The joy of having children cannot be overstated. It is one of the most beautiful, most joyous experiences of becoming an adult.
But, let’s be honest: they’re a distraction. As cute and cuddly as our children are, we need to remember our priorities. A career lasts longer than children. A career is your whole life, something you had before you had children, and something that will last long after they are out of the house.
Investing in children, at the end of the day, should be second fiddle to investing in ourselves.
As anyone can attest, though, this can be easier said than done. Children are demanding, invasive, and often very rude in their attempts for attention, as if they are unaware that we have other priorities to deal with.
And so this is why I have compiled this list of lifehacks, exhaustively researched and personally experimented with since the birth of my own children. I hope it helps you focus on your work and your life just as much as it has helped me.
Smartphones are your friend
Smartphones are the savior of the career-focused individual more interested in his career than on cleaning faces or emotional connection. Whereas in past generations, parents had to find excuses not to spend time with their children so they could get back to work, smartphones have allowed us to appear to do one while really doing the other.
Every Sunday I go to the Children’s Museum with my daughter. Unbenownst to her, I am really going to the office. She plays in the sand box, and I whip out my smartphone and start answering emails. You too can be as productive as me if you do the same. And as a bonus, you’ll also get to spend less time with your spouse this way, since they will assume you are helping them.
Now, a word of advice: there will be many times when your child will attempt to get your attention or to brag about some relatively insignificant accomplishment. Remember to not be distracted, no matter how empathetic you become. Is building a sand castle really as impressive as building a stock portfolio? Please.
In such situations I highly recommend you say the following: “Uh huh.” This is a passive acknowledgment of their existence that makes clear you are uninterested in learning more while also not being enough of an utterance to distract you from your work.
Get rid of dinner time
Remember, the more time you spend with your family, the less time you have for yourself. Dinner has been a mainstay in many American homes for generations as a time to spend with family. Which is, no doubt, why so many Americans haven’t reached their true potential.
Thankfully, we live in an age of take out, delivery, and frozen foods. Food can be shoved in children’s faces without much commitment on our end.
Remember: food is just fuel. The myth that is a community-builder or a way to connect with those around us is a story perpetuated by those with their priorities all mixed up.
Tip: the absolute best way to do this is to feed your children whatever they want. Fries, candy, cake… these sorts of things. The more time you spend convincing your children to eat healthy food, the less time you’re spending focused on your work.
Never say no to your boss
This one is essential. A good boss expects that his employees do not have private lives. An even better boss is aware that it is cheaper, easier, and more efficient to hire single people.
Thus, a married person with children will need to compete with both single people and people with no private lives. While we ourselves will not be able to completely achieve the status of either, unfortunately, we can do our best to emulate their behavior.
The easiest way to do this is to always, always do as your boss asks. If you are on vacation with your family, and your boss needs some work done, jump to it. The last thing you want your boss to think is that you are unavailable or, worse, unwilling to do work.
The same goes for working weekends, nights, and all the rest. These are often the times our children like to eat up the most of our time, and thus they are actually the moments most suited to spend time on work. Your boss has the right idea, in other words, and the more you don’t just accept that but believe it, the better off you will be.
Don’t think of your children, think of yourself
While these are all very effective tools, what we do not realize is that often, the cause of our distractions is often rooted far deeper than just good habits. Sometimes, inefficiency originates in our very emotional core.
The truth is, we live in a world that’s always reminding us that we and our needs don’t matter. That we are insignificant and that we exist for others.
It is little wonder, then, that when our children look at us with those doey eyes, that we care more about them than we care about ourselves. When they pull on our shirts and ask us in their quiet voices to play on the floor with them, our instinct, encouraged by society, to not see ourselves as the most important thing in the world kicks in. We become weak, and often end up sacrificing valuable minutes or even hours on our children.
This, while understandable, is disastrous. It is the opposite of a lifehack, which aims to turn us into efficient machines rather than mushy towels of love.
It is time we take ourselves back. It is time that we embrace the ideals that have made America great: that we are the most important things in our lives. Not our spouses, not our friends, and not our children.
The more we embrace our own self-interest, the more we embrace our value as humans, the more we focus inwardly, the more we will be able to get over our constant desire to please others.
True, this can take years of unlearning and training. But it is absolutely essential for true success. With too much empathy, all the smartphones in the world won’t be able to distract us from our children. A dangerous situation indeed.
I hope these tips have been helpful. They are just the beginning, of course, and I’m sure there are many others with great advice to share (please do!). But I think these four lifehacks will be a great basis for keeping you focused on your career (and thus yourself) rather than the many distractions in the world.
Good luck. And don’t forget: you’re all that matters.