Getting Stuff Done: The Confessions of a Dad with 5 Crazy Kids!

The productivity dilemma: how to make wise decisions, be a top dad, stay sane AND get stuff done!

EVERYONE knows that a good dad:

  • Is out of bed by 6:00 am, for 30 minutes of yoga (wearing leopard print lycra).
  • 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 gently stirs his tribe with loving words and encourages them to seize the day.
  • By 7:00 am, the family is eating breakfast together. Fresh honey served on wholemeal toast and with natural yogurt: the children are respectful and polite, there is no sign of phones/screens at the table and father’s jokes create joyful merriment.
  • By 7:15 am, the tribe is energised and ready for the day. Father’s job is done. Happy children get themselves ready for school: teeth (check) beds made (check) P.E. kit (check) and off to school they go. It’s a seamless operation.

For those dads who have the privilege to live with their children, does this describe your typical weekday morning?

Peace … joy … calm … a bit of me time (that bit when you’re doing yoga and in the bathroom) … adoring children … and an absence of shouting or stress … this just about sums it up: Monday to Friday … right?

Wrong!!!

This is an absurd illusion, a utopia which doesn’t exist and like the Pinterest images of families running along deserted, white sanded beaches, hand-in- hand, wearing bleached white cotton outfits … this is not reality.

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 and for those of you with teenagers, un-drunk cups of tea, which are now a rotten sludge with fungus and weird flowers growing out of them. But within this chaos, a critical question remains:

If you want to get stuff done … and; retain your sanity, not live like a slob, still have time to invest in your kids, your marriage, yourself, THEN HOW ON EARTH DO YOU JUGGLE EVERYTHING THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?

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 achieve my most precious goals at work and at home and mostly enjoy my life using 3 simple strategies.

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

1) Lower your standards on trivial things.

Any perfectionist reading this will be breaking out into a cold sweat, but let me spell it out: you cannot have it all and you cannot do it all … or at least, you cannot do it all to a high standard.

If your mountain of tasks towers over you and all the tasks need to get done, then choose which tasks you’ll do well, which tasks you’ll do OK and for which tasks you’ll do the absolute bare minimum.

For example:

  • 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’m naturally particular in how tidy I like my house to be but with 5 kids, I have a choice: either spend all day (every day) tidying up and stressing about 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.
  • I love to cook from scratch, but anything vaguely complex will have to wait until the weekend and as for roast meals which my family loves but which generate piles of washing up, they’re for Sunday afternoons only: they’re never going to happen in my house on any other day of the week because they generate too much work and we’re all too busy.

If you try to deliver high standards on every task, you will burn out quickly and it’s not a question of if, only a question of when.

2) Rome wasn’t built in a day

Photo by Willian West on Unsplash

Your decorating/DIY project at home will take more time to achieve 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 having to wait for anything. However, if you want to achieve something and you’re already busy, you must be patient and learn to take small steps every day, so you keep moving forward, with managed expectations and continuing enthusiasm.

FOR EXAMPLE:

  • 3 years ago, a random blood test revealed high blood sugar readings (I’m pretty fit so it came as a surprise). I decreased my consumption of carbs and did more exercise by adding 3 X weight sessions at home each week. In these 30-minute sessions, I started doing press-ups, something I’ve always been fairly rubbish at. The first time I did the press-ups, I could only manage a pathetic 8 press ups: that was it, my arms were finished. But 2 years later, having stuck at these sessions without any particular target or protein shakes, I now crack out my first set of 65 press ups, followed by two additional sets of 40 press ups.

Bit by bit, if we stick at stuff, even if it’s just a little bit, every day / every other day, of every week, then we can achieve big things over the course of a year. We just need to be patient and consistent.

3) Good Parking Rocks!

Photo by Ruffa Jane Reyes on Unsplash

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 change of job you so badly wanted, 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 either sensible or good for you, so it’s OK to intentionally park them.

  • Parking becomes an unhelpful habit and a form of procrastination when it’s done on autopilot, as your habit, rather than an intentional and logical decision based on objective evidence.
  • Parking involves; A) letting go of the things we want now, because the timing is not right, B) accepting that we can’t control everything, that we can’t achieve everything and that we’re human.
  • Parking is liberating and when done with positive intentions, you may already know when it will be time to move out of parking mode and into first gear.

Being productive (whether you have kids or not) is about choices: its deciding what is truly important and investing your energies in the truly important things.

This post was previously published on Medium and is republished here with permission from the author.

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Photo credit: Unsplash