How To Get A Full Day’s Work In When You Have Kids At Home

Hustle culture. It’s a beast.

When faced with the seemingly insurmountable challenge of getting in a full days worth of work with children at home (and throw in a pandemic for good measure) many of us feel like we’re perpetually falling short.

“There’s so much to do, and not enough time” loops through our heads just adding to our stress and overwhelm.

So, what should we do instead?

Kate Northrup, speaker, entrepreneur, time/energy management expert and a bestselling author of Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time and Energy Management for Busy Moms gave me her three best tips for getting in a full day’s work despite having a full house.

1. Assess your 80/20

In times of pressure, we often feel like we don’t have enough time to take a step back and get the 30,000 foot view. But if we don’t, guaranteed we’re wasting our precious time doing things that keep us busy without getting us results.

“Pareto’s Principle states that 20% of our actions get us 80% of our results.Before you put your head down and start grinding away at your to do list, come up for air and list out the results that matter the most in your work. Is it closing sales? Booking gigs? Submitting proposals? Something else? Be ruthless here,” advises Northrup. “Getting your inbox to zero is not a critical result. Think of what brings revenue in the door or what the critical outcome for your particular role within your company is. It shouldn’t be more than a small handful of things. Next to each of the desired outcome/result, write out the tasks you do that are directly related to the desired outcome. Again, be ruthless. Ask yourself, if I could only do one thing to get my desired result, what would it be?

“Now, take the tasks written next to each result and make a master list of tasks. These are the 20% of activities that will lead to 80% of your results. Prioritize them. When you sit down for your work time, do them first. If you can, schedule them for when you’re most energized and focused during the day,” says Northrup. 

When trying to get a full day of work in with kids at home, you likely won’t get much past the 20% – and your results will most likely look better for it. In fact, you’ll likely find that your results improve as you devote your time and attention to the 20%, despite the fact that you’re working less.

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2. Body First. Business Second.

We’ve been taught that our best work comes exclusively from our minds, but we’ve been taught wrong. In order to focus, be creative, problem solve, be collaborative, articulate, and innovative, we need to tend to our bodies first. They’re the source of our greatest work.

“When we sacrifice our bodies for our work, eventually not only do our bodies suffer, our work does, too. To get the most done in the least amount of time, put your body first. Ask your body what it needs in the morning. Is it fresh air? A good sweat? A good stretch? More water? An orgasm? A rest?” asks Northrup.

There’s a reason top achievers like Richard Branson credit exercise as their number one secret to success. Body first. Business second. When you give your body what it needs first, it will thank you with the energy, focus, and power you need to do your best work, and be present with your kids.

3. Assess Your Workload With Your Partner (If You Have One)

“If you have a partner at home, one of the greatest obstacles to your productivity is taking on more than your share of the responsibilities of cohabitation and co-parenting,” notes Northrup. “This is historically been seen in heterosexual couples where the woman takes on more of the load at home, but it can also be true in same sex partnerships and in heterosexual couples where the man takes on more of the load at home.”

No matter your situation, to combat the tendency to take on more than your fair share, sit down with your partner and list everything that needs to get done in your shared life. Include all of the parenting, housekeeping, food, medical, travel, house maintenance, and all other responsibilities you can think of.

-Each of you chooses the things that you love doing from the list.

-Each of you chooses the things you don’t mind doing from the list.

-Each of you identifies the things you hate doing from the list.

“Go through each item that’s unclaimed and decide if you will outsource it or if it can be let go. Update this list as needed so resentments don’t build up. If you’re single, go through the same exercise and identify people in your life who could fill in the gaps and then practice asking for and receiving help,” suggests Northrup.

Getting your work done under a constricted schedule requires letting go of the idea that your value is based on the number of hours you work and the amount of effort you expend.

This way of living and working goes against cultural norms and you may feel resistance to embracing it at first, but when you give it a go, the results speak for themselves.

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