EVERYONE knows that a good dad:
- Is out of bed by 6:00 am, for 30 minutes of yoga.
- By 6:40 am, he’s showered, shaved and is skipping into the garden to collect fresh honey from the beehive.
- At 6:50 am, he stirs his tribe with encouraging words to seize the day.
- By 7:00 am, the family is eating breakfast together: the children are respectful, they’re without their phones and father’s jokes create joyful merriment.
- By 7:15 am, the tribe is ready for action. Happy children get themselves ready for school: teeth (check) beds made (check) P.E. kit (check) and off they go: it’s a seamless operation.
Every morning it’s a happy camp, from Monday to Friday … right?
Like the Pinterest images of euphoric families running along deserted, white sanded beaches, hand-in- hand, wearing bleached white cotton outfits … this is not real life!
Family life = chaos, ups & downs and a never-ending list of jobs to be done.
- Lego left on the floor for you to tread on when you least expect it.
- Battles with kids attached to their damn phones.
- Un-drunk cups of tea, made lovingly for your teenagers but forgotten and left to fester for days: strange flowers now grow out of the sludge in the mugs..
So how do you juggle everything that needs to be done and still have a nice life?
This is a question I wrestle with and whilst my life is not a seamless operation (and never can be with 5 kids and bills to pay), I’m far more productive and relational than I used to be thanks to 3 simple strategies.
1) Lower your standards on trivial things.
You can’t do everything … or at least, you can’t do everything to a high standard. If your mountain of tasks towers over you and all the tasks must be done, then choose which tasks you’ll do well, which tasks you’ll do OK and in which tasks you’ll invest the bare minimum of effort.
- I don’t iron anymore: not the bed sheets nor the school uniform nor my own clothes. In fact, the only time I iron, is for formal shirts, as and when I need them.
- I like my house to be tidy but with 5 kids, I have a choice: either spend all day (every day) tidying up the clutter, or choose one room to keep nice and tidy, use it as my oasis when I’m feeling stressed, and turn a blind eye to the rest of the house.
If you try to deliver high standards on every task, you will burn out!
2) Rome wasn’t built in a day
Your decorating project at home will take more time if you also have young children. Just as you start glossing the woodwork, little Jamie will be sick in his bed! Of course, in our immediate world of T.V. on demand, Amazon next day delivery, Uber taxis waiting round the corner for your call and unbelievable download speeds for the internet, we’re increasingly unused to waiting for anything. But if you want to achieve something and you’re already busy, you must learn to take small steps every day and keep moving forward with managed expectations.
Bit by bit, if we stick at stuff, even if it’s just a little bit each day, then we can achieve MASSIVE things in 365 days. Patience and consistency rule OK!
3) Good Parking Rocks!
Sometimes your life will enter a season where you will need to park the things you ideally want to do: the snowboarding season in the Alps, the super-fast motorbike, or the jet-setting job taking you around the world. You’re just not in the season of your life where these things are workable for you, so they need to be parked.
- Parking becomes unhelpful when it’s done on autopilot, as your typical habit, rather than an intentional decision based on logical evidence.
- Parking involves letting go of the things we want now, because the timing is not right, and also accepting that we can’t control everything, that we can’t achieve everything and that we have limitations.
- Parking is liberating: it cuts us some slack and temporarily clears some non urgent tasks out of our minds, so we can focus on achieving the important things which need actioning today.
Being productive (whether you have kids or not) is simply about choices and commitment: its deciding what is truly important, then investing your energies in the truly important things.