For the past few weekends we’ve settled into a cleaning routine. Natalie takes A to the gym for swimming and I get on with the cleaning. I’m usually pretty good at this and time exactly what needs to be done to finish by the time they return. The aim is to mop and let the floor dry before they walk through the door. We had an unfortunate incident a few months ago with A skating across a wet floor and I don’t want to repeat that again.

Occasionally the house needs a deeper clean.

By deep clean, I mean that I have to lift the microwave to get at the crumbs underneath, and move the sofa to vacuum around the back. The thing that usually precipitates this is an impending visit from a relative or, more recently, a burst of nesting instinct (not on my part) as we prepare for a new baby. A deep clean inevitably takes longer and the gym can only contain them for so long.

And so every now and then the unenviable task arises of cleaning the house with a child in it.

This is not easy, as many parents can testify. Children need attention and when you’re not giving it to them they go looking for distractions. Cleaning a kitchen is difficult when your child’s up to something in the other room; it’s hard to go check on them every couple of minutes. Vacuuming seems to be impossible. Either they get cross because they can’t hear the television that you put on to occupy them or they clamber all over you.

I’m seriously considering getting the cleaner back.

About three years ago we found a professional cleaner who came every two weeks to go around the house. All we had to do was tidy and the cleaners would do the rest. We would come home to a blissfully clean house smelling… well, very clean. They would accomplish all this in a morning when everyone was out of the house and probably did it much more efficiently than we could ever hope to. The reason we got a cleaner was because things were getting hard to manage. I was working a lot and Natalie had just gone back to a new job and things were getting on top of us. It all worked out perfectly.

For some reason whenever I spoke to friends I always hid the fact we had cleaners.

Did I want people to think I had been doing all the cleaning? No. Was I worried people would think I was too “posh”? Perhaps. Was I quietly smug that I’d found this simple solution and didn’t want to give away my secret? Definitely.

We had the cleaners for a while but in the end decided to go back to doing it ourselves when things began to get easier. Getting rid of them was one of the worst household decisions we’ve made. They made our lives so much easier and allowed us to focus on the things that truly mattered.

My weekends are precious. Do I really want to spend them cleaning the house?

The most important aim of any parent should be to spend time with their children. Of course, there are other things that get in the way. But if we find a solution where we can do less of the dull stuff and more of the important stuff we should pursue it. The cleaners allowed me to focus on family time and be guilt free about keeping on top of the household chores. Now I found myself spending every Saturday morning doing housework while my family are away having fun without me.

The reason I stopped the cleaning was partly because of cost. I thought I could put those extra few pounds towards something more meaningful. But what is meaningful if not spending time with family? Not spending money on cleaners has become a false economy. But not delegating the cleaning to someone else, I’m robbing our family of one of our most important commodities, time.

It’s time to dig out that phone number of the cleaners we used. The Millennial Dad movement, i.e. modern fatherhood, dictates that fathers today need to work smarter and not harder. If we can outsource this basic task we can free up so much more. Of course, it’s still fun every now and then to vacuum the carpet while being ridden as a pony by a toddler dressed as a cowgirl.

 

This post has no originality in it. Everything I’m going to write about can be attributed back to a guy called Graham Allcot from Think Productive. A year or so ago I read his book “The Productivity Ninja” about organising and making the most of your life. I picked up a lot of good things, but most of all it helped me to change the way I approach email.

The aim is to be in control of email, not let email control you.

Too many of us wake up in the morning and check email first thing. We don’t need to do this! Too many of us check email constantly throughout the day and let it distract us from more important activities. I’ve got another post coming up on this. Right now, I want to tell you how I organise my email when I do check it.

My email inbox consists of four folders: Action, Waiting, Read, Library.

You should read Graham’s book for a proper explanation, but this is my explanation:

1. All email lands in my main inbox.

When I open Outlook each day I quickly go through the list of emails. If I can reply to a message straight away with a “one touch” response that takes only a couple of sentences then I’ll deal with the message there and then.

2. Action

If the message requires a longer response or is part of a wider project then it goes into the Action folder. These are things that take a bit more thought, that can still be done relatively quickly, but I will need to come back to.

3. Waiting

If I’ve responded to someone and am waiting on a response, then I will put a copy of our email exchange here. That way, I don’t have to worry about remembering things myself; I can simply come back to this folder on a daily basis to check where I am with replies. If it’s taken longer than a week for someone to respond to me, then I can easily follow up with a reminder email or call.

4. Read

If the message is of an informative nature, such as a newsletter or a longer document that needs some attention then I put it in this folder. Then, later in the day or week I can come back to it and review in more detail. The key is not to start reading messages in depth and distract myself from my priorities. Messages should only stay in this folder for a week, no more than two. If I haven’t read them by then they are not that important. Or perhaps they need to be moved into a longer term reading folder off email.

5. Library

This is my folder for storing all incoming messages that I want to keep. Usually everything gets put in here except advertising emails. I don’t need to create lots of separate email folders for different projects because things get confusing and overwhelming. Today’s email clients have great search functionality. There’s nothing I can’t find in my Library if I know a key word. Want to find an email exchange with John Smith? Just enter his name and records of conversations will come up.
And that’s it. I try not to create any other folders as that adds to clutter and confusion.

When you organise your email like this it’s very easy to get to Inbox Zero.

Inbox Zero is where you don’t have any messages in your incoming inbox. It often surprises people when they see my email folder and sometimes they assume I’m not very popular!
I was sceptical about this technique at first and I didn’t want to take the plunge by deleting all my meticulously organised email folders. But once I sorted them out and put everything into my Library folder I was surprised how easy it was to keep up. I’m guilty of joining in with the odd fad and I wasn’t sure this technique would stick, but around two years later I’m still using it and it makes a big difference to how I organise my work and home life.
I recommend trying it out. Check out Graham Allcot’s book, too, which is packed full of great productivity ideas.
How do you organise your email? Does it control your life? Or are you on top of it?


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.