Reach for an Octagon of Time

A survival guide for new parents (and anyone else)

Sorting puzzle

Build your day around what has to happen.

So you’re not a morning person. Your boss has been kind enough to stack up your classes and meetings on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. You have to leave for daycare at 3:30 pm to avoid rush hour and traffic accidents. So, those days are looking like Swiss cheese.

You can be a little late.

We have a bad habit of equating punctuality with productivity. Sure, someone who shows up exactly on time looks awesome.

Cluster your chores and errands.

Things you have to do all have a certain shape and color. Some of them look alike. So put them together. For example, you notice a big gas station right next to your grocery store. So you gas up right after shopping. You make that a habit. Presto, you’ve combined two errands into one.

You can break anything down into smaller tasks.

You don’t have to clean the whole bathroom this weekend. Just slap on a latex glove and scrub the bowl. It takes less than two minutes, and has the effect of making the whole place look nicer.

Build up your capacity to get stuff done.

Years ago, it occurred to me how much time I wasted hopping back and forth between a dozen journals in my field, all of them indexed by different databases with different levels of access.

Power Tower

The sorter puzzle changes shape.

It’s one thing to plan out your day. Another to adapt it. So you decided you were going to write for two hours, at 8 pm. You sit down and start typing or painting or sculpting or brainstorming.

Listen to your body.

Say your kid goes to sleep as planned. It’s a small miracle. Your spouse went out for coffee with some friends. House, quiet.

Plan for distractions.

You never know when your kid will wake up crying. Or when they’ll need a surprise doctor’s visit. You can’t predict when your food processor will crap out, just when you were making your meals for the week.

Don’t kill your down time.

Entrepreneurs love talking about the little sacrifices they make. Success supposedly means no more Netflix.

Be present, wherever you are.

So I’m sitting in a doctor’s office with my kid. Now’s not the time to try and write an article. Or check email on my phone. I’m with her. We didn’t plan to be here, but we are.

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