Having a child around the house is definitely a challenge for those of us who work from home - all the more when you have a newborn baby. Not only does the baby need constant care and attention; but as a parent, you may not even want to work anymore and just bond and play with your kid.
When we first had our baby, it was definitely a challenge adjusting to the new life of being a dad. I wasn't able to get a lot of work done. Heck, I wasn't even to get a lot of sleep done! Our house was a mess, and it was very hard just to get a handle of things.
As a coach, I hear of many parents who have similar challenges getting work done while taking care of their kids. While I don't claim to be an expert in this matter, what I realized as a parent is this:
If you don't make a major change in your life, you won't see any progress in reaching your goals. If you continue to try and make small adjustments, you'll just keep failing (like I did initially).
Now, almost 3 months later, I can say that we've been able to adjust to our new life as parents. I've been able to adjust as the work-from-home breadwinner who also takes care of the baby and does as a lot of the chores needed for the house. Many think that it's impossible to take care of a baby and get work done without hiring a yaya/maid; but we've been able to. Now, I'm going to share my tips (and secrets) in this blog post.
When I first attempted being productive with a newborn baby, it was nearly impossible to do so. The baby needed help, my wife needed help, I needed to buy groceries - the list of things that needed to be done was endless. There just wasn't enough time to get things done during the daytime. And when I had time to get work done, I couldn't focus and get proper work done.
That's when I realized that I needed to work the night shift - at night, my wife was asleep, the baby was (mostly asleep), and I had a few hours in which I could be able to focus and get my most important work done.
For me, the best time to work was any time between 11pm-6am.
Those were the most quiet times of the day. I didn't need to work that whole time, but it would be best if I could spend a few hours in that time window working and awake.
But of course, I needed to sleep as well; which was its own challenge. First of all, I couldn't sleep continuously (for more than a few hours) during the day - my family still needed me during the daytime. Second, it was nearly impossible to sleep for 6-8 hours straight, like a normal person. So I had to do something drastic - become abnormal (at least when it came to sleep.)
Most (normal) people are used to what we call 'monophasic sleep' - where they sleep in one large chunk at night from 8-9 hours. However, there are some people that do what we call 'polyphasic sleep' - wherein they sleep in multiple phases.
The most common example is siesta or the mañana habit, where the person takes a nap (sometimes 15 minutes, sometimes 3 hours) in the afternoon in addition to sleeping at night. What also happens when people take a nap during the day is that they no longer need to sleep 8-9 hours at night. Instead, sleep gets distributed, and they only need to sleep around 6-7 hours at night instead.
Another common example of polyphasic sleep are the night eaters - those that take midnight snacks. A number of people wake up in the middle of the night from anywhere between 30 minutes to 4 hours to eat a snack, check their phones, watch tv, and do a whole bunch of activities before going back to sleep. This also happens to the monophasic sleepers at times. Have you ever woken up at night to urinate and been unable to fall back asleep until a few hours later? That's polyphasic sleep in action.
The weird phenomenon with polyphasic sleep is that breaking your sleep into multiple sessions reduces the total amount of sleep that we need. Now, if you Google 'polyphasic sleep', you'll get a lot of overwhelming (and crazy) information about sleep schedules that only require 6 or 4 hours of sleep and even a (highly discouraged) schedule which requires only 2 hours of total sleep broken into six 20-minute naps a day (the Uberman schedule.)
I can personally attest to the fact that I no longer need to sleep 8 hours a day. Rather, I usually sleep between 4-6 hours every day and I can still function around 80-90% of how I used to on 8 hours of sleep. Honestly, no matter how hard I tried, I don't think I can get to functioning 100% again for the next 18 years (at the minimum!) So functioning at 80% while sleeping only an average of 5 hours per day is ideal for me.
The current sleep schedule I practice is called the 'Dual Core 1' schedule, which is comprised of two main sleeps (cores) and 1 nap. Here's what it looks like:
10:30pm - 1:30am: Core Sleep 1
1:30am - 6:30am: Wake Time (feed the baby, focused work, eat, clean up a bit, focused work again, read)
6:30am - 8:00am: Core Sleep 2
8:00am - 2:30pm: Wake Time (cook, clean, feed the baby, play with the baby, do groceries/errands, respond to messages and emails, light work, eat)
2:30pm - 3:00pm: Nap
3:00pm - 10:30pm: Wake Time (eat, do some medium work, watch tv shows, play games, read, shower, play with the baby, chores)
Before we go any further, I have to be honest...
Changing your schedule will have an adjustment period when you will feel extremely tired. Give your body time to adjust, don't give up right away.
The first few days that I tried doing this schedule, it was horrible. I was constantly sleepy during my wake time, I couldn't focus well, and it felt like it was just a waste of time. But now, after more than a month of getting my body to adjust to this schedule, I was able to adapt to it and can be very productive during that 1:30am-6:30am window.
As an added bonus for my wife, I currently do the baby's night late night feedings. Since the baby was six weeks old, she's switched over from 100% breastfeeding the baby to 10% breastfeeding and 90% pumping and storing milk. This allows her to have more time to rest as well - and as they say, a happy wife = a happy life. I can talk more about pumping breastmilk, but that can be it's own blog post.
Another thing we did was get our baby to sleep through the night, I don't have time to share tips here; but our baby can sleep in 5-6 hour stretches at night. This has made our lives a whole lot easier as well.
The next tip I'm going to share with you is to have a to-do list. As human beings, we have the tendency to forget what we're supposed to be doing or to get distracted (hello social media). That's where a to-do list comes in.
With a to-do list, you write (or type) things down on your list the moment that you think of them (or when your client assigns you tasks) so that you never forget them - even though you don't have to do them right away. This doesn't need to be just work related things, but also things around the house or personal tasks.
This is extremely useful when you're in the adjustment period of a new sleep schedule. When you're sleepy and have to stay awake, look at your to-do list for things that you need to do and just start doing them one by one.
For me nowadays, this is also extremely important to get work done during the day (when it's not quiet.) During the day, it's so easy to get distracted and forget what you're supposed to do. Plus, you usually only have a small window of time to work before your kid(s) need help with something, so getting things done quickly is very significant. I even put tasks that can get done quickly in my list, such as 'Reply to job invite in OLJ'. Every few free minutes that I have to work, I just look at my list and get one small task done. It may seem insignificant to just get one small task done, but during the day, there may be multiple instances where you have a small window of time to work; and rather than browsing Facebook, you can get a lot done in those multiple small windows.
In summary, I'll go back (and paraphrase) what I said at the beginning of this post:
If you're unable to do what you need to get done during the day, you need to make a MAJOR change in our life. Otherwise, nothing will change.
I've given you tips on working at night, adjusting your sleep, and utilizing a to-do list. These may or may not work for you, but I've found that these tips have been very useful to not only me, but those that I do coaching for as well.
If you need guidance in personal or business growth, Coach Jason Dulay provides one-on-one coaching to help you identify opportunities and create strategies to achieve your goals. You can book a coaching call with him here.