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4 Strategies to help overwhelmed working parents maximize productivity

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The following is an opinion article by Renato Profico, the CEO of Doodle, an enterprise scheduling tool.

Being a working parent requires constant juggling between professional and family responsibilities. This constant effort to remain balanced can make these individuals feel as though they are never giving enough attention to one or the other. As a result, working parents can often burn out under the stress.

A study by Business Performance Innovation (BPI) and PollFish found that more than 60% of working mothers and fathers have experienced burnout. To combat this burnout, working parents will need help prioritizing these responsibilities.

Given all of the responsibilities, projects, meetings, deliverables and deadlines that come with a full-time job, it will certainly benefit working parents to cut down on unnecessary or unproductive uses of their time.

Here are a few best practices to help working parents prioritize their time and meeting involvement.

Follow the M.I.T. prioritization method
In any given week, employee parents might have over 100 tasks. So how do they decide which ones are most important? This is where the Most Important Task (MIT) prioritization technique can be extremely valuable (and can keep your employees sane).

With the M.I.T. method, the key is understanding (and accepting) that all tasks are not of equal priority. Instead of trying to prioritize the entire to-do list, it’s more effective to pull out a smaller batch of tasks (1-3) that absolutely must be completed that day. Employees should then give their full focus and attention to those tasks, and do them well, as opposed to hurrying and trying to complete 10 tasks less well.
Set and stick to self-imposed deadlines
No one really likes deadlines. They evoke feelings of stress, pressure and fear. But they also help keep you on track for completing projects on time and allow you to check work off your to-do list.

I’ve long been a believer of setting and sticking to self-imposed deadlines. In a given work day, there are so many projects, deliverables and tasks employees have to complete. If firm deadlines aren’t set, it’s easy for projects to fall through the cracks.

Deadlines are a good thing. They make your goals feel more concrete. They provide structure, which helps get things done on time. They also provide transparency and keep employees accountable to themselves and the organization. By meeting deadlines, you will earn the trust and loyalty of team members, colleagues, clients and stakeholders. I would even take it one step further and suggest that working parents add each deadline into their work calendars. That will help keep them focused and motivated - and prevent them from forgetting those deadlines.
Keep kids engaged with online classes, playdates and creative fitness activities
Children are impressionable, hyperactive and easily distracted. So providing a consistent routine and schedule is often seen as the best way to help children feel safe and secure. This is especially true in times of crisis, which let’s face it, we all currently find ourselves navigating. Just because it’s not safe to be outside doesn’t mean you can’t schedule in a plethora of activities for your children like online classes (art, dance, cooking), virtual playdates with friends and creative fitness activities in the home. Remember, the key is to block these times into your children’s daily schedules.
Tap into your flow for maximum productivity
One thing that COVID-19 has forced us all to realize is that the intensity of focus you put into anything matters more than the amount of time you spent working on it.

How can working parents do this? The key is to tune into their energy levels. When our energy level is low, we have trouble focusing, are less creative, get easily distracted and feel overwhelmed easily. On the other hand, when our energy level is high, we get into a strong flow of productivity, can complete projects faster and feel energized.

In fact, a McKinsey and Co. study on flow and productivity found that top executives were 500% more productive when in flow. According to this study, most of us spend less than 5% of our work life in flow. By acknowledging and working with the flow, employees could move the flow needle closer to 20% and see their productivity almost double.

One way to do this is to save deep work — that which requires heavy concentration and creativity — for those hours of the day when you’re most productive (and in a flow). For example, this might be between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., before the children are up and in need of constant attention and care. Conversely, another working mother might find their optimal ‘flow’ state is after putting the children to bed, when she can give her undivided attention to a special project.
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