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How a Stay-at-Home Parent Gets Stuff Done

How a Stay-at-Home Parent Gets Stuff Done

    You know what? You’re not going to get it all done.

    Whether you work a 9 to 5 office job, or set your own hours, it’s not going to happen. But as a stay-at-home father who still needs to bring in a reasonable income to ensure we can keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, keeping up is a daily challenge.

    Productivity systems are put in place by people doing a myriad of jobs in order to try to achieve that elusive state of “balance”. It is far easier to see a stay-at-home parent when they are out of whack, simply because more of their attention and focus is on the home rather than the workplace.

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    When the home is the workplace, it gets really tricky. While it hasn’t been easy, I’ve managed to assemble 3 key ingredients on how a stay-at-home father can get stuff done on a consistent basis. Sure, there’s a lot of front-end work, but that is no different for anyone else who is putting a system into place. The initial setup may seem like a time-suck, but the payoff is huge.

    Set aside some days for the “heavy lifting”

    Look at your week and figure out what days of the week you can schedule in your biggest jobs. Whether it be running errands, a freelance project or developing a means to generate passive income; if it is something that can afford little to no interruption, lock in a day (or multiple days) for it. Only schedule appointments on those days that require your utmost attention.

    My “heavy lifting” days are every Tuesday through Thursday from 10 am until 4 pm. That is when I write pretty much everything I need to for the week, produce my podcasts, conduct interviews and work on my book and my talks. By doing this, I’ve ensured that I can go into those days with the knowledge that I can create freely without interruption. This freedom lets me enter a “flow-like” state, resulting in work that has a greater quality to it than had I been having to worry about stopping and restarting every once in a while.

    On the days that I don’t set aside for heavy lifting, I return emails that don’t require an immediate response, catch up on reading and work on other things that don’t require my full, uninterrupted attention. That means that nothing gets missed throughout my week.

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    How can I set aside all that heavy lifting time during the week? How do I manage to watch my kids and get that work done? That leads up to my second key ingredient…

    Hire part-time, in-house child care

    My wife and I have an in-home caregiver come in three days a week, Tuesday through Thursday. She only works 20 hours a week, but those hours give me the time to get my work done.

    By the way, if you don’t think you can afford to find a reasonable child care option that can come to your house and “sub in” for you on these days, think again. Our caregiver is a part-time student (working on her Early Childhood Education diploma) who charges us per hour half of what I make per hour. By bringing her in three times a week, I’m more than able to pay for her services. If I didn’t have anyone coming in, I’d be hard-pressed to get any quality work done during the week, and would wind up working weekends. That’s not why I decided to work from home and take care of my kids – the weekends are family time and I do little to no work on the weekends because of that.

    In addition, by having someone come in, household chores such as laundry, dishes and overall daily maintenance gets handled when my son is napping and my daughter is still at school. It means that we have less to do on the days when our caregiver isn’t here, meaning we have more time for the less mundane when we’re all together.

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    Finding someone like we have isn’t an easy task – but it can be done. Putting in the work to do so will allow you to get stuff done for both yourself and your family.

    Having the first two ingredients in place is all well and good, but unless you have the third ingredient in place you won’t even be able to get off the ground – let alone hit the ground running.

    Make wise choices

    Since you’re at home with the kids as the primary caregiver, it is incredibly important that you provide the best example for them. How you handle your workload is one of those areas where you can either shine as an example or tarnish your image. Even with heavy lifting days scheduled, you’ll be tempted to work on that great idea once it comes to you. When your part-time caregiver shows up, you’ll be tempted to take a nap when you should be working.

    Don’t do those things.

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    If a great idea comes to you in the middle of a time where you know it will turn into something that will take some time and effort to foster, capture it and let it go until such a time presents itself where you can give it the effort and attention it deserves. Need a nap? Again, take it when such a time presents itself where it will benefit you – and your situation – the most. I take them when my caregiver has days off and my son happens to be napping. It gives me the recharge I need without the regret that I don’t.

    Putting the first two ingredients into place will enable you to take the third and create a recipe for success. Not just one for work, but one for the life you’ve crafted for you and your family.

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on July 13, 2020

    How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

    How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

    Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

    If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

    1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

    The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

    Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

    For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

    The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

    2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

    Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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    As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

    Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

    3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

    Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

      This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

      We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

      Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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      When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

      Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

      4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

      Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

      For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

      Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

      5. Make Decisions

      For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

      If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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      If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

      Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

      I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

      This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

      The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

      6. Take Some Form of Action

      Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

      The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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      It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

      Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

      The Bottom Line

      Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

      When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

      More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

      Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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