To celebrate my son’s 1st birthday that was on November 10th, I decided to write a post that reflects the productivity lessons I have learnt in the last 365+ days.
You may remember, that year ago I wrote my thoughts about becoming a father and how it affected to my productivity. You may also remember what my son had taught me – only after 18 days after his birth.
Anyway, this first year has been a big growing experience for me and my wife, but also very beneficial when it comes to time management.
Without any further ado, here are the twelve lessons I have learnt:
1. Give up on your personal projects – at least in the beginning
If you are already productive and organized person, then having a baby is going to have a huge negative impact on your productivity (when it comes to the amount of time you have for your personal projects) – especially in the beginning.
Although I expected that things would possibly change a lot with a baby, I wasn’t able to imagine how much work extra work I had to in the beginning.
Especially, since I was working full-time (and I still do), building my online business and having some personal time was seemed to be impossible. The extra household work combined with lack of sleep (because of the irregular sleeping patterns of our baby) was really daunting for both of us.
Still, you shouldn’t be afraid of what I just said. The starting phase – although being stressful – will pass soon. When you remember this, it makes the situations at least a bit easier to cope with.
Just make sure to give your full attention to your spouse and baby (or babies), since that’s what they expect.
2. You can still be productive when things settle down
A very common thought is that when a baby arrives into the household, you have to drop everything you are doing (your personal projects) and just you only have to focus on the baby.
While I agree that your baby becomes your first priority, you can still keep your personal projects rolling and keep your productivity levels relatively high.
It all comes down to learning your baby’s living patterns in advance and taking advantage of, for instance, the nap times.
This is exactly what I did last summer, when I was two months out of the office. I studied the patterns and took action, when the time was appropriate.
So even though things are very busy – especially in the beginning – they’ll settle down and you will start to find different ways to keep yourself productive.
Besides, the main lesson that I have learnt is: With your baby, you are forced to focus on just the essential work and nothing else. This helps you to cut off everything that isn’t valuable in your life right then.
3. Know your next action
I know that I have referred to this example many times before, but it’s one of the best lessons I have learnt: Always know your next action.
This way, you can take advantage of the extra time pockets in your day and you can get more of your work done.
I noticed this by accident when I arrived back home from work one day. Once I stepped inside our home, I realized that my son and my wife were taking a nap.
Since I knew my next action, it was easy for me to act fast and spend one extra hour on my tasks.
So the tip is, always know what to do next. It’ll pay off as some extra productivity.
4. Some tasks tolerate distraction better than others
At some point I realized, that certain tasks do not require my full focus in order to get them done.
For instance, cleaning my inbox, tweeting on Twitter, upgrading my WordPress plugins or any other smaller task like that was just fine – even if my son was hanging on my sleeve.
When you know this information, it easier for you to plan your days in advance. In my case, I schedule all the creative work at the beginning of the day (since my family is sleeping), while the rest of the stuff (Twitter, e-mail …) I can deal with later – even if there is distraction around you.
5. Don’t have a too rigid schedule
If you make too detailed plans and schedules; there is a very big change they won’t turn out as you expected.
For instance, when leaving the home, clothing the baby can be considered as a separate project, to which both of the parents have to participate (at least at times).
Just be sure to add extra buffer around your tasks so that you aren’t stressing yourself too much. Also, be ready to make changes to your schedules on the fly if that makes sense to you.
Living with a baby makes your life more dynamic than it ever was :)
6. Every minute counts
It’s unbelievable how quickly you are willing to grab your laptop and start working on your stuff – even if you know that you have only couple of minutes to do so.
You should be ready to take advantage of these brief moments, since every minute counts.
This is especially true when you are building your business part-time, while having a day job and a family.
All the single minutes may feel like water drops but when you put them together, they form a small stream and eventually a river.
Indeed, they accumulate and you should be aware of those minutes.
7. Maximize your time by going mobile
Mobility was always something that I hadn’t taken advantage of until last summer, when I bought an MP3 player.
Sure, I’ve had an MP3 player in the past, but now it had a whole new meaning after our son was born.
I realized that I could use it to educate myself during my transition times – by listening to podcasts, audiobooks or other audio products I had purchased online.
Another insight was to take advantage of my Kindle on the go – by reading Amazon Books or reading blog posts I had saved for later.
Eventually, this led me to come up with WAHD Mobility Toolkit, which I now take with me most of the time (whether it’s all of the tools or just some).
This way I can take advantage of transition and waiting times effectively.
8. Take playtime as recharging time
When your baby is born, you get to be a child again! Yes, I’m talking about playing with him/her and it’s super-fun!
I don’t consider it as unproductive time at all. Instead, I feel that taking my mind off from work stuff is just perfect this way.
Just make sure you play full out and don’t check your e-mail or work on your computer at the same time.
Your child will sense when you are not 100% involved and besides, the work will always wait for you later.
Remember, your kids grow up fast and there is only one time in his/her life when he/she is small.
9. Tolerate mess
I’m really into organizing and keeping things in order. That’s why I needed a big mindset shift with my son.
You see, when he grew up and started crawling (he is learning to stand/walk now), everything he could get his hands on became very interesting to him. This is shown now by getting the stuff out of the closets, ripping apart magazines or having his toys around the home.
We just came to the conclusion that it’s much more convenient to clean up the home right after he has gone to bed in the evening. Otherwise we would be cleaning our home all the time.
Summa summarum, you should tolerate more mess during the baby time of your child. But once again, the messy times are only temporary :)
10. You have to be unselfish
Both of the parents have to bargain of their own time when a baby arrives – in a way or other.
In my case, I realized that I had to have a quit competing in marathons and triathlons for a couple of years. This way I can have more time with my family and dedicate more time for getting my online business off the ground.
So was the letting go hard? Not really.
I figured that this phase of my life just won’t allow heavy exercising. Therefore, I quitted racing voluntarily and I feel it was a good decision.
11. Automate, delete, outsource whatever you can
It doesn’t come to you as a surprise, but the more work you give away from your hands, the more you can focus on essential parts of your emerging online business (or whatever you want to focus on).
For instance, I try to do all the small outsourcing work through Fiverr- whether it’s e-book cover design, proofreading or even voice-overs. In some bigger projects I might use eLance for handling the workload.
Whatever the case is, I try to outsource stuff as much as possible. And if it’s not possible to outsource, I’ll lookout for software solutions to automate or otherwise streamline my tasks.
12. Appreciate the quiet moments
If there is one thing that I have started to appreciate even more is the power of small moments.
You know, when you have a small child that is full of action, energy and yelling or making sound of some sort most of the time, those quiet moments are really golden :)
I can just relax, read a book or do whatever I can to recharge myself.
Try to notice those small moments, appreciate them and just enjoy the silence :)
By the way, remember the tip #6 and that every minute counts? Although I might be giving some conflicting advice here, you’ll just have to figure yourself which moment is more suitable for working and which one is for relaxing.
I have learnt a lot about parenthood and myself during the first year of my son. Sure, things get hectic at times but that’s what it is when you have a baby in the home.
Having a small child changes your priorities and plans, but it’s also the part of the life you want to be fully present on. And even if you have to give up on something, it’s most likely temporary.
Over to you: What productivity lessons have you learned, when you had a baby in the home?