Is Work First Play Second Always Best?

time management funNow that I have a kid, I’m constantly Googling for parent advice. (How people survived before Google, I do not know.) I stumbled across the article  “How I Limited Screen Time” about a parent who lets her kids watch as much TV as they want as long as they do their work first.

First Impression

My first thought was, “Yes! This! A thousand times this!” because that’s how I was raised. I’ve played the oboe since I was in 5th grade and I had to practice before I did anything else during the day. 8:00am trip to Disneyland? I guess you’re getting up early because you have to practice first.

Then I thought about it some more. I wonder if that only worked for me because I’m a morning person. I don’t love getting up early to get my work done, but I also DO my best work in the morning because I’m alert and focused. What about people who aren’t alert and focused until the evening? Would they get their work done faster and better if they did it later on when they are more focused?

 Are You a Night Owl?

I know I’m supposed to provide answers in this blog, but I suppose this one is more of a question. I will continue to abide by my “work first, play second” mentality because it has worked so well for me, but if my daughter grows up to be a night owl, I’m not quite sure what I’ll do!

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Why I’m More Productive with a Kid and How Non-Parents Can Learn From It

Time management babyAs we awaited the arrival of our daughter this year, I was excited, but also a little nervous. Here I am, a time management writer and speaker, about to face my biggest time management test yet. What if I couldn’t handle the demands of being a parent? Wouldn’t that make my time management advice a little hypocritical? Luckily, little Avery has drastically altered my productivity…in a good way. Here is why…

1. I use Parkinson’s Law to my advantage

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time we give it. Well, now I have far less time for work, which means I’m forced to avoid distractions and work more efficiently. When I had all weekend to finish a chapter of edits on my upcoming book, they took forever to get through. Now, when she’s napping, the dogs are quiet, and I have my office to myself for 30 minutes, I know that I have 30 minutes to get as much done as possible before I go back into Mommy-mode. The shortened time frame is a major focus booster.

2. I’m forced to prioritize

Now that family time has gotten all that much more important, I’ve found it much easier to prioritize my time. Some things that I thought were important don’t seem so anymore. Instead of thinking, “how in the world will I get all this finished?” I find myself thinking: “which of these things should I let go today?” or “does this really matter right now?” The world hasn’t stopped spinning yet.

3. I enjoy my non-work time much more

I now have a much sharper divide between work and non-work time. I thought I was pretty good at balancing my life, but I didn’t realize how much I think about work during leisure time until now. I’m getting much better at shutting off the work switch when it’s time to relax and spend time with my family.

I’m not going to pretend having a 2-month-old tiny human living at your house who is completely dependent on you for everything is easy. It’s pretty much the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve been surprised how it’s shaped my approach to time management in a wonderful way.

And don’t worry. You don’t have to bring a child into the world to change your approach. Just reconnect with whatever that thing is that you care about more than work, and start making it more of a priority.

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The Rule of Three

Do you have more than three big things on your plate at any given time? If so, you might be overloading yourself.

This weekend, I stumbled across an article in a parenting magazine that I found surprisingly relevant to time management. (It should be noted that I am not a parent, however, when you’re on an airplane and forget to bring a book, you’re at the mercy of whatever reading material the person before you left in the seat-back pocket.)

The article was about how to make sure your child is engaged in enough activities with out being overloaded with too many things. The author referenced something called “The Rule of Three.”

The Rule of Three comes from the chain of command in the U.S. Marine Corps. Apparently, Marines are given no more than three things to worry about at any given time. There are three people assigned to a fire team with the fourth being their leader. Three teams are assigned to one squad and three squads are assigned to one platoon. The number “3” wasn’t just chosen at random either. The Marines experimented with a “Rule of Four,” and a “Rule of Two,” neither of which was as effective and efficient.

The point of the parenting article was to say that if you have your child involved in more than three activities (including school) you are asking them to keep track of more than a Marine, and that just isn’t fair!

When I read this, I couldn’t help but think that this is good advice for everyone, not just for parents of stressed-out children. Do we have the luxury of being able to limit ourselves to three things at a time? Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. Often, if we want to go to school, or have a job, or make time for our families and friends, we will end up with far more than three things to keep track of.

Therefore, I think The Rule of Three applies to focus almost more than involvement. You may be involved with countless responsibilities, but recognize that you’ll have to scale back your focus on some while you increase your involvement in others. This type of balance is what The Time Diet is all about.

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Photo Credit: Teerapun