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I've been a father for several years and I find that my most productive personal hours outside of typical work day are between the hours of 9:30-11pm. Everything before that is consumed by work, family, and errands. Lately I've taken on a multi-year personal writing project and I find that 1.5 hrs in the evening is really not enough to make meaningful progress. I am wondering what other parents do to find more productive time in the day.

From one parent to another, how do you fit your personal projects in the day? I want to hear the tips and tricks. Do you work during your lunch hour? Do you dedicate weekends? Do you have a separate room in the house? How do you balance family and work? If you write for fun, how do you fit in your day? I'm eager to hear the ideas.

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up vote 17 down vote accepted

I have been coming up against the same barrier since my children were born (six years and counting...:-). Although I haven't found a sweet spot yet, I found the following helpful

  • I work in the morning before everyone gets up, or in the evening after everyone has gone to sleep. It really depends on the type of person you are and your family situation.
  • I make use of my commute time. My commute time takes about 45 mins, it gives me enough time to think through some of the problems that I encounter for my personal projects. This includes some small planning.
  • I do some of the tasks with my children. Some of my personal projects, it involves simple tasks such as purchasing materials from the shop or preparing the materials.
  • I make use of my lunch time for personal work. My lunch is about 1 hour, but I usually finish my lunch in about 20mins. That leaves me about 40mins for other stuff.

I found that if I break my work up into small chunks, it has a chance of being completed in one sitting.

However, the one thing that really boost my moral and my productivity is knowing that I spent quality time with family.

Good luck!

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like the idea about "breaking it up into small chunks" – Phelios Sep 13 '11 at 4:51

My boys are 3yrs and 7months. We get slammed by their demands at this stage of their lives. It's hard but do-able.

I negotiate with my girlfriend. I make sure I spend enough time with them (and her alone...I'm not just a father, I'm also her boyfriend and her friend, so I also need to make time for her). I call this gf points. So, I use them so I can go to a user group meeting or a conference on weekends without feeling guilty. I let her go out by herself and I stay home watching the two little guys. It's usually war but we manage to survive. She gets a well-deserved break from us.

I involve them. My girlfriend knows how much I enjoy what I do for a living. So, I ask her to test my projects, or just give me her user point of view feedback on things. Heck, even the 3yr old watches me type as I write code. As far as he knows, it's just numbers and letters but he still pays attention. Sometimes I hold on my lap the 7month old baby. He pays attention to the screen, I'm surprised at this one. This one had a funny side effect, one day I showed my gf baby smash from Scott Hanselman...I get kicked out from my machine quite often because they want to play it (only for a few minutes)

I use whatever chance I get. I suck at getting up early in the morning. So, while my gf cooks breakfast, I hold the baby and read a blog post or something. The 3yr old usually watches tv or entertains himself with his ipod learning letters and numbers or just drawing like any 3 year old. When they nap, I make the best of it.

I suck it up. Sometimes I come home inspired, dying to try something cool but once I get home I am greeted by them...and it's hard to say no to them with their big smile. I figure that if I am really that interested in something, I will make time for it one way or another without sacrificing time with them.

Quality over quantity. This is becoming more important to me. My 3yr old teaching me this. Before he, as my 7month old, required a lot of my attention. Now, all he wants is to show me what he did in school for the day, and/or practice his numbers/letters/shapes etc. Normal kid stuff. Sometimes he just wants my undivided attention for 20-30mins.

I adapt, and not fight it. I can't use the same technique every day. There's been days when I do want to stay late and code but when my 3rd old says: "C'mon papi, let's go to bed pls", it's hard to say no.

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Some really good points. +1 for suck it up... – tehnyit Nov 11 '11 at 13:54

I tend to work:

06.30 to 08.30 - strategic planning, checking emails
08.30 to 18.00 - normal work day
18.00 to 20.00 - family time
20.00 to 00.00 - band practice, relaxing, emails, document writing

That slot between 18.00 and 20.00 is the most important for feeling like I am doing something useful in the world:-)

Weekends are entirely for family, friends and the band - no work!

(of course a bit of time every day is for stack exchange)

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+1 for "That slot between 18.00 and 20.00 is the..." – tehnyit Sep 6 '11 at 21:44

why are you cutting down the pool of people who can help by 50%?

Mothers have plenty of experience when it comes to balancing the demands of a family, a house, a job and their own personal life.

Perhaps quiz your female friends and partner?

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My apologies. That was not my intent. I was simply asking from the perspective of a father. I can see how my question could be misinterpreted. I'll update it. Thank-you. – TERACytE Sep 6 '11 at 22:16
+1 for apology. – Michael Durrant May 21 '12 at 1:26
+1 for the +1 :) – TERACytE May 29 '12 at 14:47

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