How I revolutionised my productivity and became a better Dad in the process.

Author David Lower   .   07 August 2017

Finding the time to learn something new is almost impossible when you have a full time job and are changing career. Ultimately it is the time with our kids that is sacrificed. I did the opposite with amazing results.

Entering into a career change to become a web-developer and embracing the full-time commitment that entails, meant I had to take stock of how I managed my time.

I am a husband and a father of two little kids. I had to be ruthless in what was important to me and what wasn’t. So this was my process and these were the questions I asked.

What are the essential tasks I need to complete every day?
What tasks are important to me?
What tasks are important to my wife and children?

What are the essential tasks?

An essential task is a task that needs to be done without exception. These tasks form the building blocks of your day. It could be anything.

Making dinner.
Doing the washing.
Paying bills.
Taking kids to school or other events.
General errands.

It doesn’t matter how detailed you are. But separating everything helps paint a clearer picture of potential tasks that can be grouped together and at what time in the day they can be performed.

The point is to sit down and be totally honest with all your general day to day stuff and ask yourself, ‘is this essential and if so, is there another way to be more efficient with it’?

It all boils down to priority. What is your priority? At the end of the day if you are changing career — what is the end goal? Changing career is a pretty big deal, but if other things continue to find themselves dominating your time, one has to ask the question, ‘what is the drive behind changing career and is your belief in it strong enough’?

Sitting on the fence and looking over to the other side will always have a stronger appeal to what you already know. It’s called curiosity. We as humans are suckers for it. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it will be better on the other side.

If you find yourself constantly back and forth in your drive to practice and learn. If you find life just keeps getting in the way. Do this process. Write down what is important and why it is important.

Eventually, you want to come to a singular truth and desire. That is your key. Hold that truth high like a lantern shining on your path. That is what will pull you through when the going gets tough and the motivation crashes and burns. Why are you wanting to learn coding and/or change career?

Building your day as blocks of essential tasks

On my list, I highlighted quality time with the family as an essential choice. It was in this process of highlighting what I needed to change in order to free up more time for coding, that I turned family time into a task. It sounds very impersonal, but for me it changed my whole outlook on how I organise my day.

Knowing that at a certain point every day I had to be completely present for the family meant the rest of the day I could decide, without guilt, that I could prioritise coding if I needed. Regardless of what I was doing I was totally focused on the family. I left my phone alone, didn’t engage in anything. I was just present.

A simple example of this. The other day I was down by the river and my son was throwing stones into the river (his favorite activity at present). I sat nearby and just watched. It was actually a prime time to read an article or do some quick emails. He was happy and there was nothing else I needed to do.

But I left my phone firmly in my pocket. In 15 minutes he looked over 3 times and each time I was there to affirm his activity. I don’t share this story to say wow what a gracious father, not at all. I share it because in that moment I learned the difference between being present and being engaged.

Since that moment I have seen a number of parents who are out with their kids but are glued to their phones.

On another day, I had taken my son to a playground. A little boy was there with his father. The entire time the father was on his phone and the son constantly looked over for affirmation that never came. I am not judging that man because I don’t know his journey.

But I do know he wasn’t engaged with his son in a precious moment. I have been that kind of father myself, many times, constantly looking for a moment to check Facebook or emails. Or quickly watch a few minutes of a coding video.

Since changing this mindset, my relationship with my son has become so more alive. I spend less time with my kids now, yet I have a richer relationship with them. The same goes for my times when I am studying. They are much more focused and I gain more progress in those times. But why is this?

Being present and being present

There is being present and then there is BEING present. You could sit on the sofa with your spouse and both of you are on your phone. Both spouses are present, but are they engaged with each other?

Having tasks or blocks to your day simply helps your sub-conscious approach that task with the mindset of engaging with it. If you engage with something you will take it seriously and appreciate it is an important time period. This will automatically make you more focused and will guarantee a more productive return on your time investment.

To summarise

Reorganise your day into what is essential and what is important. The important parts can then be reordered into most important. When you run out of time in the day those important things that didn’t make it, just have to be removed from your life.

It is brutal, but if you want to be productive you simply must do it. That is why your desire to change career has to be a strong one. The plus side to this. If you find success in re-focusing your day you will definitely appreciate the new lease of life it affords.

Finally… with regards to social media (which IMO is such a destroyer of focused quality time). Perhaps a good idea is to turn off ALL notifications for every aspect of social media and setting aside a portion of your day to focus on social media activity — replying to post and message etc. This is a much better and more focused way of dealing with social media.