A Millennial Dad's Strategies to Thrive -- at Home and the Office
Before I welcomed my daughter Mia into the world, several people gave me dire warnings about how my lifestyle would change. They were pessimistic, predicting things would change for my wife Natasha and me.
"You'll have almost no time to get anything done."
"Your relationship with your wife will change."
"You'll lose control of your time."
"I hope you got all your travel done already."
Now that Mia is with us, however, I've had time to reflect and realize that the advice couldn't have been further from the truth.
In fact, my lifestyle has been complemented by the addition of a daughter.
Here are the strategies that underpin my new lifestyle as a millennial dad:
1. Decide to expand (not contract). I admit that after Mia arrived, my new responsibilities cut into my free time considerably and at first it felt quite intimidating.
Therefore I had two choices: I could contract. I could absorb all the new activity into my schedule, adopt a bare bones posture of working only as much as I needed to, then look after Mia and collapse in a heap and sleep. Repeat.
Or I could use the inspiration Mia provided me to expand, both the time available to me and what I did with it. I chose this second strategy and here are some examples of my approach.
Doing weekly planning: On Sunday, I spend an hour at night planning out my week and my goals: If Mia is unsettled, instead of ignoring her or the task, I simply hold her while I do my planning.
Expanding waking hours: I wake up earlier than before and use the time to read articles, think about upcoming activities and spend time with Mia and my wife if they're awake.
Allowing more of a buffer: I leave home 30 minutes early and sit to have coffee and further plan the day or do writing.
Being focused: During the day, I am ferocious at ensuring that I manage my time and constantly focus on priorities.
Using travel time: I listen to audiobooks on the way home to fit in self improvement.
Playing hard (after working hard): At night, I turn all my attention to spending time with Mia and my wife.
Drawing inspiration: If the inspiration comes to me, I'll spend another hour after they sleep planning the next day or writing (I started writing this article at 11 p.m. while Mia was in my other arm settling).
2. Being more strategic financially. There is some truth to the "I hope you traveled" comment because although we aren't really limited, we are now becoming more careful in our financial choices.
Previously, my wife and I put no boundaries on our travel and often would go on spontaneous trips relying on our good friend, the credit card.
We now choose to be more strategic in our financial thinking because of Mia. We know that to achieve our financial goals, which now include looking after her, we should not expose ourselves like we did before.
Therefore even though we have a strong income, we now put aside a "travel budget" each year and take trips using only the funds in that budget regardless of other income.
Similarly we now have side accounts building up for Mia's future: A small amount of money over an extended period can go a long way.
Related: How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?
3. Being goal oriented. The past few months since Mia arrived have been momentuous. We settled on a new home; my brother and I released a beta version of his startup's website, Lifemode; I began a new online venture; I've published five articles and I have become more motivated than ever to achieve success at my current job in sales. I do all these things to make myself more well-rounded as a professional.
I am motivated to do more than I did before Mia's arrival, when theoretically I had less time. Why? Because I am inspired and driven by the need to support our combined future.
If I wake up and don't quite feel like getting up or don't want to work on an extra sale, I just remind myself of our goals (financial and family-wise) and become energized again.
4. Don't lose sight of your cheerleader. I can understand why having a child might cause an imbalance in the dynamics of a marriage. After all, if email can distract many people from a key project at work, then a shiny new baby can distract them from paying attention to a spouse.
The only problem is that in 20 (well, maybe 30 or 40) years when Mia moves out, it's going to be just my wife and me again, and I will pay for the times I ignored her!
Therefore I am always conscious of allowing for focused marriage time. I put a note in my calendar each month or two to remind myself to be "spontaneous" and send gifts or to just not lose focus.
We also need to communicate clearly. If I have a key sales deadline, I can still achieve it by communicating with Nat and setting expectations about the support I need.
5. The "one thing" rule. Like everyone, I get overwhelmed by the various home, work and long-term tasks I have to accomplish, most of which can't be done straight away.
When things start piling up -- clothes to put away, cleaning to do or emails to send -- I simply apply the "one thing" rule. This amounts to exactly what it sounds like: I simply get myself to do at least one single thing that takes me closer to completing my tasks. I just pick up a single piece of clothes as I walk past or respond to one email. Invariably it is easy for me psychologically to do this first task and then I always find myself motivated to keep going.
All in all, having a child is one of the most intimidating yet amazing things we could have imagined. I hope my lifestyle helps to show that children and success are not mutually exclusive.