Having kids has truly been a joy and one of the best adventures I get to take part in. Saying all that I want to list 3 things that having kids has taught me.
1.Thinking time is the most precious resource
I have a new-found appreciation for the times when I have time and can collect my thoughts. I never knew how much I took this for granted until every minute of every waking hour (and a few half asleep ones too) was suddenly invaded. Now if all truth is told my wife is the one who may have suffered more with this because she is a stay at home mom, but boy she did great with it.
We simply cannot do good thinking when we’re being distracted all the time. Try writing a grocery list or type up a word document while a small child asks repeatedly “Can I get a drink yet?” and you might find yourself signing off “in that document with:
…”Until we meet again, Yes you can get a drink, I will get you some juice”
Equally, making space for thinking time in my work helps me to do my best work, handle curve balls and even have fun doing it.
Measure your work by impact, not hours
A parent I was counseling once in task management asked me, “how can I compete in business with other people who have more time?”
The answer is, in the same way that niche brands can take on the big boys. By being distinctive, selective and ruthless. Play on your strengths and leverage what you do well. Be incredibly focused on what has the most impact and creates the most value. Truly find what your Pareto principles lies. Don’t be all things to all people.
If I measure the work I do by the hours I put in, it may not look like much. But if I look at what I actually get done in that time, and crucially, the impact of my actions and not the amount of activity, I recognize my successes much more accurately.
My mind gets calibrated to what works well, and not what keeps me busy, and I measure my productivity by what creates value, and not what fills time.
2. Saying “No” gets easier with practice and a little creativity
Saying no is like exercising a muscle. The more you do it, the easier it gets. When you find yourself saying “no, you can’t have chocolate for breakfast” and “no it’s not time to open the Christmas gifts yet” all before 7am, you get a lot of regular practice at saying no.
You also find creative ways to say no.
If you tell a child not to run, the negative is harder to process, so “Don’t run!” becomes “Run!” Instead, when you say “Walk please!” their focus is pointed towards walking and not running.
Telling someone what they can do or have, can be much more compelling than telling them what they can’t.
In other words, say yes on your own terms:
“Yes, you can have chocolate after your dinner.”
“Yes, I’d love to help. I’ve got half an hour at 2pm. Shall we grab a coffee and talk then?”
“I can give you the quick and dirty version today or the polished product wrapped up by Friday next week. Which would you prefer?”
3. Margin is your best friend
Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It gives us flexibility to deal with work that overspills, technical glitches and emergency firefighting.
Margin is like air. You don’t miss it until it’s not there. When there’s less time available, it’s tempting to try to cram as much in as possible. But then it doesn’t take much — a phone call, a spilt drink on the floor or couch, a missing shoe right before you leave the house, — for everything to spiral out of control.
And it’s not just a survival tactic. It also gives us space to explore opportunities we could never have planned for, to be captivated by a perfect sunset or a child’s first step. Margin makes life richer.
There are the 3 lessons having kids have taught me. These 3 are great lessons to help in life as well. Have you had any specific lessons learned from any season of your life?