parents: How to Stay Sane While Doing it All

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 27% of children under the age of 18 are living with a single parent.[1] That’s over 1/4th of the U.S. population.There is a common misconception that children who grow up in single parent homes are not as successful as children living in two-parent homes.

One crucial detail that was often left out of studies when comparing single and two-parent homes was the stability of the household. There is a correlation between family structure and family stability, but this study shows that children who grow up in stable single-parent homes do as well as those in married households in terms of academic abilities and behavior.

But providing stability is easier said than done. With only one adult to act as a parent, some tasks are inherently more challenging. However, there are a few helpful things you can do to make the parenting journey a little easier for yourself and stay sane while doing it.

1. Don’t Neglect Self-Care

Before anything else can be done, you must be caring for your own needs adequately. Only when you are feeling well-rested and healthy can you be at your best for your children.

Many parents tend to put their kids’ needs first and their owns last, but that will result in a never-ending cycle of exhaustion and feelings of inadequacy. Make time to eat regularly and healthfully, get plenty of rest, and squeeze in exercise whenever you can. Even a short walk around the neighborhood will help your body get much-needed movement and fresh air.

Your children depend on you, and it’s up to you to make sure that you are well-equipped and ready to take on that responsibility.

2. Join Forces with Other Single Parents

At times, it may seem like you’re the only person who knows what it’s like to be a single parent. However, the statistics say that there are many others who know exactly what you’re going through.

Find single parents locally, through your kid’s school, extracurricular activities, or even an app. There are also numerous online communities that can offer support and advice, through Facebook or sites like Single Mom Nation.

Although single moms make up the majority of single parents, there are more than 2.6 million single dads in the U.S. A great way to connect is through Meetup. Other single parents will more than happy to arrange babysitting swaps, playdates, and carpools.

Join forces in order to form mutually beneficial relationships.

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3. Build a Community

In addition to finding support with other single parents, also build a community comprised of families of all different types. Rather than focus solely on the single parent aspect of your identity, look for parents and kids who share other things in common.

Join a playgroup, get plugged in at a church, or get to know the parents of the kids involved in the same extracurricular activities. Having a community of a variety of people and families will bring diversity and excitement into your and your kids’ lives.

4. Accept Help

Don’t try to be a superhero and do it all yourself. There are probably people in your life who care about you and your kids and want to help you. Let them know what types of things would be most appreciated, whether it’s bringing meals once a week, helping with rides to school, or giving you time to yourself.

There is no shame in asking for help and accepting assistance from loved ones. You will not be perceived as weak or incompetent. You are being a good parent by being resourceful and allowing others to give you a much-needed break.

5. Get Creative with Childcare

Raising a child on a single income is a challenge, with the high cost of daycares, nannies, and other conventional childcare services. More affordable options are possible if you go a less traditional route.

If you have space and live in a college town, offer a college student housing in exchange for regular childcare. Or swap kids with other single parents so that your kids have friends to play with while the parents get time to themselves.

When I was younger, my parents had a group of five family friends, and all of the children would rotate to a different house each day of the week, during the summer months. The kids would have a great time playing with each other, and the parents’ job becomes a lot easier. That’s what you would call a win-win situation.

6. Plan Ahead for Emergencies

As a single parent, a backup plan or two is a must in emergency situations. Make a list of people you know you can call in a moment’s notice. There will be times in which you need help, and it’s important to know ahead of time who you can rely on.

Look into whether or not your area offers emergency babysitting services or a drop-in daycare. Knowing who will be able to care for your child in the event of an emergency can relieve one potential source of anxiety in stressful situations.

7. Create a Routine

Routines are crucial for young children because knowing what to expect gives them a semblance of control. This is even more important when in a single parent home.

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If the child travels between homes or has multiple caretakers, life can seem extremely chaotic and unpredictable. Establish a routine and schedule for your child as much as possible. This can include bedtime, before/after school, chores, meal times, and even a weekend routine.

Having a routine does not mean things cannot change. It is merely a default schedule to fall back on when no additional events or activities are going on. When your children know what to expect, they will be less resistant because they know what to expect, and days will run much more smoothly.

8. Be Consistent with Rules and Discipline

If your child has multiple caretakers, such as another parent, grandparent, or babysitter, communicate clearly on how discipline will be handled. Talk to your ex, if you are sharing custody, as well as any other caretakers about the rules and the agreed-upon approach to discipline.

When a child realizes that certain rules can be bent with certain people, he/she will use it to their advantage, causing additional issues with limits, behavior, and discipline down the road.

This article may help you to discipline your child better:

How to Discipline a Child (The Complete Guide for Different Ages)

9. Stay Positive

Everyone has heard the saying, “Mind over matter.” But there really is so much power behind your mentality. It can change your perspective and make a difficult situation so much better.

Your kids will be able to detect even the smallest shift in your attitude. When the responsibilities of motherhood are overwhelming, stay focused on the positive things in your life, such as your friends and family. This will produce a much more stable home environment.

Maintain your sense of humor and don’t be afraid to be silly. Look towards the future and the great things that are still to come for you and your family. Rediscover and redefine your family values.

10. Move Past the Guilt

In a single parent home, it is impossible to act as both parents, regardless of how hard you try. Let go of the things that you cannot do as a single parent, and instead, think of the great things you ARE able to provide for your children.

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Leave behind the notion that life would be easier or better with two parents. This is simply not true. There is a multitude of pros and cons to all family dynamics, and the one you are providing for your kids now is the one that they need.

Don’t get bogged down by guilt or regret. Take control of your life and be the best parent you can by being present and engaged with them on a daily basis.

11. Answer Questions Honestly

Your kids may have questions about why their home situation is different from many of their friends. When asked, don’t sugarcoat the situation or give them an answer that is not accurate.

Depending on their age, take this opportunity to explain the truth of what happened and how the current circumstances came about. Not all families have two parents, whether that is due to divorce, death, or whatever else life brings.

Don’t give more detail than necessary or talk badly about the other parent. But strive to be truthful and honest. Your children will benefit more from your candor than a made-up story.

12. Treat Kids Like Kids

In the absence of a partner, it can be tempting to rely on your children for comfort, companionship, or sympathy. But your kids are not equipped to play this role for you.

There are many details within an adult relationship that children are not able to understand or process, and it will only cause confusion and resentment.

Do not take out your anger on your kids. Separate your emotional needs from your role as a mother. If you find yourself depending on your kids too much, look for adult friends or family members that you can talk to about your issues.

13. Find Role Models

Find positive role models of the opposite sex for your child. It’s crucial that your child does not form negative associations with an entire gender of people.

Find close friends or family members that would be willing to spend one-on-one time with your kids. Encourage them to form meaningful relationships with people that you trust and that they can look up to.

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Role models can make a huge difference in the path that a child decides to take, so be intentional about the ones that you put in your kids’ lives.

14. Be Affectionate and Give Praise

Your children need your affection and praise on a daily basis. Engage with your kids as often as possible by playing with them, going on outings, and encouraging open dialogue.

Affirm them in the things that they are doing well, no matter how small. Praise their efforts, rather than their achievements. This will inspire them to continue to put forth hard work and not give up when success is not achieved.

Rather than spending money on gifts, spend time and effort in making lasting memories.

Final Thoughts

Being a single parent is a challenging responsibility to take on. Without the help of a partner to fall back on, single parents have a lot more to take on.

However, studies show that growing up in a single parent home does not have a negative effect on achievement in school. As long as the family is a stable and safe environment, kids are able to excel and do well in life.

Use these tips in order to be a reliable and capable parent for your kids, while maintaining your own well-being and sanity.

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Featured photo credit: Eye for Ebony via unsplash.com

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