I am married and have four small children. My wife works full-time during the week, and so do I. My job keeps me busy from Monday through Friday, from about 8am to 6pm (which is not enough time to accomplish all I want to accomplish at work), and my weekends are devoted entirely to my kids. Taking a cue from Richard Koch’s book, The 80/20 Principle, I have become a “time revolutionary” in order to fit into my life everything I want to fit in, while remaining a visible and involved parent and a visible and involved manager at the office. Here are some of the time principles I have found useful:
1. Commit to being home when your children are getting ready for bed – at least five days per week. Say “no” to commitments that would keep you away from your children at bedtime. Tell others this is why you can’t commit – they will understand and they will admire you for taking this stand. Be there when they brush their teeth; read them a book before turning off the light. These days, just being there for your kids at these sacred times is truly revolutionary!
2. Three or four times per year, take a day off from work and take your child out of school for a day, and do whatever your child wants to do. Go to a museum. Go out to a pizza place for lunch. Play baseball at the local playground. Go to a bookstore and buy him/her a few books of his/her choosing. Go to the top of the tallest building in your city. Spend focused time with your children (or loved ones). Even a half-day off from work is worthwhile and meaningful. My strongest childhood memories of my father are the days he took off from work to spend with me, including Opening Day at Fenway Park every April.
3. During the work week, if it’s at all possible, schedule a lunch date with your spouse. We always think our dates need to be in the evenings – but sometimes lunch is just more do-able, and the bonus is you’re more alert at lunch than at dinner.
4. Wake up early. Very early. 4:30am or 5:00am. Get your exercise in early. Or peaceful newspaper-reading. Plan the day ahead.
5. Make a list of all of your commitments and activities that take at least ½ hour of your time each week. Select three of them that you simply don’t enjoy, or that give you the least return on your investment. In the next 48 hours, make a call to remove yourself from those three commitments. You will experience a double-whammy of time revolution – ridding yourself of undesirable commitments that suck away your time and your energy, and freeing up time and energy for things that do matter to you. Marcus Buckingham, in his book, The One Thing You Need To Know, asserts that the key to personal effectiveness is to “Find out what you don’t like doing and stop doing it.” I think he has nailed it.
6. Say “no, thanks” to every offer that requires a major commitment of your time, until you’ve had at least a few days to think about it. And don’t add unless you subtract – if you add a new commitment to your life, be disciplined about subtracting one at the same time. I once attended a week-long seminar with accomplished entrepreneurs (I was a guest) and on the first day, they were asked by the instructor, “What would you most like to learn?” and the most frequent response was, “How to say no.”
7. Work at home (or in the local public library) one day a week, or two half-days per week. It’s amazing how being out of your office, away from typical interruptions and distractions, fosters focus and perspective that promotes creativity, new ideas, and productivity.
8. Get creative in your use of weekends. Reserve two hours on Saturday, and two hours on Sunday, to focus, uninterrupted, on an important project. Schedule it, protect it from others’ demands, and work on it in an environment that will be conducive to productivity. I like 5:30-8:00am at the Starbucks about a mile from my home. When I get home, my family hasn’t missed me much because they’ve been sleeping while I’ve been gone, and I’ve already gotten more done than I will the rest of the day.
Good stuff. Thoughtful, well written. I get tired just reading it. Good for you.