If you’re a working parent, chances are that your to-do list is a never-ending slippery slope of responsibilities. Since becoming a parent, you’ve tried various strategies to keep up with the intensifying pace. Yet, you just cannot seem to reach the summit of the ever-growing mountain.
Working parents say they feel stressed, tired, rushed and short on quality time with their children, friends, partners or hobbies, according to a new Pew Research Centre survey.
The problem isn’t in your organisational system or work ethic – it’s in how human brains are wired, says Daisy Wademan Dowling, founder and CEO of Workparent, a consulting firm that provides solutions and training to working parents and to the organisations that employ them.
“It’s normal to feel overwhelmed with so much to do and so many demands on you. But here’s the good news: there are simple and effective techniques for taming the feelings of being drowned by deliverables, things any working parent can do, starting today, to feel more competent, calm and in control.
Here are three of the most powerful techniques:
- Define what you’re working towards …
Most working parents are focused on simply getting through the day, which – let’s be honest – is daunting. Over years of being a working parent, constantly feeling ‘I have a million things to do today’ will accumulate a sentiment of disempowerment and exhaustion.
By identifying the long-term, positive outcome of your working parenthood – by determining a specific picture of future success – you can begin to flip that equation, says Dowling. Knowing that your goal is, for instance, to serve as the head of your division at work, while raising your children to be healthy, financially independent adults, provides a sense of self-determination, confidence and motivation.
- … Then invest your time accordingly
Working parents who have a clear view of what they’re working toward are more able to prune their calendars of commitments that don’t align, and to spend time and energy on the things that matter and that provide real satisfaction, Dowling explains.
“If your goal is to become a partner at your firm, to be known as a leader in your local professional community and to raise your kids into well-adjusted adults who remain connected to their religious heritage, then it’s important to go the extra mile at work, attend industry conferences in your city, and take your kids to Sunday school. But representing your firm at an international conference or attending every single football game are not, because they don’t align with your goal.”
- Keep a ‘got it done’ list alongside your ‘to-do’ list
Uncompleted tasks torture us: they take up all our mental space and create enormous emotional noise and tension, Dowling says. “When we don’t have closure, we get anxious. And for any working parent, with all the open items we have both at home and at work, that’s a lot of anxiety. Your task list is a necessary, but regardless of how and in what form you keep it, it won’t help relieve this stress. If anything, it fuels it.”
The effective remedy is to keep a brief, informal list of completed items, from both work and home. Write down this year’s finished projects, problems solved and your wins — whatever ‘win’ means for you.
Working parenthood is a challenge that is managed, not solved. It’s hard, it’s long, and the issues, besides being complex and ever-changing, play out on multiple fronts. But with a few practical, time-efficient strategies firmly in hand, you will not only succeed in managing this challenge, you will also feel more capable and confident in both your work life and home life.
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2017/06/7-simple-ways-working-parents-can-simultaneously-improve-their-careers-their-families-and-themselves
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2018/01/how-working-parents-can-feel-less-overwhelmed-and-more-in-control