PE #2: Ninja Productivity and a Balanced Lifestyle with Craig Jarrow

PE #2: Ninja Productivity and a Balanced Lifestyle with Craig Jarrow

Productivity Elements: Balance

Welcome to WAHD Productivity Elements (PE for short). This is a seven part series related to different productivity elements that are important to internalize and apply in every work at home dad’s (WAHD) daily life.

Each part of this series focuses on one important element (nutrition, systems …) that is needed in order to keep a WAHD as productive as possible.

Every post focuses on one certain WAHD group and contains an interview regarding that particular group member.

Not only is it important to understand these elements, but it is also important to realize how these elements are used in real life scenarios.


Previous posts on this series:

The typical day of a work at home dad consists of different pieces: Work, family time and your own personal free time. In addition, there is also the time you want to spend with just your spouse and also, you want to give your spouse an option of personal time for him/herself.

Daily Time Distribution of a WAHD

As you may realize, a work at home dad has many areas of life competing for his attention. In order to maintain the family well-being, a WAHD needs to master one critical concept in this package: balance.

When everything is rolling smoothly, a dad has enough time for everyone (and everything) and the whole family feels happy and content.

However, too many times you hear stories of where a dad has been focusing on just one sector in this whole entity and it is work.

True Daily Time Distribution

When there is an imbalance like this, it starts to affect your family’s well-being. When one’s work takes the majority of his attention, the rest of the family may feel neglected, since a dad won’t have enough time for them.

Because of this work overload, you are also lacking your own personal time (e.g. for hobbies). Also, your fast pace won’t allow your spouse to spend time with you on her own and he/she will have to stay at home with the kids the majority of time.

Finally, this imbalance will affect your productivity too, and you will find it hard to get your work done. When the rest of the family is not feeling well, it affects to your well-being too. You will definitely have a hard time focusing on your work.
When a situation like the above continues for too long, it may cause serious drawbacks to your family life and may even threaten the unity of your family.

Things add-up – bit by bit

Imbalance doesn’t just happen overnight – it is cumulative in nature and its negative effects are shown only after a certain amount of time.

For example, if a work at home dad occasionally spends too much time on his computer, this may not cause any response from his spouse. But when things continue to go on like this on a continual basis, his spouse will start to react to the situation with tiredness, irritability and even by shouting.

This is a warning sign that should be taken seriously. When this kind of situation occurs, it is time to stop and think for a moment about why your spouse is reacting the way he/she does.

Most likely this is because of the imbalance between one’s work and family life. The spouse may feel that he/she is left alone with his/her family, while the other parent keeps working all the time (thus focusing too much on the work aspect of his life).

Which comes first: your family or your business?

There are numerous things that can weaken the balance of well-being inside your family.

First and foremost is the lack of communication that causes confusion. If your spouse and kids have a hard time understanding what is it that you do in the first place (on your computer), then it’s very easy to understand their confusion and frustration.

You may also be very unfocused and disorganized and you work more than what is needed. If you don’t have work plan to follow, then it is a sure way to overload yourself with too much work, which will then lead to imbalance and less time with kids and your spouse.

Lack of defined boundaries is also one reason that puts the family’s well-being into danger. I know from my own experience that my work could easily fill every moment of my free time.

If you are experiencing the same (as in my example) and you are not actively setting boundaries, you are going cause unnecessary friction inside your family.

Balance means that you and your spouse have private free time too. Make sure that both of you have dedicated time for each other to have his/her own activities too. This gives both of you more energy and alertness to run everyday family life.

Finally, take good care of yourself by sleeping enough, taking breaks when you work, and by exercising and eating healthy food. This part cannot be underestimated and forms a good foundation for your well-being.

From imbalance to balance

To solve the unfavorable balance issue, there are five things to master:

  • Define your boundaries
  • Communication with your family
  • Planning your day/week together
  • Maximizing your available time
  • Balanced lifestyle (sleep, breaks, exercise, nutrition)

Define your boundaries clearly. Decide on the work-times when you are unavailable for the rest of the family.

Does your family know why are you spending time on your computer? Communicate this with your family and don’t keep it to yourself. This way the expectations are set right from the get-go and there is no guesswork done by your family members. This makes it easier for them to accept that you are working.

It is also important to plan the week together with your family. Try to find balance so that there is an equal amount of time for your family, for your work and for personal free time (both for yourself and your spouse).

Next, it is important to fine-tune your existing work processes, so that you are not working on things that don’t have any value to you.

Cut all the extra work that is unneeded out and have a laser-sharp focus on those things that matter.

The time saved here can be then spent with your family and it gives you flexibility to spend more time with your spouse.

Imbalance can be fixed – here is how!

Balance is something that every work at home dad should strive for. When your family is happy, you are happy and more productive.

There are several ways to maintain the balance:

1. Everything starts by defining your boundaries. Decide that you won’t work on your computer after a certain hour of the day (for example, you shut down your computer at 9PM every night) or that you will only work when the rest of the family is away or sleeping/napping. Define a schedule to follow and stick to it.

2. Next, it’s time to communicate about your boundaries and let your family know when you are working. Talk about this topic to your family and mark the times into a family calendar or an online one (the main requirement is that your family can access it easily).

When you communicate about your work with your family, it will also be good moment to define some common rules. For example, you should be able to work without any interruptions. If you are open about this, there is a much better chance that your request will be understood and that no guesswork will be involved.

3. Plan your week together with your spouse. Talk to each other about what the coming week might include and mark those important dates on your calendar.

Also, try to find free spots on the calendar so that you and your spouse can have time by yourselves (for example personal hobby time or time with friends). This is a great way to keep the family wheels rolling even when there are busy times.

4. It’s important that you are not spending your working time doing irrelevant stuff. That’s why you should constantly tweak your working processes and automate/outsource (Fiverr for smaller stuff, Elance for project work or by hiring a VA) as much as possible. And hey, there is no one stopping you to outsource some of the work to your family too!

Constantly ask yourself: “How can I make the biggest impact with the simplest action?” ”Is this task something I should be doing” or “Does this task take me closer to my goals?”.

When you constantly ask these questions, you will realize that you get even more done than before and you will reach your objectives much quicker.

Know your next action when an unexpected time block occurs. Especially if you are a part-time WAHD, you will never have enough time to work on your business as a full-time WAHD. That’s why it is important to take advantage of extra free moments as soon as they occur.

5.  Pay close attention to when you take breaks, how well you sleep (or nap), how much you exercise and what kinds of food you eat.

These are all very important factors when it comes to your personal well-being.

For example, I personally have lots of physical activities in my life: I swim, I run, I ride bicycle, I go to the gym (kettlebells). One thing that I have found out to be a good time for exercising is the time before I go to the office. This way I get my first exercise session done before going to work and this time is not taken away from my family time (since they are sleeping when I go to the gym or swimming hall).

In addition, I eat healthy food by avoiding as much white sugar and wheat as possible and eat vegetables, berries and seeds instead (and in general, as much organic food as possible).

However, before you start making changes (radical or less radical ones) to your current lifestyle, I strongly advise you to talk with your doctor or personal trainer first. They are the best people to tell you if you have a special condition that limits your diet or the exercises you can do.

Interview with Craig Jarrow of Time Management Ninja

  • Please find the interview here

Conclusion

As you can now realize, balance is a very important thing to master in order to maintain the well-being inside your family and also – to keep you productive.

Even if the balance may be somewhat difficult to maintain at times (especially if you are a part-time WAHD), it is definitely worth the effort.

I hope that this article gave you some ideas on how to maintain the balance and how fix the imbalance, if it ever occurs to you.

Your next tasks:

1. Put this blog post into action!

      • Plan your week (the whole family)
      • Maximize your available time; focus on stuff that is only necessary
      • Set clear boundaries for your work and communicate this with your family

2. Share your experiences and tips on the comment area:

      • How do you keep balance in your family?
      • Do you set clear boundaries between your work and your family?

3. Spread the word:

    • I would appreciate it if you share this post on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn or on BizSugar (click the vertical share bar on the left).
  • Great post. It is always so important to remember to take care of ourselves as well as our family. Not an easy thing to do when time is so precious.

    • Timo Kiander

      Thank you Simone!

      I agree – when you and your family are feeling OK, you can also be productive.

      You have to watch out that you are not focusing too much on your work. That’s why it is important to set clear boundaries.

      Cheers,
      Timo

  • Timo, there is so much good stuff here, I haven’t even watched the video yet. Do you think life/work/balance exists? That asked, the tips you give a very good, boundaries crucial to balance. Thank you :-)

    • Timo Kiander

      Thank you Dawn!

      Lately I have been thinking about the life/work/balance quite a bit and I do think that it exists (but of course, keeping the balance requires work). Once the boundaries are set and the communication is open, it is possible to achieve good balance.

      I think that parents need to review “the balance status” on a frequent basis. It’s like decluttering your work desk – no matter if you do it once, but if you don’t actively keep your desk tidy, you’ll realize that it’s soon full of clutter again.

      The same way it is with balance – you have to be proactive and monitor it frequently.

      Cheers,
      Timo

  • Hi Timo,

    Thanks for the ideas. I’ll try the editorial calendar app immediately; it’ll save a lot of time for me ;)

    By the way, I just launched my Finnish marketing blog. Thought you might be intersted :) Here’s a link to the latest post: http://www.petersandeen.com/stockmann-heikko-laskeutumissivu/

    • Timo Kiander

      Peter,

      Sure, anytime!

      Cool, I wan’t to check out your blog soon!

      Cheers,
      Timo

  • Timo,

    Thanks for the great ideas on how to balance work-at-home and family life. I appreciate all of the tool suggestions. I’ve still been looking for the perfect action item tool so I’m going to have to give Wunderlist a shot.

    • Timo Kiander

      Tom,

      Yeah, I have been testing Wunderlist myself.

      I’m looking forward to make an interview with 6Wunderkinder guys at some point.

      Cheers,
      Timo

  • Great post Timo. I have to admit I’m a bit of an obsessive compulsive person – I go full out on one thing (say work) for a couple of days, then I immerse myself in family activities, then I take time out just for me – rather than trying to do it all in a balanced way as you suggest.
    One thing I’m trying to stay focused on is Marissa Mayer’s recent comment that “You can’t have everything you want, but you can have everything that matters to you”.

    • Timo Kiander

      Thank you!

      Sure, that is a great advice :)

      Cheers,
      Timo

  • This sounds like such a great series Timo! For me, being a mom and the primary caregiver for my kids, managing my time is a big deal and a constant battle. Some weeks are better than others, but the things that help me most is setting a work time each day, keeping my to-do lists short and simple, and being totally focused on my family during the times I’m with them. Plus communicating with my husband too!

    I’m a SAHM so my work day is broken up into sections because I’m with my kids during the day. I don’t have a straight 8 hours to work, but that’s nice for me because I get breaks and it’s nice for my kids because I’m not gone constantly. If I’m working on something that’s going to require a good amount of my time, I break it up into manageable steps and a lot of times work when my husband can be with our kids.

    I think everyone eventually finds what works for them and their family. Keeping an open mind, communicating, and being flexible helps you get there! Thanks so much!

    • Timo Kiander

      Meagan,

      Thank you :)

      I have also realized that it’s not possible to work many hours in a row. Besides, I don’t even want to, since I like to spend time with my family (having a day job alone limits the free time quite a bit).

      When you are a part-time WAHD (like me), planning is essential and so is focusing on right things! Of course, plans don’t always work but that’s why you need a bit of flexibility :)

      Cheers,
      Timo

  • Timo,

    Great stuff buddy… Balance is not one of my specialties… Far too often I allow Work to monopolize my time and thoughts…

    Time isn’t as big a deal I don’t think, but allowing work to monopolize your thoughts when your not there is a big problem.

    Thanks,

    Ryan H.

    • Timo Kiander

      Thanks Ryan!

      True. It is so easy to focus on just the work part although there are other important areas in your life too.

      That’s why you need to make necessary adjustments, if work is a dominating factor in your life.

      Cheers,
      Timo

  • Hey Timo,

    Great post. What did you use to capture you both on video for the interview? Balance is so huge. Far too often we schedule and prioritize our work day and our work tasks, but we don’t ever do this for everything else in our life. If you are self-employed, especially if you work from home – you MUST schedule and prioritize everything, set boundaries, and properly manage your time.

    • Timo Kiander

      Steve,

      I’m using VodBurner for PC.

      True – boundaries and priorities are very important for keeping the balance.

      Cheers,
      Timo

  • Woo! Timo! I love your take on this.

    Balance is a massively wonderful thing in life, and one I’d love more of.

    My favorite part of this post is the graphs, maybe ’cause I’m visual, but more because it really clarifies things quick.

    All that being said, I tend to aim for a different solution.

    Rather than ‘balancing’ the push-pull of so many different things, I aim to BLEND them.

    I aim to involve family and friends in fulfilling projects that also contribute to our economic well-being.

    People always want to balance work and play, I unite them.

    • Timo Kiander

      Great to hear that Jason!

      Uniting / blending … that’s very interesting concept!

      I think that we all should involve more our family members in what we do.

      Cheers,
      Timo

  • Luckily, I don’t have any children at home any more. No they haven’t left me because I work too much, they’ve grown up! But seriously, someone I know said of his brother recently, “he’s still trying to find his work/wife balance”.

    Sometimes the demands of work just get too much and they are really difficult to manage. The important thing though is to have some really good down time (especially if there’s a beach involved) and to make sure that those other relationships around us are nurtured.

    • Timo Kiander

      Mike,

      That is a good advice – having a good down time and focusing on your closest ones.

      Cheers,
      Timo

  • All great points. While I’m not a WAHD, I used to spend too much time working and not enough time with my family. I have changed that and I can see my family communicating better plus I’m getting to spend more time with them. One great thing about it is working with my kids outside. We can get some work done while we are talking and having fun.

    • Timo Kiander

      Keith,

      Thank you :)

      It is very easy to focus too much on the work side and forget your family.

      Anyway, your way of combining work and fun sounds very exciting :) I think that in general, trying to involve your family more with your activities is a great way to improve balance.

      Cheers,
      Timo