Time management for fathers

This is for the dads out there…

I read Getting Things Done years ago, and it had an immediate impact on my life. One of the tips saved me so much time each day that I decided to work out the savings over the course of my life. I found that with this one tip, I would save over two years of my life, a number that surprised me.

If a doctor walked into a room and told you they had found a drug that would, with no side effects, give you an extra two years of quality life, they would be hailed as a hero the world around. As a result, I’m always keeping an eye out for ideas that might help me get a happier, healthier, and more productive life.

I recently had my first kid, and while being a father is awesome in many ways, a child does require a lot of time, especially in the first 5-6 years. I quickly found that there were some ways in which I wasn’t making the most of my time.

I want to clarify — I don’t mean “making the most of my time” in an unpleasant sense of “grinding maximum productivity out of every moment”. Sometimes making the most of time can include drumming, watching TV, going for walks, or playing games (have you seen the new Arkham Knight?). These things are considered by some to be wastes of time, although there is a material benefit to them if they bring you joy. Even Steve Jobs went home and sat in front of the TV.

Given that being a parent has many unique constraints, a new book caught my eye that seemed like it might be relevant to me. The thing that surprised me a bit was that it was a book written for women: I Know How She Does It.

To me, there are many similarities when it comes to women and men who are trying to be successful in business and in their personal lives, so I decided to read it. I’ve got to say, it’s worth a read, even for men.

Any sociologist will tell you there’s a difference between how people self-assess their own behavior when compared to a more objective measurement. This is what made me so interested in this book. The author, Laura Vanderkam, gathered time logs from a large group of women who were both mothers and successful in their careers.

These time logs are recorded by her subjects every 30 minutes during their days, of what they were doing during that time. There’s no right or wrong here, just simply recording what it was. This is far more objective than anecdotal stories of how people spent their time, and in some cases, the women keeping the logs were surprised to find out how they spent their time.

Laura then takes this data, and presents her analysis of it, as well as some great case studies that both support her conclusions, as well as giving the reader an opportunity to mirror the techniques.

I don’t want to attempt to reproduce the contents of her book here, only to share how fresh and valuable I think her approach is, in taking hard data and applying it to the question of how to live a happy and productive life as a parent, for mothers and fathers.

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