Ever listen to Tim Ferriss and think ‘I wish I listened to this before I had a family‘? Time and again, friends tell me that a lot of Tim’s work feels best suited for people without kids. Truth is, parents can benefit from Tim’s great advice just as much as the Free Folk. You just have to make some subtle tweaks. Example: this is a great 9-minute inbetweenersode from Ferriss about what not to do to maximize productivity. As Tim puts it, “what you don’t do, determines what you can do” and he’s spot on.
Like many of Tim’s listeners, we’re ambitious, curious, and always on the lookout for ways to improve our lives and our business. But we also have to blend relationships with spouses and kids into the mix. So we took a minute to look at the ‘9 Not-To-Dos’ through the lens of someone balancing family into the equation of life and productivity.
1. Do not answer phone calls from unrecognized or unknown phone numbers.
As a parent, you know that’s not an option. I recently avoided a call that displayed on my phone as a city I have no connection with. Turns out it was my daughter’s principal. It was an important call and I missed it. So now, even if it says Santa Fe, New Mexico I still answer. Should you get caught off guard by an important call that you’re not quite ready to take, have an exit strategy ready so you can negotiate on your terms.
2. Do not email first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
Parents know who the morning really belongs to- the little ones. These can be, in figurative terms, the darkest hours. You might want to sleep until 6am, but instead you’re up at 4:45am streaming a few episodes of Daniel Tiger. So why not handle a few emails? Anything to keep the Daniel Tiger theme song out of your head.
3. Do not not agree to meetings or calls without a clear agenda or end time.
Amen. How quickly can this be added to The Bill of Rights?
4. Do not let people ramble. Small talk takes up big time.
Here’s the tricky thing: people aren’t always ready to say what they are trying to say. You may work with folks who are struggling with issues that are a lot bigger to them then the workplace. Stay human and be a listener. You may get the message in between the lines of what they’re rambling on about. Don’t get me wrong here: Salespeople? Fantasy football commissioner? Cut to the chase with them. And if your significant other calls and needs to ramble and vent a little, definitely let them have that moment.
5. Do not check email constantly. Batch. Twice per day. Like dirty socks.
If you have customers with little choice and your competition isn’t all over email, then go ahead and batch your dirty sock emails. But if you competing in a time-sensitive marketplace against others who are hungry, then keep an eye out for your bread and butter.
6. Do not over-communicate with low profit, high maintenance customers.
True, but do not over-communicate with anybody. Putting parameters around low profit/high maintenance customers is brilliant. It saves them time and gives them a message. Guess who else would appreciate you respecting their time? Your best customers. Be concise with them as well. As Mark Twain (might have) said, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
7. Do not work more to fix overwhelmed.
And just to make it crystal clear, do not work more while at home to fix overwhelmed, either. Try and leave work at work and don’t bring that stress around your loved ones. They’ll feel it.
8. Do not carry a cell phone 24/7.
Next time you need to get a baby sitter and go to dinner, maybe give the baby sitter the restaurant’s phone number and leave your phone behind. So much more romantic and engaging. Also consider parking your phone in a basket when you’re home. It’s not easy at first, but just try it.
9. Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should.
Leave work at work, and leave home at home- a clean break. There’s nothing wrong with having friends from work, just try and not talk about work when you’re hanging out. You get enough of work all week.
To close, there’s a scene in The Leftovers where Kevin (Justin Theroux) is talking to his father. Kevin finds himself in a classic moment of mid-life crisis. He thinks about his work, his family and the dystopian state of their society. Reflecting on parenthood, Kevin rhetorically asks his father “is this all there is?” To which his father answers “Yes. That’s it.”
We all want success. We all want to create something, be it wealth, product, art. But let’s not forget that many of us also have to build relationships and enrich the little lives that we bring into the world.