The first real casualty of fatherhood is time. Being a good employee, a good husband, and a good dad all have one thing in common: putting others first. But working long hours, taking care of the needs of bosses and clients, showing love and support for your partner, taking kids to events, and showing up for family-time leaves little time for the person making all of it happen: you.
The fact is, dads are busy. “We’re working the same amount of hours as ever, commuting the same amount of time, and doing more in terms of child care and work around the house,” Scott Behson, Professor of Management at the Silberman College of Business and author of The Working Dad’s Survival Guide. “Time management really is a challenge.”
The greatest lesson you can learn to help you in facing the challenge is that while you can’t have it all, you can make the most of what you do have. And that’s 168 hours every week. Here are Behson’s top 10 time management tips for busy dads.
Think about what is it you want to get out of your career, your family life, and time with kids — and then don’t give anything outside of those wants your unnecessary attention or time. “It’s okay to say ‘no’ to things that don’t align with those priorities,” Behson says. “If you want to support your kids’ soccer team, prioritize going to games. You don’t have to say yes to being the coach to support the team.”
Work From Home Some Days
“In an increasing number of workplaces, they are much more open-minded to ad hoc remote workdays every once in a while,” Behson says. And if your boss isn’t, then work towards a negotiation — instead of asking for a raise next time you have a performance review or big meeting, request a bi-weekly or weekly remote workday or getting off early on Fridays or coming in at lunch on Wednesdays.
“In society, there’s the expectation of the mom as the more available parent, but that can change,” says Behson. “I had a client who had a very high-profile job, but when his daughters were little, he negotiated that he didn’t have to come in until one on Wednesdays. He created ‘Daddy-daughter Wednesday,’ every week — which was invaluable for him and his ability to create meaningful family time during the week.”
Organize Your Time Into Chunks
Dividing your time into larger chunks is better than catching 15 minutes here or there. “Activities that are allotted in time chunks in our schedules are more likely to happen because we protect that time and we feel more satisfied by them,” Behson says. If you want to spend more time with your partner, then schedule a once-weekly date night as opposed to spending 20 or 30 minutes each night talking after dinner. “Even if it’s the same amount of time after you add it up, having it all at once feels more substantial.”
Defend Family Time Like Work Time
If you decide that 6 to 8 pm needs to be family time, then 6 to 8 pm is family time. Accept the fact that a work call can always wait until 8:01. “Get it into your calendar and treat your life-related schedule like your work schedule.”
Think About Unproductive Time Sucks and Eliminate them
“If you spend 15 hours a week watching every NFL game of the season, that’s probably not the best use of time.,” Behson says. “Watch one game per week and use those other 12 hours as friend or family time.” Spend a lot of time online? Turn off your notifications. One study, published in August, found that after turning off notifications, research participants were less distracted and more productive. So check in on your friends and family on Facebook, but don’t engage in social media troll wars or find yourself watching your fifth movie trailer of the day.
Double Up on Activities
Exercise time can be with kids. Take a Saturday bike ride with family. It doesn’t have to always be one or the other.
Schedule In Your Own Social Time
“My neighbor hosts a “Beer Fire’ every Wednesday night for the neighborhood guys,” Behson says. “It’s an open invitation every week that we know is going to be available if we are.” Something like a “beer fire” or a Thursday night meet up at the local burger joint is an hour or two every week that acts as a no-stress way to get important time with friends. “Beer fire has been a lifesaver for me. I get some guy time, which is I was lacking before we started doing it. Busy, working dads lack time with friends and having social time. There are a lot of lonely, middle-aged guys out there.”
Store-bought cupcakes are fine. The lawn will still be there if you miss one mow. It’s okay to throw money at some problems like house cleaning or painting the deck if you need that time. If you prioritize and do a great job at the most important things it’s okay to and give yourself slack on less important things.
Schedule in Downtime or Unstructured Time
Having every minute of your schedule planned and accounted for can be just as stressful as having no plans and feeling out of control of your schedule. Don’t forget to relax, too. “Schedule in unstructured time—two free hours where you have nothing planned.”
Turn off the technology
Technology can be an unnecessary distraction not just for you, but for the whole family. Make a rule, and then hold your entire brood to it. Make it a non-negotiable that there are no screens allowed in the house from 6-8 every night. “That’s how you create mindful, managed family time,” Behson says.
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