As a new dad working in digital marketing, my greatest challenge has been time management. I have a whole new set of responsibilities at home, yet the demands of clients and management remain high. And Google certainly isn’t slowing down. So it’s up to me to adapt. It’s up to us as dads to adapt. We owe it to ourselves and our families to find balance between work and home because as father and husband, there is nothing more important that I can give my family than time.
In an effort to find some ideas on how to efficiently manage my time, I came across an article by new mom and digital marketer Ariana Burgess at Portent, where she discussed project management tips for moms in digital marketing. What I found fascinating about Ariana’s perspective was that she is genuinely seeking to find a balance between work and life for the sake of her family. Why is that fascinating? Its shows that there is a human side to what we do in marketing. We all have lives outside of marketing. But in a search industry that moves faster than Legolas (nerd reference), it can be very difficult to stay relevant with the constant changes and client demands it can be easy to get lost in our work. The good news is that we can achieve balance by properly managing our time.
I reached out to a few dads that that have been very successful for a long time in digital marketing and they were gracious enough to share some advice on how they manage their time – and I’ll start with my own tip: As SEO Team Lead at Parallel Path, one tactic that has been successful for me is to set micro goals to achieve each day. These goals will serve as milestones for projects, which help you to reach a stopping point and leave work with a sense of completion.
I found that even if I wasn’t bringing physical work home, I was still bringing my work home mentally. I would arrive home and be thinking about unfinished tasks instead of playing with my son or listening to my wife tell me about her day. Sometimes I do have to finish a project at home, in which case I wait until everyone is in bed. My norm is to be present, both mentally and physically, because there is nothing more valuable that I can give my family than my time.
I’ve found it really useful to batch my work into “contexts” as much as possible. This is a part of getting things done that I didn’t find particularly important at first, but increasingly I’m finding it useful. I’ll give a few examples of the things that work for me:
- Having a gmail label of @office, which means I don’t have to leave emails in my inbox just because they have an attachment that needs printing etc [I find I actually use this a lot to mean @online and may switch that up soon – often it’s when I’m dealing with email offline and it has a link or another reason to be online]
- Trying to batch together my reading – I use Instapaper but I know a lot of people like Pocket – this means I mainly don’t get distracted by shiny new things and also don’t end up with 100s of chrome tabs open
Processing email offline (e.g. on the train where I could try to tether but it’s always frustrating and slow)
- FlexibleBoss is another resource that I have found to have great out-of-the-box ideas and insights on managing time, especially for those that are constantly on the move.
I find that smart phones create the biggest problem with taking a break from work so you can focus on family. It’s so easy to quickly check your email, or Twitter, or G+ In the evenings and weekends. Once you see something that you have to deal with it’s on your mind and that means you’re not giving that attention to your family. To combat this, my wife and I have a “no phones” policy in our house. After work we leave our phones charging in the kitchen until our daughter goes to bed. Then we each take a half hour to check Facebook, email, whatever, and then the phones are put away until the morning. We don’t always stick to the policy, but when we do, those are the good days. We’re getting more and more disciplined these days. Our lives are better for it. It’s so important to disconnect from work and connect to the rest of your life.
Usability/Marketing Educator, Treehouse
There is no Klout score that measures my performance as a parent. As a dad, I only have two followers, both under the age of 8, so their influence outside our circle is quite limited. But those 2 followers of mine are mine forever, and they will never stop looking to me for guidance, advice, attention, affirmation, and love. When you become a parent, your life becomes more about achieving a balance in a never-ending shifting environment. Just like social media, you have to continually evolve your strategies to be effective as the audience (literally) grows and evolves around you. But it’s also about priorities, and showing your devotion to those priorities through the actions you take. That means putting the phone and tablets down when you have time to spend with the kids, or involving them in some of the fun and safe activities – like posing for funny Instagram pictures or sharing stories about them with friends and family on Facebook. But it does also mean taking care of business when necessary. Your kids don’t have the experience of a world without smartphones; they’ve always known them to be a part of our culture. So toting one around and using it to do what you need to do is fine, as long as it doesn’t detract from the experience of simply living your life. Again, this is a case where we must lead by example, and show our kids that they are priorities, but there may also be times when Mommy or Daddy needs to disappear for a half hour to do work on the computer or phone. Showing a devotion to your life’s work – something you also have a passion for – is something your kids can positively learn from as well.
Strategic Consulting Group Director, Parallel Path
My tip is to be sure to maintain a good work/life balance — often easier said then done. While we all should enjoy our work, the sense of accomplishment of a job well-done and the fruits of our labor, it is important to remember that digital will not love us back. Our children and our family will love us back. That said, my advice is to be present with your family when you are with your family. Put down the phone, close the laptop. A father with his nose in his laptop or phone, with his children by his side, is really no different than a father who is absent.
We all have to work nights and weekends from time to time (hopefully not every night). When that is the case, let your family know, define a set time limit and have a place you go (home office, man cave, coffee shop around the corner) to do the work. I’ll never forget the day my 4 year old grabbed the monitor of my MacBook Pro and tore it from its hinge; “Dad! Dad! DAD! Can you play with me now?” Well, of course I could, my MacBook was now in two pieces.
If you are a dad in the digital marketing space, hopefully these tips will help you to find balance and success with your family and digital marketing. Do you have any tips that have been successful for you? Please share!