After the tranquility of autumn walks, kicking leaves in the warm October sunshine, things have taken a turn. The weather is cooling down, the rain has come, and the leaves are turning to mush. Winter is almost upon us and the festive season is approaching. I’m looking forward to wrapping up warm and going to Christmas markets, enjoying seeing my daughter in her first nativity play, and sipping mulled wine. That’s just me sipping the wine, not her. 

Christmas can be one long rollercoaster and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So recently I’ve been trying to perfect the art of making a to do list. 

Quite simply, a to do list is a place to offload all the tasks and thoughts that come into your head, so you don’t forget them. As soon as you remember you need to book an appointment or buy something, you should write it down. Be fanatical about it if you can. Because once it’s on the list it no longer has to be carried around in your memory. 

I always used to be reasonably organised, but I’ve discovered a key tool of the Millennial Dad is to make lists. 

I’ve used various methods to capture my to do items from a pen and paper, to more recently the notes app on my phone. A while back I discovered, and have just rediscovered, the Things app for iPhone and iPad. It syncs with your phone’s reminders and Siri, which means you can just press the Home button and tell Siri what you want to remember and it will record it for you on the app. As a dad I find the voice functionality of Siri really useful as it avoids me spending ages typing on my phone and setting a bad example to my daughter. 

Do you make lists? How do you capture your thoughts? Even if you have a great memory I’d say it’s good to get things down on phone or paper to free your mind for even more important tasks. And then you can really start to enjoy the moment. 

There are always things to do and more items to add to a list. 

Once we start making a list we’ll never get rid of everything from it. A list is for life not just for Christmas. I’ve deliberately not written about what to do with your list, but it starts with prioritising everything. Luckily the Things app that I use and many other apps can do that, too. But that’s for another post. For now, try capturing all your to do items as you think about them and see how good it feels. 

The US Presidential Election was one of a kind. I’ve seen plenty of interesting blog posts about what this means for families and particularly how to explain the new President to children. I’ve written about this in another post and won’t go over old ground. What I want to talk about is a silly goal I set for myself 8 years ago, why I’ve failed at it, and what I would do differently in future. 

In 2008 I set a goal to perform in front of President Obama by the end of his Presidency. 

The plan was simple. I was living in London and fancied myself as a bit of a singer-songwriter. I was starting to do gigs, and I thought it might be possible to get to perform in front of the President in less than 100 gigs. 

This was a silly goal and by 2016 I am no closer to it than I was in 2008. 

Why did I fail and what would I do differently?

1. First of all, I didn’t set a ROADMAP to achieving that goal. We hear all the time about the importance of setting goals but unless we have a plan to achieve them we’ve no hope of even remotely getting near it. How many times have we committed to join the gym at the start of the year but then our enthusiasm fizzles out by the time we’re on month two. 

2. I didn’t set WAYPOINTS along the way. I should have set mini-goals that were incrementally achievable towards the overall goal. 

3. I didn’t have COMMITMENT. As much as I liked the idea of doing music, I was probably more of a songwriter than performer. I didn’t really enjoy promoting myself or singing as much as I should have done. Ed Sheeran went to London and played hundreds of gigs until he became successful. I didn’t have that same hunger. So perhaps it wasn’t right for me. 

How does all this relate to the Millennial Dad? 

As a parent with a million different priorities we have to set goals we want to achieve for ourselves. It may be to be mortgage free by a certain date, to go on a once-in-a-lifetime family holiday, or switch professions. All of these things are infinitely harder to do with children, because we have little people who depend on us. So in order to be realistic and achieve our goals as parents we need to take them seriously, create a path to success, and be accountable to one another for getting there. 

So I failed at getting to meet President Obama and the jury’s still out on whether I want to meet President Trump. But I learned a lot about how to achieve the more important things required in being a dad. 

You hear a few tracks of my music here.

When I was little I never appreciated how much waiting around my parents and grandparents did for me. I remember doing Karate, Cubs, music groups, and holiday activities. Some within walking distance of home and others I needed to be driven to. My grandad probably spent hours waiting for me and my brother; he would pull up outside our house and wait until we got ready, then drive us to school, then wait around at the end of the day to pick us up. Some of it was his choice. He would arrive early to get the best spot in the car park. Other times I know my brother and I took advantage of his kindness. My grandad’s generation would pass the time waiting by reading the paper or listening to the car radio. 

In today’s world the Millennial Dad can’t afford to be idle and must use productivity hacks to get things done even when we’re waiting. 

Here are my top five ideas for making the most of your waiting time:

1. Plan ahead

It sounds simple, but it’s difficult to be productive if you’ve got no idea of what you want to do. It’s important to plan your task before you arrive at your ‘waiting spot’, be it the car, a lobby, or a coffee shop. I try to set myself a couple of goals to achieve before I head out. Otherwise, I’ll just end up browsing the news or social media. 

2. Bring the right tools

If you’ve dropped the kids off at a party in town and have time to get to a coffee shop, then bring along a laptop or iPad to do your work. If you’re going to be standing around or the only place to work is your car, maybe you’ll have to do things on your phone. It’s important to bring the right tools to achieve what you want to do. I’m writing this blog post on an iPad with a keyboard on my lap. 

3. Find some space

If you’ve decided what tasks you want to accomplish and you’ve brought the right tools, it’s no use going somewhere that will make it impossible to get things done. It’s fine to be social and chat to other parents, in fact, it’s important. But if you’ve got to get something done don’t sit with other parents. Go to the other side of the room, go elsewhere if you can. Or at least make it clear that you’re getting things done. Cultivate that look of busyness that let’s others know you’re not up for chit chat!

4. Measure out your time. 

There’s no point trying to write a chapter of a novel if you’ve only got five minutes. You’ll never get into it. Work out how long you’ve got and aim to get something meaningful done within that time. The goal for productivity during waiting time should be to get something done and feel good about it. Some things are out of our control, like if we call a helpline and it takes ages to get through. When starting out, plan bitesize tasks. Respond to a few texts, email your mum, even use your time to write a task list for the rest of the day. Plan your time wisely.

5. Get it done and put it away. 

Time with your children is important. If they’re at a swimming gala and want you to watch, then do it. It’s their activity and they want us to be proud of them. Don’t let your kids see you working on their time. The point of productivity hacks for waiting is to make the most of idle time. By that I mean any time we’re waiting around doing nothing while our kids are in a class, for example. When they’ve finished their activity, put your computer away, stop doing what you’re doing, learn the art of being able to stop even if it’s not convenient. 

Sometimes it’s hard to stay productive and there’s definitely another blog post about the beauty of idleness. But as I sit here outside my daughter’s ballet class I know I’ll feel much better afterwards that I’ve accomplished this post. 

Half term school breaks are now well and truly over, wherever you are in the UK. I’ve just come to the end of a two week holiday from work, looking after our daughter as my wife worked on her dissertation. We didn’t go away anywhere and have been filling the time with activities and day trips close to home. 

Here are my 3 autumn observations after two weeks off work. 

1. There are a lot of fun low-tech children’s activities.

It’s been a while since I’ve gone on woodland trails, collected golden brown leaves to make into green men, or gone on bat walks. You tend to do them when you’re young then forget about it until you have kids. I’ve enjoyed rediscovering nature, as corny as it sounds. We surround ourselves with technology and tend to rush around always on the way to somewhere. Sometimes it’s good to take stock and have fun with simple things like crafts and traditional games. 

2. Halloween is bigger than it was in my day.  

I remember dressing up for Halloween parties when I was younger but I don’t think it was everywhere like it is today. Supermarkets and pop-up shops have been full of gory make-up, masks, and witches’ brooms. Thankfully, we’ve managed to avoid bumping into any of those scary clowns doing the rounds. Halloween is getting big in the UK, perhaps not as big as in the US, but it’s a huge part of childhood now. And that means I’ve had to swallow my grouchy tendencies and take part, dressing up, wearing and putting on face paint. I can now do a mean cat face. My pumpkin carving still leaves a lot to be desired. 

3. It’s going to be non-stop ‘fun’ til January. 

Again, not trying to be a grouch, but I’ve realised there’s a long run-up to Christmas. As soon as the Halloween costumes are swept away the Christmas decorations have arrived. November and December are busy months for anyone, and when children are thrown into the mix it’s one long stretch of excitement, anticipation, and desire. By that, I mean they are exposed to all the things a parent tries to ration: too many sweets, toys, parties, etc. It’s easier to manage when they’re young and don’t know any better. The challenge is to let them have fun without everyone burning out. 

So my 1 big reflection after two fantastic weeks off work with my daughter is to focus on finding fun in the meaningful things like walks, painting, crafts, reading, and not to get too caught up in the excitement of the holiday season. By all means we’re going to take part in things, but we’re going to do them at our own pace and in our own way. 

The purpose of the Millennial Dad blog is to chronicle the changing nature of fatherhood for the modern dad. One of the best examples of the differences in generations happened to me last weekend.


I was happily driving back from Manchester when a warning light appeared on my car dashboard. Later on, and luckily closer to home, the engine started to stutter. When I got home I pulled out my iPad and googled the warning light (great example of use of technology #1) and discovered it was an emissions fault. After some more research I concluded the engine was misfiring and it might be a problem with the spark plugs.

I love the “How To” videos on YouTube.

Every task imaginable is covered by some expert who is happy to talk through it all step-by-step. The quality of these videos can be shaky but they get full marks for enthusiam. I found a great video showing how to change the spark plugs on my particular car.

So I set about off to my local Halfords, car stuttering along, to purchase some new spark plugs. My goal was to try to fix the problem myself without paying to go to a garage. NOTE: this goes against my advice that Millennial Dads should outsource everything to experts, but I wanted to weigh up the financial benefits of saving money.

The Millennial generation has grown up in an increasingly sterile world.

This was the first time I had bought spark plugs. Where most new cars are concerned, it’s not even possible to get “under the hood” of engines these days.

And so I called my dad. He’s part of the baby boomer generation who was born shortly after the Second World War, in 1953 to be precise. I would check that he’s ok with me telling you his age, but then he hasn’t got access to the internet so is never going to know about this post. My dad is a practical man and knows a thing or two about engines. This is typical of his generation, who had to fix things up and be the DIY expert in the family.

My dad came over and took a look at the car engine. But it was a slightly different design to what he was used to. He wasn’t sure exactly how to get to the spark plugs. He probably could have worked it out with a bit of time, but I had places to be. NOTE: Time scarcity is another symptom of the Millennial generation. So I showed him my trusty YouTube video which got right to the point. We even rested my iPad right on the engine so we could change the spark plugs in real time (great example of use of technology #2). Except we didn’t have the right tools. My toolbox doesn’t extend to a socket set.

We jumped in my car and headed across town to my grandad’s house. He was born before the war. His garage is full of every possible tool you could imagine from huge wrenches to tiny washers of all sizes. It really is a treasure trove but growing up I couldn’t understand his fascination with collecting screws and nails in glass jars. His is a thrifty generation and he has meticulously branded all his tools with his initials. And they’re mostly Made in Britain and built to last. One spanner even said “Made in West Germany”, surely a valuable antique by now?

With my Grandad’s tools and my dad’s expertise we quickly fixed the car and it (almost) solved the problem. It actually needed a tiny bit more work and I’m now confident I can rely on it for my daughter’s nursery school runs, ballet classes and birthday parties.

Three generations of men, all fathers, all different, but working together.

The pre-war generation may be stuck in the past, the baby boomers may look scornfully down on the Millennials for not being practical in the traditional sense, and the Millennials may roll our eyes at the technologically illiterate older generations. But we all have our strengths and can work together.

Ultimately, all generations of dads do appear to share one job… as chauffeur to our children. Now my car is fixed I can get back to my dad duties.