If I have a two-year old I can’t motivate to potty train, is there any hope for motivating myself? Welcome to Wednesday on ParentalGrit, where we take a brief respite from my sarcastic and ridiculous takes on parenting to compile an article that actually contains insight and advice. I know, I know, we’ve come so far since the Naked Weekend basically stripped me of any faint appearances of knowing what I’m doing; yet here we are. There are countless things parents require motivation for, whether it is patience with their young children or perseverance with their teenage children. While being the best parent one can be is certainly an admirable motivation, there are several other areas that can be challenging once we untangle the parenting from the word parent. Whether our kids believe it or not, we parents remain persons that have lives outside of our children (shocking, I know). So how do we get motivated to advance our careers? Get back into shape? Start a side hustle? Improve our marriage? These are daunting tasks when you have a 3 foot fall dictator running around demanding snacks. As we explored Monday, parenting transforms sleep from a necessity to a luxury and spare time comes around as often as Halley’s comet. How can we possibly stay motivated?
I am, much to my chagrin, a free spirit. I drive myself nuts but it requires extensive effort for me to accomplish anything. I would much prefer to only work when inspired, only write when it suits my temperament, and only parent when I really love my girls. This, as I’ve discovered, is not an optimal way to function as an adult. I’m sure there’s some redeeming quality (stilllllllll searching for that) that is intrinsically tied to my dreamer nature, but I’m a pain to live with much of the time. So how do I harness the impulsive and procrastination-prone nature of my personality? I schedule it. It’s tedious, it’s boring, and it is absolutely excruciating for me to do, but I schedule it. What is it? It can be a workout, it can be a job search, it can be a commitment to more education, or it can be the start of the side hustle.
It may be cliché, but what gets scheduled gets completed and what gets measured gets managed. If you want to stay motivated as a parent, you need to commit ironclad time blocks to achieve your goal. Wake up 30 minutes early and write each and every morning. Make a lunchtime workout non-negotiable. Work with a spouse or sitter to cover a chunk of time where you are exclusively devoted to a side project. Schedule a two-hour one-on-one session with one child to connect without the aid of a screen. Take whatever goal you’re working towards and mandate it with resolute fervor within your schedule. The time is not optional. We can’t make ambiguous goals and expect results…vague expressions like “I’m going to spend more time with my kids” or “I’m going to work more at my job to earn more pay or a promotion” or “I’m going to eat better and exercise more” are all self-help platitudes that can be found strewn all over the road to failure.
Being the free spirit that I am, I massively struggle to follow my own advice and maintain order with my daily calendar. Tack on two little girls in diapers on uneven sleeping, eating, and pooping schedules and you have a recipe for disorganization. I work out over lunch (or during naptime on the weekends), I blog at night (8:30 to whenever my forehead hits the keyboard), and I block off 5:30 – 8:00 for quality time with the kiddos and wife. I’m nowhere near perfect but I do schedule my week and my responsibilities before the week begins; if I’m waiting for spare time or the inspiration and motivation to write or to workout or to be a better father…it’s rarely going to happen. Grab a Sharpie and write your goals in permanent on the calendar.
The great thing about scheduling your goals and your time is that you still control the calendar and can adjust accordingly. I used to believe I was going to blog and grow my blog for four hours a day…yeah, right. I thought I needed two hours for a really good workout…not happening. I believed I wouldn’t burn out if I showed up over an hour early to work every day…not so much. But when I fail to meet the needs of my schedule, I simply modify it for the following week without guilt. If it isn’t realistic, it isn’t happening.
Two other quick lessons learned when time blocking. First, it’s usually easier to begin small, like in 15 minute increments. If you’re goal is a better marriage, make sure you can tolerate your spouse for 15 minutes before scheduling an hour (just kidding). Smaller, realistic time slots tend to lead to a greater probability of completion. Second, and one I’m contemplating currently, is to shoot your biggest priorities to the morning if at all possible. Your motivation tank is most full in the morning, so if you can slide in some dedicated time right off the bat in the morning, you’ll be starting ahead. Given my little munchkins’ sleeping issues currently, it’s difficult for me to pry my deliriously tired old bones out of bed until the last possible moment. As I said though, I’m working on shifting my schedule so that I can write and blog at 5:00 am instead of 11:00 pm. My mind is quite frequently burnt to smithereens when I attempt to piece together anything coherent late at night.
So there’s a start for your motivation madness this week, we’ll be back Friday with Part II of the article “How to Stay Motivated as a Parent” and a few more tips to trick yourself into productivity. In the meantime, I’m going to schedule myself 8 hours of sleep tonight and celebrate gleefully if I somehow manage 5. Cheers.