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How a Stay-at-Home Parent Gets Stuff Done

How a Stay-at-Home Parent Gets Stuff Done
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    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 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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