For working parents, trawling through a to-do list can feel like climbing a mountain, with cracks becoming crevasses and the summit an out-of-reach goal. Fire-fighting colleague demands and being absent from your kids can frequently turn a tough day in to a terrible one. You can feel overstretched, tired, angry and short-tempered with everyone around you, unable to perform at your best at home or at work as you battle through each day. Feeling overwhelmed under these circumstance is normal. There’s a lot going on. Daisy Wademan Dowling, founder and CEO of Workparent (workparent.com), a consulting firm that provides advice, solutions and training to working parents and to the organisations that employ them, has these four key techniques to help create a calmer, more competent you.
Know your end game
Well-run organisations, and good managers within them, have a clear, compelling view of the future. With clarity on where they want to go, they have confidence in their decisions and take motivation from what lies ahead. As a working parent, do you? Most working parents are focused on simply getting through the day, which — let’s be real — is daunting. By identifying the long-term, positive outcome of your working parenthood you can begin to flip that equation. Knowing that your goal is to “serve as a vice president of this organisation, while raising my children to be healthy, financially independent adults” provides a sense of self-determination, confidence, and motivation. You made the decision. The goal is reachable, and you can focus on the tasks that accrue toward it.
Invest your time accordingly
Working parents who have a clear view of what they’re working toward are more able to prune their calendars of commitments that don’t align, and to spend time and energy on the things that matter. With your working-parent vision clear, try spending 10 minutes each Friday doing a “forward calendar audit”. Look over next week’s to-do list, identify the items that don’t fit with your goals, and commit to delegating or saying no to 5% of them. By making this a habit, you will be able to win back a significant amount of your own time, and increase your sense of satisfaction
Keep a “got it done” list
Uncompleted tasks torture us: they take up all our mental space and create enormous emotional noise and tension; when we don’t have closure, we get anxious. And for any working parent, with all the open items we have both at home and at work, that’s a lot of anxiety. The effective short-circuit is to keep a brief, informal list of completed (rather than undone) items, from both work and home. Write down this year’s finished projects, problems solved, your wins — whatever “win” means for you, for example, beat our quarterly numbers; watched Ella’s netball match. Remind yourself of how much you’ve done, how much you’ve produced and accomplished, in both spheres.
Schedule a regular power outage
As a working parent, your to-do treadmill will never slow or stop, but you can choose to step off it, briefly. Sometime in the next two days, set aside 20 minutes in which you turn off all devices, set aside your task list, and do nothing “productive” at all. Your job is simply to spend time in an activity you enjoy with your family. It could be eating dinner together, dancing with your toddler, or going on a jog with your teenage son. Even in such a short window of time, you’ll find that your stress will decrease, and your feeling of “having done something positive for myself and my family” will go up. And even more important, during a crazy day, you’ll regain a sense of control: you’ve taken an affirmative decision to do this, and made it happen on your own terms.
This article was originally featured in The Informer, September 2018. To read the full magazine, please click here.