2018 Update: We still think this is a great discussion about how to have killer productivity AND family time — but you may also want to check out our latest discussion about working moms and me time.
Have you found that your best, most productive hours sometimes conflict with family times that you try to hold sacred, such as family dinner? Have you had success shifting your schedule so you can be productive at other times of the day? Did you find an early bedtime (9:30?) to be helpful, or have you found another way to recharge so you can eke out a few more hours of productivity after putting the kids down for the night?
I don’t know why the other day, but I was really, really missing the days when I could work late at the office (8:00 or 10:00ish usually — sometimes 12:00ish in my younger years!) and get stuff done. I was also missing the days when I could get up “early” at, say, 5 and get a ton of work done before I had to be presentable at work at 9:30 or 10. Because maybe it’s me and my situation, but it seems like those days are gone, at least for the foreseeable future — even if I do work in an office, either for myself or someone else, I’m going to want to be home for family dinner — if not every night, then certainly 99% of the time.“Family dinner is sacred” is the advice I keep reading, and I love that idea — the idea of us all sitting around the table, phones and other devices put away, TV off, to reconnect and tell each other about our days. But… a kid-friendly dinner time is usually in the midst of my most productive time, late afternoon/early evening. Similarly, “getting up early” means something different to parents, am I right? My four year old, at least, laughs at the idea of 5 AM as being “early” — it’s the best time to get up, Mommy! In fact, if you’re up earlier, why shouldn’t I be up also? I feel like if I were really to make an attempt to get up early, I would have to get up around 3 or 4 — and even then I’d only have an hour or two at most to get work done, unlike those long, luxurious mornings where I could get up at 5 and get four solid hours of work done before I had to be at work. Of course, you can always put your partner on “parent in charge” duty, or schedule another caregiver for that time in the morning — so maybe I should try that. (If you do get up, do you work in the house — or leave entirely, like to go to a coffee shop?) As for the evenings… my husband and I often feel like from 5pm to 9pm we go into the family tunnel of dinner, bath, and bedtime (with at least one incident each night of a meltdown, a water-soaked bathroom, or some other bedtime fight) — and when we emerge we’re too wired to sleep and too exhausted to do anything of substance.
I don’t know, ladies, maybe you’ve found The Way — have you managed to shift your productive times to another time of day? Do you swap “sacred times” with your partner so one of you gets a weeknight or early morning spot to yourself? Or do you think it’s all mental, the way I convinced myself in high school and college that my most productive hours were from 12AM to 3 AM?