Juggling Work and Parenting? 4 Tips to Buy Time

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With some planning, it’s possible to be productive even with kids around.

As a CEO and mom of three young children, a lot of people ask me how I do it all. My answer to that question is always that I don’t do it all on my own. I have great child care, a supportive partner who does more than his fair share, and a company culture that embraces family. All of those factors allow me to work and be successful.

With that important disclaimer out of the way, I do want to share the hacks I’ve found to squeeze a bit more productivity out of my busy schedule as a parent and a company leader. In the minutes and hours that I’m not spending quality time with my kids, I try to be intentional with my time. Here are four tricks to get more done when juggling work with child care responsibilities.

Plan ahead for optional tasks

I like to do my planning on Friday afternoon for the week ahead. One of the things I do while planning is to list some tasks that might be nice to get done if I find some spare time. I do find myself with downtime here and there when waiting for my kids at classes or different events. If I know what my optional tasks are in advance, I can squeeze those tasks into these bite-size chunks of time. If I don’t remember what my optional tasks are, or I need to spend time recalling them, I have run out of time before I get anything done.

Promote independent play

I will be the first person to admit that while I love time with my children, I also love when they are able to play independently or with each other and I am not involved. When I want to get work done and my kids are home, I set them up with activities where there isn’t a right or wrong way to play. I’ve found that when they can be creative and engage in more open-ended and imaginative play, their play lasts longer and they need less assistance from me. If they are doing an activity that has strict instructions, my younger kids will need more help from me, so it’s not a great choice when I’m trying to get my own work done.

Utilize your wasted time

Many parents I know have to drive their kids around. Driving home from dropping my daughter off at school is wasted time for me. Sometimes I use that time just to gather my thoughts or listen to music, but I can also schedule phone calls during that time. It’s a block of time I often use to take more exploratory meetings that I don’t want to interfere with the normal flow of my workday.

Of course, not every parent has the honor of shuttling kids around all the time, but this can apply to time when you’re doing something like folding laundry that doesn’t require your full attention.

Involve a kid when you can

I’ve found that most of the working world is not designed for parents. It’s rare when a conference allows you to bring your family or kids are invited to a work event. Whenever it makes sense, though, I do see if I can bring at least one child along to errands or events that aren’t during typical school and child care hours. It’s a great experience for my kids to see me working — studies show there are lasting benefits to kids when their parents have fulfilling careers. It’s also a chance to spend more one-on-one time with a child.

While I don’t advocate for trying to squeeze productivity out of every minute, there are benefits to knowing what you want to accomplish and finding the time to get it done. With some planning, working while parenting is possible and can even benefit your kids.