I have two experiments left before I finish my year of “extreme productivity”. After a month off in November for paternity leave, this month is going to be all about issues of productivity whilst also being a parent to a young child. And then I’m going to finish in January with “Oh It’s Such a Perfect Day”, which will be reflecting back on what I’ve learned during 2013 and formulating my productivity regime for 2014 with all the learning in mind.
This experiment was the one that was probably most-requested when I set out on my experiment adventure. I think lots of our clients, lots of the Ninjas and lots of people I know were really saying “OK, let’s see how you cope with THIS little sleep!”. And originally, my idea was to ‘shadow’ people like my sister who had young children: either move in with them to help with the evening/night shift and then work on their kitchen table during the day, or have them phone me when their babies woke up, tell me how many hours of Peppa Pig to watch, and basically replicate the experience.
And then we found out Chaz was pregnant and due in November, so with some Ninja agility, we shifted a few months around, leaving this one for the end of the year so that I could do it for real!
So this month is an exploration of parenthood productivity. Is the sleep thing as bad as everyone says? Is it also inevitable you end up talking babble to grown ups and being smug to non-parents (even though you vowed never to stoop to such lows)? Does it wipe out your productivity? And if there’s a danger of that, how do you overcome it?
It’s fair to say that I have a few distinct role models in mind for this month: Ninja Grace and Ninja Lee both manage to stay on top of busy schedules, manage to remain uber-productive and even seem to have that elusive balance all sussed out. Likewise Ninja Dawn in Canada, who has managed all of that as well as setting up Think Productive UK Canada AND dealing with the effects of Calgary’s floods. So from the outset it’s worth saying I’m not the best-qualified person for this, being just a few weeks into the whole parenthood thing, but then maybe I’m still enough in the ‘shock’ period that I have something useful to add. And of course there are some great bloggers and writers on this subject. Looking at Timo Kiander over there for starters.
There are no specific tasks or rules for this month (as there would have been had I been ‘shadowing’ other parents): it’s all for real. My only commitment really is to try and present an honest view of the balancing act, the pressures it brings and what you – or I – can do about it.
What’s my hypothesis?
I start with a few assmptions to test out…
1. A Ninja without enough sleep is a wounded Ninja
I remember Ninja Lee once saying to me after we’d be working together for two years something like “well, this whole time you’ve only known me as a dad with no sleep, operating at 80% of my usual capacity, so give me another couple of years and watch me fly when I’m back up to 100%!”. So I want to know this month if you do indeed lose 20% of your productive powers through parenting.
2. Having children changes your outlook?
I am sceptical about this. Everyone tells me it changes their world, it makes them less worried about the smaller stuff, it makes them more focussed about what they’re trying to achieve and so on. I am not sure I quite believe this – and certainly I’m not sure there’s a practical implication here. But perhaps it will and I’ll care less about my work, or get super-focused on money to pay for university fees. We’ll see.
3. Parenthood ruins your career.
Let’s be honest, we’ve all looked at a few successful people before now and then said silently to ourselves: “Ah, but they’re successful because they don’t have children so have loads more time and energy”. It’s seen as a hindrance to careers, having kids. It comes up during all the debates about how few women enter senior executive or board-level roles and whilst of course there are many successful people who have kids, it’s probably statistically provable that not having kids gives you better career prospects. Certainly it’s without question that not being utterly knackered all the time at work is a good thing for your performance. I know this is a bit of a taboo thing to say, but let’s bring it to the table.
4. If you have kids, you don’t need productivity systems.
This is an odd one. It’s a slightly snide or critical question I’ve received a few times during the Q&A sections of our workshops. The assumption here is that if you have kids, you already “multitask”, you already have a much better control over your schedule, you’re better at prioritising and you’re better at work/life balance and… Again you might sense my doubt here. In fact my parental role model Ninjas will say that being a parent means you need systems and apps and weekly review checklists even more when you’re a parent, as you have more limited resources of attention at your disposal and more plates to spin. Well, let’s see!
So those are the hypotheses I’m testing this month.
Hope and fears?
I suppose my hope this month is for my own sanity! After a long and stressful pregnancy, the having a child part was almost like a weird abstract hypothetical scenario rather than a reality waiting to happen. So hopefully I’ll keep everything on track over the next few weeks – both as a new dad… and as a business owner, author, charity trustee, social enterprise founder and everything else.
I guess my fear is sleep deprivation. Not much I can do about that now, other than suck it up, I guess!
And my fear for the blog is that before I had kids I found people writing about having kids really boring – and since I’ve had kids that hasn’t changed. So I hope I can provide something of value and at least keep myself entertained..!
Right. If you’ll excuse me, there’s some milk that needs warming.
Graham’s book, “How to be a Productivity Ninja” is re-released by Icon Books in January.