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11 Tips for Balancing Work & Family from the “Extremely Productive”

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.

Have you ever marveled at the person who seems to get a ton of work done and still has time for family? You know, the person who seems to "have it all.” The person who excels at work and at home and who even has the time to volunteer for their favorite cause.

ways to manage work and family balance work and family productive productivity how-to I’ve often struggled to balance work and family. That’s right. Even those of us dads who have dedicated their careers to family strengthening face the same challenges as any other dad. We have to toe a fine line of hypocrisy. I remember a day in 2007 when my oldest daughter, who was 12 at the time, was struggling emotionally. She was depressed. I returned home after a week-long trip speaking at a conference and training staff of organizations on how to help fathers be better dads. She started to cry after I walked in the door. We went into the backyard and talked for what seemed like a couple of hours. It took a while, but she finally revealed the source of her pain. It was me. I was traveling too much, and she missed me.  

One of the consequences of being an involved dad is that when you’re not around as often, your children miss you. This was a time when I traveled a lot speaking at conferences and training facilitators on our programs and on how to build capacity to effectively serve fathers. I knew that it was hard on my children and my wife, but I didn’t know just how hard it was.

Fortunately, my daughter had the courage to tell me that I needed to be home more, and I listened. I asked her what she thought was a reasonable amount of time for me to be gone. I negotiated for a maximum number of travel days each month based on her input.  

I’m known for being productive. Some people even tell me that I’m “extremely” productive. (I can only hope I’m just as effective.) I rise by 4:30 AM on the weekdays, work out for an hour to an hour and a half, start work by 6:00 AM, and usually get in a 10-hour day. That schedule allows me to care for myself, get a lot of work done, and still have time for family. I’m fortunate in that I work from home. I don’t have to struggle with long commutes that sap personal and family time. The biggest factor, however, in my ability to balance work and family is a flexible employer.  

Working for a flexible employer is one of many tips for balancing work and family offered by Robert C. Pozen in Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours. (Pozen is one of those people who is an answer to the question I posed at the start of this post. I pale in comparison.)

Here are 11 tips for balancing work and family, a combination of those offered by Pozen and offered in NFI’s 24/7 Dad™ program.  

    1. Look for employers that provide flexibility on when and where you work, and that offer paid leave for childbirth and other life events.
    2. Commit every day to leaving work early enough to have dinner or spend time with your family.
    3. Be assertive to obtain more flexibility. Assure your boss that you will get work done even if you take an hour out of the day to take your child to the doctor.
    4. Show your family commitment at work by displaying things like family photos and your children’s artwork. These displays will show your co-workers and boss that you’re committed to family.
    5. Make career decisions as a family. When you have an opportunity to change jobs or move laterally or up in your company or organization, talk with mom and your children (if your children are old enough) about the new commitments that will come with the opportunity, especially if those commitments will affect family time.
    6. Keep family commitments as sacred as work commitments—even more so. Avoid missing a family commitment because something comes up at work. The more often you keep your family commitments, the more likely your co-workers and your boss will be to respect them.
    7. If you and mom both work outside the home and can’t reduce your office hours (e.g. to spend more time with the children), look to friends and family to help out (e.g. watch the children when they come home from school).
    8. When you are with your family, avoid all but the most critical interruptions from work. Most work issues can wait until the next day.
    9. If you must bring work home, create a separate time and place to do the work. Your mind needs to move from you as a professional to you as a family member.
    10. Create a daily block of time for family called “family prime time.” Turn off your mobile devices, computers, and keep work off-limits during this time.
    11. Create and sign a “family contract.” Have your children and mom sign it, too. Put in writing that you’ll balance success at work with success at home. Read this contract at the start of every week to remind you of your commitment.
image: iStockPhoto

3 Family Habits to Start Before Going Back to School

This is a guest post by Clay Brizendine. Clay is a CPT, a personal and corporate trainer, father of two daughters and author of Shoebox Letters – Daughters to Dads. Follow Clay online and on Twitter. Interested in guest blogging for NFI? Email us.

The weather is a little hotter, vacations are coming to an end, and ads everywhere are talking about school supply lists. All of this is to say that there's just a little time to go before school starts, and for a lot of us, that's a great time to cement some good family habits that will carry you throughout the school year.

back to school computer key

Setting your family up for success in these ways is no different than anything else at which you would want to be great—practice makes perfect. It’s often said that it takes between 30-60 days to create a habit, so practicing certain routines now will make the school year easier.  

Here are three key things you can do now:

  1. Treat the rest of the summer as a test drive. Practice new routines and habits as a family, and see what works best so that once the school year begins, you have something in place you know works. Kids are great at trying something new, and if it doesn't work, trying something different. Use that to your advantage. For example, if there’s a nighttime routine that you want your kids to follow rather than the very loose summer hours that some of us keep, start easing into that now. It might be at a later time, but it’s the actions and activities like showers, teeth brushing, etc. that will signal when it’s time to go to bed. Bring those activities forward little-by-little each week until you're at a time that will work once school starts.
  2. Pick your family meeting spot. Meet as a family on equal turf, as this will be critical throughout the school year. Sitting your child on the couch while you stand over him doesn't create a great environment for sharing. Pick a spot like the kitchen table, where everyone sits at an equal level, to talk through anything important that's happening. The more your child feels like he can participate, the more he will. Exercise caution on this point. You don’t want him feeling like he owns conversations, but you don’t want him feeling like he isn't valued either. It’s a fine balance, but one that can be helped be having a family spot—something like the kitchen table.
  3. Make your conversations positive and about the child. Positive thinking opens up possibilities. Keeping topics on things surrounding your child shows you care. If your family sits down at dinner, for example, be the first to set a great tone for conversation by asking your daughter what the best thing was that happened that day. This focuses a child on the positive, which will often create more positive emotions during the conversation (Find more back-to-school ideas at 10 Tips to Help Your Child in School). When school is back in session, the chances of less-than-ideal situations happening increases, but knowing that you’ll look for the positive and show genuine interest in what’s happening allows for possibilities that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

Think back mom and dad: What did your parents do to help you transition from summer break to starting school?

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image: iStockPhoto

How to Make the Most of Working From Home

The following is a post from Matthew Mancino. Matthew writes about parenting at his blog. Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

I'm a dad, entrepreneur, and marketer. I worked at home for years before I had children. When my first child arrived it rocked my world. I took almost 4 years off of work and coasted until I had a better handle on balancing my career and kids. 

Here's my take on how to balance working from home with a busy family life.    

balance work family laptop daughter kids

Even parents who have 9-to-5 jobs can sometimes find themselves bringing work home. For example, my wife works on a few big projects every year and during those times she brings work home.     

During a normal week, my wife will arrive home at 5:30PM. From the moment she walks in the door to the moment the kids are in bed, it's a tornado of playing, eating dinner, and bathing. After all of that's done, I usually have work to do in the evening since I stay at home with the kids and have a small business.    

Tip 1: Divide and Conquer
One vital part of working at home is that my wife and I have the division of labor clearly defined. Also, we are careful (most times) to discuss changes if we deviate from our normal roles.     

For instance, I typically make dinner. If I have a phone call to make during dinner, we'll discuss it in advance so that we can determine a change in responsibilities. Will she be responsible for dinner tonight? Can I prepare dinner but mentally focus on a conference call at the same time?    

Tip 2: Get Alone Daily
Around 8pm, when the kids are down, I am free to do what I need to do. I'll immediately head to our office for my work time. My wife and I have agreed that my uninterrupted work time is after the kids go to bed.    

Tip 3: "No Tech Tuesday"
We balance my busy work at home schedule with our “No Tech Tuesdays” which we also plan in advance. On a “No Tech Tuesday” we'll plan to turn our phones and computers off and sit on the couch to talk or watch a movie together. We've agreed to use this time to re-connect with each other.  

Tip 4: Weekends Require Work
For us the weekends require a little more flexibility. I'm on a masters swim team and after practice my son takes swim lessons from one of my teammates. My wife usually takes the weekend to work on household chores and spending real quality time with the kids. Scheduling our weekends takes a bit more flexibility because I also try get at least 4 hours of work in each day.   

Tip 5: Talk Through the Schedule
Our kids benefit from hearing me and my wife talk until we agree on a win-win work schedule. They get to hear us problem-solve so that we meet our priorities and commitments.  

I believe that, as parents, we should discuss our work with our children. Tell them what you have to accomplish and how you plan to divide your time to meet everyone's needs. I believe that we should also gain our children's agreement whenever possible. I have found that even my two-year-old daughter appreciates it when she has input. I certainly appreciate it when I have her buy-in to an idea.  

I teach this principle to my kids. If they want to watch a show or take a toy from one another, they must have agreement. They aren't allowed to use force to get what they want.  

I've found that the idea of "gaining agreement" has turned into common vocabulary for us (more on common vocabulary on my blog).

Tip 6: Give a Timeline
One last tip that I think helps is giving a child a timeline. For example, saying, "Daddy is going to Starbucks to work for three hours, when I get home we’ll go to the park to play and have fun!" helps them understand the concepts of time, patience, and the concept of work and reward.

Do you ever have to take work home? If so, what helps you manage spending time with family?


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5 Methods to Keep the Work-at-Home Dad Focused on What Matters

The following is a post from Nancy Parker. Nancy writes at eNannySource about health, parenting and child care tips. Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

When an opportunity such as working from home for decent money comes around, what dad wouldn't jump on the proposition? Although many of you will fantasize about what it would be like to work from home, do you really have a plan if the opportunity arises? I thought I did at first, but there is much more to working from home as a parent of six than many realize.

manworkingfromhome5tipshumorousAs a freelance professional, I am paid per job and not per hour. If I am not productive, there is no paycheck. Working from home creates more diversions throughout your day that can deter you from being efficient. Sure, you get to spend far more time with your children; but is it beneficial if you can't keep the lights on or food on the table? Here are some ways that I've found to keep the tops spinning while spending the quality time with my kids that drives me to work from home.

  1. Schedules: You probably left corporate employment in the hopes to walk away from schedules. However, organizing your day to better suite your family and financial needs is imperative. As a freelancer, you may not have a choice in the matter and your workload needs to be completed in order to keep the bills paid. Luckily, you are able to build your schedule to how your day progresses and not be tied to specific hours.
  2. Realistic Goals: In order to keep a positive attitude when you are working from home, set realistic goals you can accomplish for your finances. Although it may be fun to speculate what you could make monetarily, keep your goals grounded. Set a realistic amount of money you need to make each week in order to get the bills paid, and then try to surpass that goal the following week.
  3. Time Management: Utilize the time you have by yourself wisely. It may be fun to blast YouTube videos when you're home alone, but it's eating into your production time. Once the tasks are completed for your clients or employer, then you can have all the time you need or want.
  4. Reduce Distractions: You know yourself better than anyone and know what can keep you from meeting your goals. Here is where your willpower will be tested. If you are a gamer and you work from home on your computer, the urge to play a game for "just a few minutes" could wind up eating half of your day. Your children are depending on you to keep the cash flow coming. Is beating that last level more important than your child's needs?
  5. Professional Appearance: One method that has helped me gain focus on tasks is keeping my work area tidy and professional. If I would be embarrassed for a client to see my desk-space, then it's time to clean it up. You would be amazed at how well keeping a professional appearance in your work area can improve your outlook on everything.

If you're not ready for it, working from home can hurt your household finances. You need to set aside the glorification of being able to set your own hours and work in your pajamas and devise a strategy that can keep you productive. It's very easy to procrastinate while working from home, but you need to keep focus on what matters in your life and complete what needs to be done. There will be plenty of time to play if you do.

What's one tip you would give a dad trying to work from home?

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image: iStockphoto

Gold Medal Dads...Balance Work and Family

Week three of The Dad Games of 2012 is complete. Let week four begin!

The Dad Games challenges you to be “Gold Medal Dad.” Each week we provide you with a checklist of seven actions to use in connecting with your family. This week's challenge is Gold Medal Dads...Balance Work and Family.

Dad Games

Let’s face it, dad. Work has its responsibilities and so does family. Do you often feel like when you are doing well at work your familly is left to wait on you? Or if all is right on the homefront, then something at work needs attention? It can be difficult juggling all the responsibilites we dads have.

However, an important part of being a Gold Medal Dad is learning to manage the responsibilities of work and family. We will use the word “balance” this week; but we are really working to help you "manage" your responsibilities as leaders in the workplace and at home.

This week you will be challenged to be intentional about how you are prioritizing your work responsibilities alongside your family's needs. We can do a better job of working hard AND still show our families we love and value them.

Warning: this may be the most difficult week of challenges for you. This week may also be the most important and life-changing week for you as a leader. It's vital your co-workers, your wife/ex-wife and your children see you as the person who "has it together." Let's up our game, gentleman! Take the challenge and be a Gold Medal Dad!

Question: What’s the one thing you find most difficult about “balancing” work and family responsibilities?

To honor your efforts, we're giving away prizes including sports memorabilia signed by celebrity athletes and free gift packs of men's skin care products. Learn more about the prizes here. 

How can you win?!
 Enter to win by sharing your experiences and connecting with other dads in The Dad Games on FacebookTwitter, and commenting on our blog (Get more info on how to enter here!).

Subscribe to the Dad Email™ and get The Dad Games weekly checklist in your inbox.

Dad Games

Visit Gold Medal Dads…Balance Work and Family for tips on how to rethink your priorities this week. Stay tuned during the week for more.

Share and connect with other dads this week on our blog, Facebook and Twitter (#DadGames12).

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