Productivity for Parental Couch Warriors

by Annie

in couch warriordom, managing overwhelm, the home office

Note to readers: This post is part of the Word Carnival series of monthly blog posts. To read more posts on this month’s topic, “Parentpreneurs: What Being a Parent Teaches You About Business,” written by our Carnies, whip-smart entrepreneurs all, check out the fairway (aka “The Word Carnivals site”)!

Harried mom working with kids at home on laptop
Ever try herding cats while balancing spinning plates on long skinny sticks wearing roller skates?

Sometimes, being a Couch Warrior parent feels that easy. Mostly not, though.

I mean, it’s not enough I manage fifty-eleven bajillion brands on social media AND write blog posts AND put up websites AND coach clients AND try to find time to write my own fiction?

I have to run a house, too?

AND PARENT MY KID?!

Priorities. I Has ‘Em.

Breathe. In with the good air. Out with the bad. (I’m talking to myself here. I just worked myself up into a nearly full blown panic attack in less than 150 words, y’all. THAT’S HOW GOOD I AM WITH THE WORDS-PUTTING-INTO-SENTENCES-DOING THING.)

Here’s what I’ve learned from nigh onto eight years at the center of this three ring circus…

Do (Delete, Defer, Delegate) Or Do Not. There Is No Try.

You only have one choice to make whenever a thing comes across your task-consciousness. Seriously, that’s it. One choice, from among four very simple and mutually exclusive options:

  1. Do it (i.e., do it now and do it yourself)
  2. Delete it (i.e., don’t do it)
  3. Defer it (i.e., do it, but do it later)
  4. Delegate it (i.e., let some other sucker do it)

Parental Couch Warriors (PCWs) must get ruthlessly quick with this part.

The only — and I do mean only — things that go in box #1 are the things that absolutely must get done, and must get done NOW, and must get done BY ME. Here’s a hint: this is approximately 0.00023% of All The Things.

Everything else gets apportioned among the remaining three boxes. And here’s hint #2: approximately 99.99987% of the crap that doesn’t go into box #1 goes into box #2.

Simply put: we tend to overstate our own importance, and we also tend to overstate the necessity of All The Things. I’m here to tell you that the world will not, in point of fact, end should the dishes be done tomorrow morning instead of tonight.

Also? Your ten-year-old precious snowflake is entirely capable of doing those dishes, at least well enough to keep Child Protective Services relatively happy and out of your shit.

Which leaves all the rest of The Things, which come down to basically asking yourself three very simple questions:

  1. Would This Thing be useful, helpful, or brilliantly fun, at some point now or in the future? Yes? Move on to question #2. No? Dump it in the circular file, my friend.
  2. OK, This Thing being particularly useful, helpful, or brilliantly fun at some point now or in the future, am I the only person on the face of the ENTIRE PLANET who can POSSIBLY do this awesome thing? Yes? Move on to question #3. (Hint: the answer is almost NEVER “yes.”) No? Delegate that sucker, baby.
  3. NOW, This useful, helpful, and/or brilliantly fun thing being reserved SOLELY UNTO ME of ALLLLL the people on the planet, do I have to do it right now or in the next few days? Yes? Then do it. (Or put it on The List.) No? DEFER, DEFER, DEFER. (More on this in a later post.)

This? This simple-ish 3-question process? Resolves the vast majority of all PCW productivity issues.

BUT WAIT!

There’s more…

Random Lessons On Productive Parenting Learned The Mo-Fo Hard Way

Take ’em for whatever they may be worth to you – but ignore ’em at your own peril:

  • Your biggest enemy is out-of-whack expectations. Usually these are your expectations of yourself.
  • Sometimes, they are also your expectations of your kids. They are not mini-adults.
  • They are also not helpless infants. (Y’know, unless they actually are helpless infants, in which case just hang in there and try not to kill them – it does get easier.) They are perfectly capable of both (A) cleaning up after themselves and others, to an extent; and (B) entertaining themselves. Now, don’t get me wrong, here. THEY WILL LIE TO YOU ABOUT BOTH OF THESE THINGS. Just remember, they are kids (aka “lying liars who lie”) and must be Managed. With care, to be sure, but MANAGED.
  • I PROMISE you: Nobody gives a shit if your floors are six days past the point they needed vacuuming, except you. Well, and your hyper-critical mother in law, but what’s she doing in your workspace ANYWAY, HUH?
  • Communication is the key here. Well, communication and enforcement. Talk to your little darlings. Something like this, maybe: “OK, sweetums, Mommy’s got to work now. I’m going to work for 30 minutes in my office, and I’m setting an egg timer for 30 minutes. When that time is up, we’ll play our 29th game of Candyland today. Come inside my office before the timer goes off, without something being on fire or bleeding profusely, and I WILL SELL YOU TO THE METH GANG ON THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN.” But – y’know, put it into your own words.
  • Usually, I recommend estimating the time each task will take and adding on a 25% time buffer, to accommodate all those wacky little things that happen from time to time to suck up your attention and energy. When the thing doing the sucking sprang mewling and puking from your loins, however, that buffer should probably increase to about 150%. Act and plan accordingly.

There’s so much more that could be said, to be honest. I could write a whole book.

If I weren’t a parent.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Tea Silvestre January 29, 2014 at 3:52 pm

As usual, you’ve managed to capture the true spirit of working at home while also: 1) making me snort and giggle and 2) giving sage advice. You are a wise, wise woman.

Even for those who DON’T have kidlets to figure out in their equation of how to get things done, this is an excellent post full of sage advice.
Tea Silvestre recently posted..My Big Why: On Motives, Mentors, and Defining Moments

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Nicole Fende January 29, 2014 at 6:11 pm

I love the intro – spinning plates & roller skates are the easy days of being an entrepreneur.

However the best part is when you channel Yoda. “Do (Delete, Defer, Delegate) Or Do Not. There Is No Try.” I’ve already copied your list of four and plan to implement as ruthlessly as any dark lord.
Nicole Fende recently posted..Kidproof Your Small Biz Profits

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Sharon Hurley Hall January 29, 2014 at 7:18 pm

OMG, Annie, I snorted with laughter when I read this, feeling so there at the same time. I love your four-step process and the timer thing is great. I do the same, minus the actual timer (because you’d better believe that the same kid that can’t tell when it’s bedtime will be there 5 minutes before the agreed slot, so who needs one?)
Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..Blogging Update – Q4 2013

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Molly McCowan January 30, 2014 at 12:46 am

This is the funniest thing I’ve read all day. I love the part about teaching yourself to make quick decisions—otherwise nothing gets done! I also laughed out loud at the part about not worrying if the floor’s a little past-due for vacuuming; it’s true, no one notices but you. Great advice, and a really fun-to-read post!
Molly McCowan recently posted..How My Dog Makes Me a Better Editor

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Nick Armstrong January 30, 2014 at 9:26 am

I tell you what – that time buffer thing was wicked useful BEFORE I had kids (I always add a week to what I think I’ll need). Now I add two weeks – one at the very start of the project, because between diaper changes and feedings and crying fits from my 3 week old son, haha – I have to be pretty flexible with my work time and when I get things done.

I used to HATE 5 AM. Now I actually really like it, there’s nobody emailing you, it’s quiet, the sun is coming up… great time for coffee and stretches and writing.

It’s been sort of a forced adaption because of junior’s arrival, but ultimately it’s a change for the better. The 4D’s is amazing; when we started getting “close” to junior’s arrival, I actually delegated almost ALL of my day-to-day stuff and started pulling myself out of the non-mission critical interactions with clients. They still get the facetime they want, but I don’t have to do the implementations. It made things A LOT easier on me and frees up time so I can help with junior as opposed to slave away on my laptop all day.

Great post as always Annie!
Nick Armstrong recently posted..Baby Blues and Buyers Remorse: Expectations are Everything

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Blaze Lazarony January 31, 2014 at 12:06 am

OMG…my sides hurt from laughing so hard Annie.

If I had kids, I’d send them to live with you for a year, I think they would come back happier, full of good stories…and of still in their pj’s.

xoxo, Blaze
Blaze Lazarony recently posted..3 Rapid Fire Decision Making Strategies for Entrepreneurs

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Sandy McDonald February 4, 2014 at 8:24 am

“When the thing doing the sucking sprang mewling and puking from your loins!” This made me choke with laughter Annie, you sure do have a way with words my friend. I think it was the word sprang that did it for me. OMG, have you got a visual of ‘spranging’ from the loins? Spranging seems to be a word that could sum up the whole small children working from home experience! But even when you are past that point, I am taking on your best point, there is no try, just the 4 d’s or don’t. Thanks for a great laugh of the day.
Sandy McDonald recently posted..Blogging is your legacy

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Carol Lynn February 6, 2014 at 1:23 am

Annie, you seriously crack me up. First with the plate-spinning-cat-herding gig, then with the sentence-induced panic attack and the mofo meth-selling lessons. SNORT!!!!

Ok, stuffing Oreo back in mouth after spewing it across table….

And wait, there were lessons in here too, right? Yes, egg timers and priorities and such! Always good things to have, with or without kids. Love your perspective and how you make even horrible things sound fun 🙂
Carol Lynn recently posted..Why Storytelling Done Right Will Captivate Your Audience

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