Two “Secrets” to Being Productive AND Being a Present Parent

posted by Andrea | 02/13/2017
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I’m often asked for any “secrets” I have to being productive while also being a “present parent” who plays with their kids, shows interest in what they want to do, reads books with them, does crafts together, etc. etc.

I usually joke that my secret was having kids fairly close together so they all entertain each other (seriously, they play amazingly well together right now!)

But in all actuality it’s even simpler than that! 

As I thought about any secrets I have to keep my home and life in order, run my business, be available for my family, and not feel totally exhausted or overwhelmed at the end of every day, 2 simple concepts came to mind.

1. I am clear about what I consider important for my current stage of life.

I have always enjoyed creating, setting, and striving to meet various goals. But over the past few years, I have stopped creating a specific list of goals (i.e. renovate the bathroom, put $XX.00 in savings, or grow my business by 25%).

Instead, I have a handful of goals (more like priorities) that are very important for me in my current stage of life, and I give priority to these few things almost all the time.

I make decisions based on these priorities, I plan my days and my life around these priorities, and I do not let myself feel guilty for saying ‘no’ to other requests for my time, energy, resources, etc.

Here are my current priorities:

Obviously every one of us will have different priorities for our current stage of life — but unless we clearly IDENTIFY what we consider the most important priorities, it will be nearly impossible to MAKE them a priority as we go about our day-to-day life.

There are SO many fantastic request for our time, talents, and resources every single day, but we are only one person and we can’t say yes to every request.

It might cause some discomfort to step down from one of your current committees or volunteer organization that no longer aligns with your priorities, but I know you’ll feel a sense of relief once you do it.

It might feel selfish to say ‘no’ to a friends’ frequent request for your help… but if you are starting to resent that friend or if helping her is causing unnecessary stress in your own life, it’s probably healthier to step away for a bit and reevaluate if there is any other way you can help her (or find help for her).

It might be painful to put your kids in daycare a few days a week… but if you are serious about working your way up the ladder or growing your business, you must make more time in your schedule.

It might be outside your comfort zone to hire a cleaning service to deep clean your home every week, but if your own time is limited and having a clean house is a priority for you, hiring out the help might be your best solution right now.

We cannot do everything all the time; however, if we are clear about our current priorities and smart with our time, we can usually do most of what is important to us… which brings me to my next “secret”.

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2. I am completely content to give less than 100% effort to my current priorities.

I realize how awful and lazy this might sound the first time you read it (I almost didn’t want to type it!) but the honest truth is that I rarely give a full 100% to anything I do these days.

This is NOT because I don’t care, it’s NOT because I’m lazy, and it’s NOT because I’m desperately trying to pack too much into my schedule.

It’s simply because I’m OK with less than 100%… and by giving less than 100%, I’m able to stretch my time, energy, and resources just a little bit further.

I keep my house very neat and organized almost all the time, but I rarely ever dust, I don’t clean the bathrooms nearly as much as I used to, and I won’t even tell you the last time I mopped my kitchen floors!

I have stuck with my 5-posts-per-week schedule for my own blog, but I’ve cut WAY back on my Virtual Assistant work, I don’t go to any networking groups, I will not travel for business, and I’m very selective about any extra projects I take on at this point.

I do a good job meal planning every week, but I plan extremely simple meals and simple side dishes so I spend a minimal amount of time in the kitchen… and I’m totally OK with eating some processed foods for convenience purposes.

I stay at home with my kids and don’t have any outside child care for them, but I also let them watch TV for a bit every morning and every afternoon while I cross a few things off my to-do list.

I do my best to get to bed on time and make sleep a priority, and I do a fantastic job of drinking lots of water everyday, but I rarely do any type of formal exercise nor do I spend much time “pampering” myself at this point in my life.

I think you get the idea! 

There is ALWAYS more we could do in every facet of our lives. We could give more time and energy to our spouse, our children, ourselves, our home, our jobs, our friends, our churches, our communities, etc. etc. but if we just give and give and give, we eventually burn out and have nothing left.

So by being willing to give less than 100% to the various priorities in my life, I can manage to be productive, be a present parent, and actually enjoy my life without feeling overworked and stressed out all the time.

SIDE NOTE: implementing these 2 “secrets” should help you achieve other goals too — they are not simply reserved for us parents of tiny people trying to hold onto a shred of productivity! 

I do want to mention that there are SO many variables related to how productive and how “present” any given parent might be on any given day. Things like:

  • How much natural energy do the parents have?
  • How well do the children (and the parents) sleep at night?
  • Do the children still nap in the afternoon?
  • Are some of the children gone at school for most of the day?
  • What type of work do the parents do — part-time, full-time, away from home, from home?
  • Is the parent in the middle of a busy work season or working towards a big deadline?
  • How helpful are grandparents, friends, neighbors?
  • How involved is the spouse?
  • Is there a newborn in the picture right now?
  • Is the child an only child or are there multiple children?
  • Do the children play well together or are they even all home together at the same time?
  • Do the children need lots of adult interaction or “help” to play, or can they manage on their own for periods of time?
  • How many “extra” activities do various family members participate in each week?
  • Do the children have special needs or require extra medical care for any reason?

If you feel like you are in the middle of a very unproductive or very “unpresent” season of life, one or more of these variables might be the cause. Don’t be too hard on yourself and just do the best you can during this difficult season of life.

That said, if you are looking to increase your productivity while still being a present parent, I hope my 2 simple “secrets” might offer a bit of help or motivation to steer you in the right direction.

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In my opinion, being productive doesn’t mean “doing it all”. It means carefully considering what your priorities are and then investing your available time and energy into those specific priorities.

If making time for your own to-do’s and hobbies AND being a present parent are 2 priorities for you, I have no doubt you can achieve both as long as you’re willing to invest your available time and energy into those specific priorities (and then say ‘no’ to other requests for your time and energy)! 

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25 comments

  1. JEANETTE

    02/21/2017

    LOVE your current priorities Andrea….adapting these for myself thankyou

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  2. Ines Pljakic

    02/21/2017

    I have the feeling that when someone gives 100% for something, the ending results seems to be unpleasant! You are right Andrea, willing to give less than 100% to the various priorities in life, you really end up being more productive and balanced!

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    Andrea Reply:

    I think you’re right 🙂

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  3. Emma {Emma's Little Kitchen}

    02/14/2017

    Super timely Andrea! Thanks for your sensible and refreshing perspective xx

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  4. Rebecca G

    02/13/2017

    Do you ever get that feeling when you are at church that the sermon was written specifically for you to hear it? That is totally the way I feel about this post. With 7 variables above applying to me, if I’m not always on top of my game the place literally falls apart around me within minutes. I’m worn out from cleaning up the aftermath of taking too many breaks. I either need to look at things differently or go gray early.

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    Andrea Reply:

    all the time Rebecca 🙂
    And yes, I’d say if you can relate to 7 of the variables, you’re probably in a season of life where you need to let a few things go. One idea would be to hire out your weekly house cleaning. If having a clean home is extremely important to you (don’t worry, I can relate) but you just don’t have the time or energy to do the cleaning right now, a cleaning service might be a really great investment for yourself (just an idea!)

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  5. Maria

    02/13/2017

    Andrea, thanks for this great post. I always feel inspired by your posts and this one is no exception. I admire you for putting your family as first priority while still being able to keep up with your work and manage to keep your home well maintained. I also liked that you emphasized the many “variables related to how present or productive” a person can be and to “just do the best you can during this difficult season of life.”

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    Andrea Reply:

    yeah — those variables really have a way of sneaking up on us and making us feel like totally unproductive, “unpresent” parents! Good think many of the variables are just for shorter seasons of life!

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  6. Ana

    02/13/2017

    Best explanation ever! Thank you. I’m a nurse and I’ve got two boys (13 and 11). I love my children AND my job. I work in a different schedule than my husband, so the children are never alone, and we prefer spend our spare times with them than with friends.

    They are teached by my day-to-day that I’m not only able to be a very present mother, but a working mother who helps other people (ER nurse). I have an awful work shift (a lot of nights) but very good for them.

    As a part of my job I study regularly at home, and my children are always with me. We share our tips and tricks for best study and encourage each other for our exams. Also my children notice than between my husband and I exist a mutual admiration and respect for our working rols and parents rols. Because I think that equality between women and men starts at home.

    It’s a personal decision to be a SHAM (this idea doesn’t exist in my country, Spain) but please, Shelley, respect other lifes. I admire the other working mothers around me, and we help and encourage each other, and it’s fantastic what we are able to do. One of my best friend is a big chief of Renault Spain!! Three children, brilliant students. Even my mother had four children and was a nurse as me. She gave me the best of her time and her example. Very good as I did and do the same! And I admire so much since I’m a mother.

    Your blog Andrea is fantastic, full of ideas and I admire you a lot. It’s very challenging for me to work from home as you. And also admire your abiIity to divide your time in the same place. Your blog help me in a lot of ways. I cook all my food from scratch, even bread. I also save my salary and a bit from my husband’s. We paid our mortgage four years ago, and we’re saving for our children’s study (it’s very common in Spain).
    We have also our “spurgles”, and it is travel. Europe is small, and as Europeans citizens we travel very easily, so we have travel together from more than 10 countries and more than two or three times.
    Money don’t guarantee happiness, but we enjoy strongly travel as a family. Our teachers says that they learn more with us than with they in a month….and we have great memories.

    Sorry for this long explanation and for my English too! Andrea, best for you and succes in your life and Job. Love, Ana.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    My sister is a nurse and pregnant with her first baby. I think she already feels torn between doing a job she LOOOOOOOOOOOOVES so much (and is amazing at) and staying home full time with her soon-to-be-baby. I know she’ll find a schedule that works for her and her husband, but it IS a lot of long days and weekends (not the best schedule for a new baby).
    That said, I’m certainly thankful for amazing nurses who sacrifice time with their children to take care of me and my children when we need it — so thanks for what you to Ana!

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    Ana Reply:

    Thank you very much for your kind words. I hope your sister can find that schedule. I have to say, at this point, that I work for the Public Health System of Spain, and they support (quite efficiently) to their worker women. The first three years of each baby I was blessed with a special reductions of hours, with not a bit chunk of my salary, thanks to our taxes.

    Thank you again for your words, I don’t sacrifice nothing for others, it’s my duty, my job, even my pleasure, and I’m very proud to help other people with my knowledge. You help me with so much things in my life, too! Great blog with a lot of ideas and inspiring words, really happy to found it. God bless you and your sister, good luck and,again, thank you.

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  7. Kimberley

    02/13/2017

    This a great post and came at a great time in my life. We live in Austin, which is a pretty high cost of living area since it is booming right now. I get very discouraged, very often, that we won’t own a home at any point but I have to keep telling myself it’s just not in our cards right now. We are currently a one income household (my husband stays home with our 2 year old). Once my husband starts working full time outside of the home, we will be able to save much faster for a home and I have to keep reminding myself of that. I struggle with being content but that’s just it…I need to be. I will always have goals but I need to remember what is most important and family is most important right now and keeping my kiddos and myself healthy. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, health is not something you can get back or magically fix (no matter how much money you have). Sounds like you have smart priorities right now!

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  8. Katie

    02/13/2017

    Great post! Number 2 was especially an encouragement to me!

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  9. Shelley

    02/13/2017

    Hi, Andrea, I so agree with everything you said except for one little thing. Moms, if you have children at home, this is the time to be a mom – not climb the corporate ladder or be trying to advance your job. I worked in a daycare until I had children and it broke my heart. Be home as much as you can, not taking overtime or other advancements that require more time away. You are needed way more than the money right now. Just my two cents, coming from my heart and a whole bunch of other little kids hearts…

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Shelley,
    I understand where you are coming from, but I do think it’s VERY unrealistic to think all moms (or even one parent from every family) should or could stay home with their kids every day.
    What about single-parent homes? And what about parts of the country where it is nearly impossible to live off of 2 incomes, let alone one income? And let’s not forget about all the working moms who are a huge asset to our society (our beloved pediatrician is a working mother, Nora’s teachers are working moms, my business accountant is a working mom). Our lives are richer because these women are passionate about their jobs and are able to work AND raise a family at the same time.
    I have a friend who has 5 kids and still works part time because she just loves her job (and she’s SO good at it). Her kids survive just fine in daycare for a couple days a week, they get to be home with mom a couple days a week, and their mom is SO much happier and more fulfilled to be able to use her gifts outside of motherhood.
    I am blessed to be able to work from home, but for those who don’t have that luxury, I completely understand why they might want to get out of the house for even just 1 or 2 days a week.
    And if they work full time because they are climbing the corporate ladder and super passionate about what they want to do, I say “good for them”. I wouldn’t want that for my own life right now, but I also know I would never criticize a man for working his way up the corporate ladder while having young kids at home, so I probably shouldn’t criticize a female either (I promise, I’m not a feminist, I just totally understand why a women would want to get out of the house for a bit!)

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    Meghan Reply:

    Perfect response!

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    Shelley Reply:

    Hey, thank you for your reply. I hope you do not mind if I reply back. I do understand single-family homes. My dad passed away when I was 13 and my mom went back to work as a nurse to make ends meet. Because she had three young kids at home, she never took overtime or extra shifts even though we could have dearly used the money. She drove a clunker car until all of us kids were married.
    We don’t criticize men for climbing the corporate ladder because that is their role/responsibility to provide. Society has reversed many roles, however, and this thought is no longer popular. My heart does go out to the many women that have to work because somebody gets the “best of you” every day. Time does pass quickly and young children do grow up, although it seems like forever at the moment 🙂
    Thank you, Andrea, you have a real gift for writing and your words flow beautifully whereas mine seem choppy. I have enjoyed every post since I found you a year ago.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Shelley 🙂
    I know I personally wouldn’t want to work outside the home at this point in my life — but I’m a major homebody and even worked from home before having kids! That said, if I didn’t have my blog as an outlet, I don’t think I would “thrive” as much as a person, or as a mother.
    I agree that many rolls have been reversed in our society (some good, some not so good) but I do think one positive that has come from the roll reversal is that women now have more choices. If we want to stay at home, we can without judgement. However, if we want to work (part time, full time, whatever) we can do that too because we have childcare options.
    I also agree that the young-children years do seem to fly by (I never thought I’d say that!!)… and I do feel badly for women who desperately WANT to stay home with their children but can’t, for whatever reason. However, I also know there are many women who love their children dearly and CHOOSE to have a career outside of motherhood. They don’t want or need our sympathy… and they don’t want or need our criticisms either.
    It certainly can’t hurt the children to stay home with a parent during the day — but sometimes it’s more beneficial for the parent to be out of the house for a bit (and you know as well as I do that a happy mom is a better mom!)

    [Reply]

    Rhonda Reply:

    A great book on this topic is Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg.

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  10. Stephanie

    02/13/2017

    I love your posts! Very inspiring. We have five children (18 yrs to 8). Oldest is in college. We homeschool and my husband owns a business. I have implemented the same idea here. My two top priorities are keeping our home running smoothly (laundry, house clean and uncluttered) and cooking healthy meals. That is my launchpad. Beyond that we prioritize education and work ethic. I don’t feel pressured to do too much beyond that at this point in my life. My family is my priority!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Isn’t life just simpler when you have your priorities set and can be free from worrying about being good at everything else too!?!

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  11. Ann

    02/13/2017

    Amen! Very well said, Andrea! Still liking your blog & rarely miss reading a post!

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  12. Stacie A Kaltz

    02/13/2017

    Hi Andrea!
    This is probably a weird question but, I was wondering if you leave your TV on throughout the day and evening or do you only have it on during the times you allow them to watch TV?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — no, we don’t leave our TV on very often. The kids watch a bit in the morning (right after they wake up) and again in the afternoon (usually after nap time). I personally can’t stand extra noise, so I want it off immediately when they are finished with their show.

    Sometimes, we use our Chromecast to stream music to our TV and then we’ll leave it on for a while playing music.

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