If you read a lot of productivity literature, you may have noticed that the topic of trimming work hours comes up a lot. The assumption is that no one wants to work more, and work keeps you from doing all the other relaxing things you want to do in your life.
As a work-from-home parent of small children, this is not my reality. I have a fair amount of control over my time, and so I often can do things such as drive a kid to swim team practice at 4:30 p.m. on a weekday. I do want to do some of these things. The issue is that ending my work day at 4:00 p.m. more often than not means it is tough to hit a full 40 hours. Add in various during-the-day commitments, and it becomes hard to hit 35. As the work hours dip below that, I start under-investing in the “soft” side of the job: dreaming up new projects, networking, anything beyond the what’s-due-tomorrow questions.
So it’s always a struggle to find the right balance. In this case, achieving work/life balance might mean working a bit more. Part of working more is protecting enough hours to have a full work week.
I definitely had that goal in mind as I designed the fall activity spreadsheet. We have a lot of kids, and they are all interested in lots of things. Fortunately, many of their activities are offered multiple times per week (e.g. karate meets 6x/week and you are expected to go 2x). The spreadsheet — which is just my normal half-hour 168 hours spreadsheet — shows who goes where/when.
I had a few goals. First, we needed to max out at 2 required drivers, and that should happen as few times per week as possible. Second, I wanted one week day open, with no scheduled activities. I find it’s nice to have a mid-week break. Finally, kid weekend activities needed to be done by noon so we have the afternoons/evenings open for excursions.
I’m not going to print the spreadsheet here but let’s just say — it is a thing of beauty. I can work through to the evening on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. On Thursdays I can go until 6 p.m. Friday I could too, though I probably won’t. On Mondays I’ll be in the car from about 4:20 – 8:40 (sigh) but I’m thinking about how I can have a good attitude about this. I’m going to get some built-in one-on-one time with the 11-year-old, who seems to want that these days. And there will still be space on weekends for long runs, apple picking, whatever.
In other news: Do you live in the NYC area? I’ll be doing an event at the WeWork location at 79 Madison Avenue next WEDNESDAY night (August 15th; sorry, an earlier version of this post said Tuesday). Feel free to email me for details! lvanderkam at yahoo dot com.