Time Management Tips For Parents: 15 Dad-Approved Tricks to Get More Done

These time-management hacks help parents use their hours more efficiently at work and home so they have more time to spend on the things — and with the people — that matter.

Let’s face it: we all waste time. At work. At home. While working from home. The list of potential time-sucking opportunities is as long as recorded history itself. Consider this: The average family barely spends 45 minutes together during weekdays, and less than three hours together during the days on the weekend. And while our responsibilities on any given day are bound to shuffle priorities, are we really doing the best we can to maximize our minutes?

There are plenty of traditional methods for managing time. To-do lists, goal setting, and task priority are all solid strategies, but there are also plenty of clock-conquering, time-management hacks to help parents use their hours more efficiently at work and home so they have more time to spend on the things — and with the people — that matter. Here, 15 dads share the time-saving strategies that work best for them. 

1. I Stopped Letting the Little Tasks Pile Up

“One of the best time management tips I ever got was from an old boss. He said, ‘If it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right away.’ He was referring to stuff like replying to emails, returning simple phone calls, and paying online bills. It changed my life. Before, I used to let all of those little tasks just pile up until they became one giant to-do list that eventually got away from me. Now it’s like: knock it out, move on to the next thing.” – Aaron, 37, Illinois

2I Learned How to Say “No”

“I think the most effective time management strategy I ever learned was how to say, ‘No.’ Someone once told me, ‘No’ is a complete sentence.’ That’s totally true. I’m a people-pleaser by nature, so people always ask me to help. And I don’t mind, but I do have other priorities. Being able to respectfully pass on stuff that isn’t one of them has added hours to my days.” – Collin, 38, Ohio

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3I Use My Weekends Wisely

“Actually using my weekends has helped me be able to spread out my larger tasks, and get them done with less stress. I used to be all, ‘F&%^ it, it’s Friday!’, and not do anything productive for the next two days. It was fun, but I realized I could actually enjoy my week more if I treated it like a seven-day stretch, as opposed to cramming everything into five days and 40-plus hours. I don’t go overboard — my weekend priority is still my family — but I’m able to knock off a few to-do list items here and there, and just have a more consistent weekly schedule.” – John, 36, North Carolina

4. I Upped My Productivity With Text-to-Speech 

“I started using the text-to-speech function on my phone. My commute is about 70 minutes each way. During the drive, I’m basically useless. But, I still have things to do. So, I turn on the microphone and talk through work reports, emails I need to send, and stuff like that. From there, I can just upload them when I get to work, tweak them a bit for spelling and stuff, and shave hours of menial tasks off of my day. It makes getting out on time a lot less stressful.” – Matt, 37, Ohio

5. I Started Focusing on My Sleep Hygiene

“My sleep schedule is pretty erratic, so I started keeping a log of my sleep habits. It’s just a simple spreadsheet that has the date, time I went to bed, and time I got up the next morning. I learned that I was burning the candle pretty badly after about a month of tracking, which was ultimately affecting everything from my work to my time with my family. Once I saw the actual numbers, I realized that there were times during the week I could devote to sleeping a little more, which ultimately made me more efficient and productive all around.” – Liam, 40, Michigan

6. I Silenced My Notifications

“Except for messaging and emergency alerts, I disabled all the notifications on my phone. Anyone who needs to knows how to get ahold of me, and I realized just how much time I was wasting by glancing back and forth at my phone every time it vibrated. No one needs to be notified every time a celebrity breakup happens on Twitter. Not only did it save me the time of mindlessly checking my phone, but it actually got me into the habit of being able to exist without my phone tied to my hip. I became a lot more attentive, and more focused. Well, except during Fantasy season.” – Jason, 38, Ohio

7. I Stopped Telling People to “Send Me an Email”

“So many people used to email me with just boring, meaningless shit. Not like chain letters or email forwards, just menial pointless messages that wasted my time. I realized it was because I was inviting them to. I always thought that saying, ‘Oh, yeah, just email me!’ was a perfect way to save time by blowing them off. But then they actually do it. I’ve realized that people will email you if they want to, anyway, so there’s no real reason to egg them on. Now I just say stuff like, ‘That sounds awesome. Best of luck with the project!’ It’s not foolproof, but it’s a genuine way of acknowledging the conversation while keeping Pandora’s Box closed, and my time protected.” – Robert, 43, California

8. I Embraced a Productivity App

“There’s this app called Trello. It’s a glorified to-do list, basically, but it’s become incredibly handy as far as saving time and staying organized. It’s a huge time-saver for my wife and I, actually, because the lists are shareable and can be edited in real time. So, if she knocks something off the list, I’m notified, and vice versa. It helps us keep each other in the loop, streamlines stuff like running errands, and actually helps us work as a team. Win-win-win.” – Joe, 36, Florida

9. I Eliminated Distractions

“I cut cable. Not just for the cost, but for the commercials. I conducted a ‘study’ — several napkins and a Sharpie —  in which I counted the number of commercials I had to sit through while watching a two-hour movie. It ended up being more than 30 minutes’ worth. By itself, 30 minutes isn’t a ton of time, but when you add it up over the course of a week or a month, it makes a difference in the amount of time you spend in front of the TV. I haven’t learned to play the piano or speak Italian or anything, but I’ve definitely had more time to take care of smaller tasks here and there that would have otherwise been time spent getting hawked Flex Seal.” – Bill, 41, Indiana

10. I Gave Myself an Extra Hour at Night

“About a year ago, I was in bed by 9:30 every night. It was just sort of a routine I’d grown into over the years, and I thought it was the proper way to go in terms of getting enough sleep. One week, I ended up having to do some west coast conference calls that kept me up until 10:30 – 11:00. I was annoyed, of course, at first. But, as I became more and more used to the extra hour, I realized I could be pretty productive at night. So, I made a point to train myself to stay up a little later than I had been. My sleep was still on point, but I had at least seven extra hours during the week to get stuff done.” – Gary, 44, California

11. I Devote an Hour a Day to Special Projects

“I dedicate one hour each day — or as close to each day as I can get — to a specific project. Could be a work thing. Could be a personal passion. Could even be simple family time. The point is, by doing that, I guarantee that, by the end of the month, I’ve gotten at least 20+ hours of work and effort into a specific thing without feeling overwhelmed. It’s much more rewarding and relaxing than trying to cram in a full day of family activities, or take a project from start-to-finish in eight hours.” – Neil, 37, California

12. I Learned to Love the Pomodoro Technique

“Have you ever heard of ‘The Pomodoro Technique’? It sounds like something Dr. Strange would do, but it’s actually a really solid time hack I learned at a seminar last year. The gist is: work for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. Do that four times. After the four times, take a 20 minute break. Then start over. The little breaks help contribute to productivity by keeping you from getting burnt out too quickly. It works for me, and it actually seems to work for my kids when they have a long night of homework. Plus, it’s got a sweet-sounding name.” – Al, 44, Ohio

13. I Bill Myself For Wasted Time 

“I charge myself an hourly rate for wasted time. Not literally, but I have a pretty good idea of what an hour of my time is worth. I won’t get into specifics, but let’s say that 60 minutes of my time is worth $300. That 30 minutes I just spent dicking around on Facebook cost me $150. Sometimes it’s worth it — like sacrificing an hour of work to play with my kids and the dog. But, more often, it’s just me losing focus. It’s obviously not a perfect strategy, because it doesn’t always translate into real dollars, but it definitely helps me see what’s worth wasting time over and what isn’t.” – Murph, 37, New York

14. I Learned How to Delegate

“I delegate at work pretty often, so I’ve become pretty strong at delegating around the house. Basically, it’s assigning chores. But, I try to do it with everyone’s aptitudes and likes/dislikes in mind. For example, my youngest son loves to take out the garbage. Don’t ask, I have no idea. So, that’s his thing. While he does that, my older son, my wife and I all do our own specific chores, which lets us accomplish quite a bit of work, in not a lot of time. Like I said, it’s nothing more than old-school chores, but we’ve got a pretty smooth system that saves time all around.” – Kendall, 40, New York

15. Realize That Not Everything Needs to Be Perfect

“The best thing I ever did to manage time and get more done was stop being a perfectionist. Some tasks and projects don’t need to be done perfectly, they just need to be done. Missing a patch while you’re raking leaves isn’t going to ruin the job. That’s not to say I half-ass things on purpose, I’ve just learned to give myself a little more grace when it comes to focusing on a task with the knowledge that it shouldn’t take forever. As a parent and a husband trying to maintain a liveable, safe environment, rather than a perfect environment, sometimes it’s a quantity over quality thing.” – Jimmy, 38, Massachusetts