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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 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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