My entrepreneurial journey wasn’t always the smoothest. It took a couple of years of being an entrepreneur before I finally had a system, structure and schedule in place and was doing well professionally.
Then, my first child was born. Becoming a parent showed me how much time I wasted being unproductive. It was nice to come home after work and veg on the couch to watch some TV. After all, I could watch a show or movie and then read before bed. Parenthood made me change my priorities. Now, spending that hour or two watching TV isn’t an option. There’s just not enough time. More importantly, there are better ways to spend my downtime.
Putting in 10 or more hours a day at work wasn’t going to cut it with a baby at home. It wasn’t fair to my wife for me to be gone that much. I needed to be around to lend a hand and give her a break — and I wanted to see my daughter. How could I spend less time at my startup and more time with my family?
1. Use the Ivy Lee Method.
This is a productivity hack that’s been around since 1918. It’s a daily routine that only takes around 15 minutes but will help you achieve peak productivity.
Every night, after the kids are asleep, jot down the five or six most important things you want to accomplish the next day. List them in starting with the most important task first thing in the morning. Don’t list more than six items.
The Ivy Lee Method is so effective because by planning your day the night before, you reduce decision fatigue and reserve your energy for your most meaningful work. You wake up knowing exactly what you’ll be working all day instead of wasting valuable time and energy making decisions in the morning.
2. Wake up before everyone else.
Much as been written about the benefits of being an early riser. It enhances your productivity, reduces stress and keeps you healthy because you have time to exercise and eat a proper breakfast. Perhaps the biggest advantage is you have some much-needed alone time.
I wake up before everyone else in my house. This gives me time to dive into my morning routine, read, clear my inbox, reflect and review my calendar. If I have something really important to work on, I even start while everyone else is asleep. This prevents anyone from distracting me.
3. Prioritize your daily tasks, and set a schedule.
Go back to the first hack, and assign a precise amount of time to each one. Block off this specific length of time in your calendar, set a timer and eliminate any distractions — shut the door, and turn off all notifications.
The Pomodoro Technique is a tried-and-true time management technique that can help you with this. You work for 25 minutes and then take a short break to grab a cup of coffee or go for a walk. After four pomodoros, you take a longer break of 20 to 30 minutes. This gives your brain a rest so you have the energy to start the next task.
4. Bundle tasks.
One of my all-time favorite productivity hacks is batching. This is simply bundling similar tasks together so you’re not switching mindsets. For example, if you have three blog posts to write, do them at the same time. Cooking Sunday night dinner? Prep your meals for the entire week.
Batching is so effective because it prevents you from multitasking, gives your week structure, makes you feel less stressed and helps you stick to a schedule. It also saves you a ton of time. Think about cooking your meals for the week: It may take all Sunday afternoon, but now you don’t have to worry about what you’re making each night for dinner. An added perk is you won’t have to clean cooking utensils every day. You can spend this time with your family or even stay a bit later at work.
5. Sync your work with your child’s routine.
This is a key point to remember when you have a baby; after all, babies have their own rhythm. The sooner you get in sync with his or her routine, the easier your life will get. Infant expert Magda Gerber wrote, “Infants who do not need to adjust to too much unnecessary stimulation will eventually regulate their sleeping and eating patterns. This regularity will, in turn, give parents some predictable time for their own needs and interests.”
As your children get older, you’ll still have to adjust your work habits to their routines. If they are done with school at 3 p.m. and have to go to soccer practice immediately after, you need to be “off the clock” by then. If practice is an hour, you might be able to do some light work, like responding to emails or calling clients.
6. Outsource and delegate wherever possible.
Between meetings, networking, developing your product or service and being a teacher, doctor, chef and chauffeur for your kids, life can get hectic. Rather than worry about every single task, outsource or delegate. You can hire a virtual assistant to organize your calendar or schedule your itinerary for an upcoming trip. You could hire a bookkeeper to keep your finances in order or a cleaning service for your home or office.
Get your kids involved with chores at home. When they’re old enough, have them help out with laundry, prepping lunches, cleaning dishes, gardening or walking the family dog. Saving 15 or 20 minutes on each of these household chores can add up to a big win.
7. Have a dedicated workspace.
What if you work from home and the kids are off from school? Have a dedicated workspace separate from where the kids play and watch TV — the more separate, the better
If you don’t have the room for a dedicated workspace, consider swapping kid duty with friends, family or neighbors. On Monday, your kids may have a couple of friends over, but on Tuesday, they can go to a friend’s house. This way, you can work in peace and quiet at home or work in a coffee shop or co-working space without worrying about the kids.
This isn’t exactly a productivity hack, but to make it for the long haul you need to occasionally unplug. This means turning off your electronics so you aren’t plugged in 24/7. Use this time to meditate, go for a hike, take the family camping or read so your brain recharges.
Being a parent doesn’t mean you have to pull your entire focus from your business — and vice versa. By implementing these hacks, you can ensure your kids — and your business efforts — get what they need.
Looking for more tips, here are several time management tips to help you to becoming the best you possible.