I welcomed kid #5 four weeks ago today. I started tracking my time continuously in April 2015, so I have a good picture of my schedule with four older children, and my schedule with a newborn. It’s been interesting to compare my time logs from before and after the baby’s arrival.
In particular, as I think about how I work, I’ve been studying hours devoted to my business during this time that, if I had a normal job, I’d presumably be on maternity leave. I decided not to take on any speaking engagements requiring travel during this time. So that part of my business has zoomed close to zero. But I can see that I logged 25 hours of work this past week (plus whatever I do today). I was originally presuming about a 25 percent schedule at this point. Since I generally worked 40 hours/week this past year — not 100 hours a week — this appears to be a 60 percent schedule.
Perhaps that sounds high for 3-4 weeks postpartum — like a lot of time to be gone. However, I work from home, and about half of this work is multi-tasked with feeding or holding the baby. I aim to do any deeper work around feedings between 9 a.m. and noon when I have childcare coverage and the 5-year-old is in preschool. Then I take the baby at noon and our nanny picks up the 5-year-old for various afternoon activities. They will stay home if I have something requiring silence or two hands, but I’ve generally felt like I shouldn’t change kid #4’s schedule. Becoming a big brother has been a big enough disruption.
So I play and gaze at the (very cute!) baby during the afternoon when he’s alert. If he’s sleepy, I tackle work projects. For instance, on three afternoons this week he took 60-90 minute naps on my lap or in the sling while I worked. Those were fairly productive work-naps. Other times I’ve been holding a pacifier in, and typing with one hand.
(The rest of the schedule: they come home 3/3:30 p.m. and I go for a run. The other kids come home 4-ish. I try to spend time with the other kids in between feedings. I’ve outsourced most activity-driving duties due to said feedings.)
A lot of the work is self-driven. I like what I do. Some is the reality of having a business that is based on my personal brand, plus timing with projects I started at various points last year (some before I even knew the baby was on the way!).
I don’t enjoy multi-tasking. It is frustrating and inefficient. But I am working toward accepting that this is the reality of having a newborn, and not shutting down my business. I am trying to do some more reading while nursing, as opposed to mindlessly scrolling the internet. But if I am going to just mindlessly scroll the internet, I don’t think pecking out answers to emails is a worse use of time.
There’s also the reality that it’s January and cold. If it was summer, I’d probably take the baby for walks during some of the sleepy time. But since I’m in the house with the baby sleeping in the sling, working seems more productive than the constant cleaning I could be doing given that I’m in the house, seeing the mess, for close to 100 percent of the time.
And as I consider things, I’m getting an OK amount done while spending a lot of time with the baby. I’ve learned some tricks over years of studying productivity that work even when time is extremely limited. Here’s what I find most helpful:
Plan my weeks on Fridays. What has to happen, and what would I like to see happen, personally and professionally? On Fridays I also make a firm plan for the upcoming weekend, and take a look at the next weekend to make a tentative plan.
Create short daily to-do lists. I generally create these daily lists — drawn from the weekly list — toward the end of the day prior. Stuff comes up, so the shorter the better. If I aim to do 3-5 things, they’ll probably happen. If I aim to do 20 things, they won’t.
Time block. I do not catch up on email during the morning shift stretches when I don’t have the baby. I can answer emails in small bits of time later. Calls have to happen in the morning. I think of the afternoon as baby time; my goal is no expectations other than caring for him during this window (though I often do other things when he naps, as mentioned above). I moved my run to the late afternoon, since that’s what seemed to work best. I might walk with a kid then instead, but in any case, it’s active time. Speaking of which…
Exercise (and sleep, as possible). In my speeches I use a line that “sleep and exercise don’t take time, they make time.” My sleep is interrupted, but I can do my best to make sure that I get 7 total hours in any 24. I can also exercise for 30 minutes a day.
Write it down. When stuff comes up, or I think of something that needs to happen, I write it down. Since I frequently stop what I’m doing to care for the baby, I can’t rely on remembering it. I’ll make lists in my planner, or email myself notes, like “register A for kindergarten.” And now that’s done.
In other news: I mentioned on a recent goals list that I wanted to watch a basketball game on TV. I finally managed to watch a Sixers game last night. They were playing the Lakers, featuring LeBron James, who started the game a few points away from Kobe Bryant’s all-time scoring record and passed it in the course of playing. I hadn’t thought too much about Bryant in a while, but with the announcers mentioning his name every time James scored, I decided to read his entire Wikipedia entry. I watched clips. I read about his family. So today’s news came as quite a shock. I know young lives are cut short all the time, but every time I read of one, I am reminded of the importance of using time well. We only get so much to do what we want to in this world. I wrote this essay after the death of a friend in a different helicopter accident two years ago trying to get at these thoughts.