Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a (likely very) small commission if you make a purchase after clicking through. Thanks for keeping me in coffee money!
I don’t think there’s a mother or father on this planet who doesn’t wonder how they can possibly be more productive as a busy parent.
Especially for working parents (which, I digress, don’t all parents work!? Raising kids is no walk in the park!), the pressure to be able to get 1,000 things done at once is strong.
And sure, I can wax on all day about how society doesn’t appreciate our work nor is it set up to actually support working parents while simultaneously demanding more and more of us….
This isn’t a soapbox, so I’m not going to be clambering up upon it.
What I am going to do, as a working parent myself, is start something new on this blog:
I’m going to take 4 current “productivity tips” and apply them in my own life. Then, I’ll come back in a couple of months and give an update on what works and what didn’t work. Sound good?
How I’m applying productivity tips in my own life
As a diehard Type A and someone who thrives on routine, give me allllll the productivity tips. But I can’t be the only one who reads other productivity blogs and articles and thinks, “who does that actually work for?”
Well, now you’ll get to see close hand HOW some common working parent productivity tips work in an actual working parent’s life. That way, it might give you some insight as to how these tips would work for you.
First: a bit of background, so you know where I’m starting from when it comes to applying these special productivity tips in my day-today.
I’m a work-from-home parent. My kids go to school (I have a daughter in kindergarten and a son in nursery school) so my day ends on the early side… but it starts on the early side, too.
My regular work from home job is in marketing and radio show production for my parent’s company, a tech company in Northern Michigan. We’re working on expanding our outreach, and I do the production/co-host side of a radio show that my Dad and I record every week.
I also run this ‘ole site you’re reading, Percolate Kitchen. From this end, I arrange cooking classes in my neighborhood, work as a freelance recipe developer and recipe tester for publishing houses and food brands, and I have an online resource for working parents in the kitchen called Uncomplicated Kitchen, which uses my three-step formula to ease the rush and overwhelm of weeknight meals. As well as consistent website upkeep, blogging, sponsorships, staying active on social media- all the things a company needs to know how to do to be successful (or reasonably so) in this day and age.
As a working parent, I have the same amount of hours in my day as Beyonce, but a fifth of the of help.
My husband owns/runs a busy craft beer bar in Manhattan. If you’re in the hospitality industry, you know: the hours are effed up, especially for a family.
I’m really lucky I can work from home and make my own hours, since his job hours are, despite our efforts to keep them regular, occasionally up in the air and sometimes incredibly long.
Added, neither of us are from New York City, where we live with our kids in Western Queens, so we don’t have any family nearby to pitch in. All our outside help with kids and work is sourced from beloved babysitters and a tribe of local families that are often in the same boat.
We do a lot of balancing. There’s not a lot of 9-5 going on over here.
So that’s where we’re starting from. The productivity tips I often see are geared towards families where there are 2 parents home in the evening, and that’s not always the case for me.
I also see a lot of productivity “tips” that refer to driving places or utilizing storage. We live in a railroad apartment and park on the street. Thus, we are super short on storage and honestly, I’,m not driving my car if I don’t have to, because parking in NYC is as irritating as you can imagine.
How I’ve decided on which working parent productivity tips are worth my time.
First up: deciding on the priorities I want to accomplish. You gotta warm the pan up before you add the butter; so here are the reasons I’m trying to get more productive:
- I want to focus on my family when I’m with them
- I need to be able to “switch off” when I’m kid-free and focus on mah-self
- I want to get better at focusing on the ROI in both my jobs; for moving forward in each at a workable, exponential pace
So this is where we’ll begin. After some scouring on Pinterest and Google, I found 4 productivity tips I think will work well for me as we move our way into the new year.
My plan is to implement these tips over the course of the first 90 days of the year. After that, I’ll come back with an update on how everything worked!
Working Parent Productivity Tip #1: Get More Sleep
I feel like I’ve been working getting on more sleep for years and years now, ever since my days as a carefree child-free person. Having kids just made sleep deprivation more pronounced.
However, I’m not immune to the wonders of sleep; Hell, Arianna Huffington wrote a whole book on it, and I’ve found success in occasionally using Daniel Pink’s famous “nappucino” method to have a “perfect” midday nap. But regular good sleep can be elusive.
So here’s what I’ll be doing:
Using a good diffuser to blow sleep-inducing essential oils
Utilizing our quality humidifier that I promise to actually follow through with the upkeep on
Keep my phone plugged in across the room
Fulfill my resolution to read more books (using a Kindle)
Keep up with my nighttime routine
Working Parent Productivity Tip #2: Stick to the Rule of Threes
The Rule of Threes is a productivity method based around the idea that multi-tasking is the killer of productivity.
Many of us have heard the warnings against “context switching”, which is when productivity goes in the toilet because your efforts are too scattered. The lack of focus means you never really progress with anything, which amplifies unproductivity.
I’ll admit: context switching is a tricky thing for me to overcome. As a mother, I often find I am fielding many things at once- the kids are calling for me while I’m on the phone with my husband and pulling dinner out of the oven while making a mental note to add butter to the grocery list. Having time to focus on one thing at a time feels like a freaking luxury for me.
So here’s what I’ll be doing:
I wrote a whole big blog post on the Rule of Threes, and how they can fit into your life no matter your goals or visions. It’s a really simple way to break down goals into manageable steps, and to accomplish things in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming.
The three main goals I’m focusing on for the next 23 days are:
Personal Life -outside: I’m working hard on being more calm with my kids when they act out at bedtime. I’m usually depleted of patience and energy at that time of the day, and I see it as my own Achille’s heel. They tend to sense that and shenanigans ensue, which doesn’t always bring out my pretty side. But I’m working on it.
Personal Life- me: I’m trying out a new type of diet, called Intermittent Fasting. My current window is 16:8, from noon to 8pm. I’d like to stick with it for at least 23 days and see if it really does help to lose weight while keeping energy levels high, as I’ve heard claimed.
Work Life: I’m sticking to one focus as far as where I want my business, Percolate Kitchen, to go. Right now, I’m focusing on Prep School and Prep Sesh, (learn more here!)
Want to know more about the Rule of Threes for Productivity, including the types of categories you can choose, and how you can work those into your daily life? I’ve outlined it all here.
Working Parent Productivity Tip #3: Eating that Frog
Eat That Frog is a productivity concept from a book with the same name, by Brian Tracy. The concept is simple: Make the first thing you do in the day be the big thing you dread.
Knocking off your biggest, most dreaded task first thing gets to the root of a lot of people’s issues with feeling productive. It takes advantage of your energy levels, and your desire to run from the hard stuff, and forces you to accomplish.
Once you do the hardest thing on your to-do list for that day, the rest of the day seems easy, without a big looming thing hanging over your head.
So here’s what I’ll be doing:
I’ll admit; this one will be difficult for me. I like crossing things off my list, which means I often find myself crossing off the small, inconsequential things first. But then I run out of time to get the “big” stuff done, and I never feel like I’m actually moving the needle in my business or in my personal life.
My productivity levels usually plummet after lunch. I’m going to take advantage of that, and schedule all my boring, mindless items for later. I’m used to doing the “get it out of the way” stuff first, so it’s a switch that I know will take some getting used to, but I’m curious to see how it works.
Working Parent Productivity Tip #4: Get Off the Dang Phone
I’m only human, which means I use my smartphone exactly as its designers intended: totally addicted.
It drives me crazy that many nights, I’ll look up at the clock to find that I’ve just totally wasted three hours messing around on my phone, with nothing to show for it but dumb memes I’ve forwarded to my husband.
I use an Android, and the newest update included the option to add an app called “ActionDash”. ActionDash tracks my time spent on my phone and gives me reports, but my favorite part of the app is something called “Focus Time”
Focus Time lets me set up different blocks of time throughout the day where I’m “focusing”, which means it won’t let me access apps I’ve deemed time-wasting, such as Instagram. If I’m on an app when Focus Time starts, it shuts down the app and I can’t access again until that time is over.
Another cool thing ActionDash offers is the ability to set time limits on a certain app. If I find I’m wiling away hours at a time on TikTok, for example, I can set a limit of 15 minutes a day, and once those 15 minutes are used, I’m S.O.L. until the next day.
It’s a little extreme, but I’ve found it to be a really effective way lately to remind me to get off the dang phone and get back to my life again. I just started using ActionDash at the beginning of this month, so we’re about 3 weeks into it right now. I’ll report back and let you know how it went at the end of the next few months.
So here are the four productivity things I’ll be working on for the next 90 days. Let’s recap:
- Get more sleep
- Stick to the Rule of Threes
- Eat That Frog
- Get Off the Dang Phone.
It’s funny, the things we do to “trick” ourselves into being more productive, more motivated, more disciplined. But I find that sticking to small, incremental goals is seriously the way forward with success.
I’ll be back with a report about how my productivity changes over the next few months!
What new changes are you bringing into the new year?