Our lives are full of ‘busy work’ and it’s very hard to work out what is the most important thing to do in any one moment. We can become overwhelmed with the myriad requests on our time but the two questions we really need to ask ourselves when considering anything are

Is this important?

The first question is vital in separating out the urgent from the important. If we only do the work that keeps us busy we are not being truly effective. Instead, we need to focus on doing the right things at the right time. For example, take the weekly shop. It might seem economical to traipse around the supermarket with your children and fight through the weekend crowds. Groceries are certainly important but what about the actual act of shopping for them? When you do a time and cost analysis you realise that those extra £4 pounds to organise the shop online and get it delivered are actually worth it.

Older generations often want to maintain control and save on extra costs. They would rather do the shopping themselves because they’re afraid to outsource things. This leads us to our second question.

Is there someone else who could do this better?

There are many tasks in our day-to-day lives that can/should always be done only by us. Think of the most important ones. Spending time with children, partners, and our extended families. And then there are other tasks that really don’t matter as much but are important to the general day-to-day running of our lives. Ironing our clothes, cleaning the house, washing a car. If we don’t find true value in these things then why do them?

Everyone is emotionally connected to different things. My father-in-law loves picking apart his car. My neighbor often spends all morning cleaning and waxing his car. These are their passions and they find them fulfilling. I respect people that want to spend time doing these things but I’m just not one of them. If we are not enjoying these activities, and if they are taking us away from the things we really love then we have to jettison them from our lives. Outsource these tasks to someone more qualified to do the job.

Next time you’re about to take on a new task, stop and ask yourself these questions. Just because someone asks you to do something, or it’s the thing that most people do, doesn’t mean you have to do it. Find what you love and do more of it. For many of my fellow parent bloggers, this will mean finding more ways to spend time with family and children.

Every day there are more and more things competing for our attention.

Wherever we look there is something screaming out at us “look at me, look at me!” A television has countless channels and now we also have on-demand programmes at any time of the day or night. Our emails and phones are closer to us than ever and it’s simple for somebody to reach us via WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. And worse still, these things seem to demand an instant response from us. And that’s not to mention the good old-fashioned text message.

As parents we also have to remember the day-to-day routines of the other people in our lives.

Children need book bags and school uniforms to be ready for the day ahead. In the holidays they have activities and friends to see. Houses don’t run themselves either; they are machines for living in and we have to maintain them constantly. I don’t know if it has always been this way. Was William Shakespeare drowning in phone calls, emails, and play dates for his own children… at least his own version of them?

Some people seem to be able to do it all, but how?

The more resources you have to throw at something the easier the problem can be solved. Presidents and Chief Executives make use of personal assistants and have whole teams of people dedicated to different aspects of their lives. The average family may not have access to all these people but there is a way that we can use to make life much easier. And it starts with one simple concept.

In everything you do, capture everything!

Your mind is a finite resource. Your attention and interest can only last so long, no matter how hard you concentrate. This is why you have to take breaks after reading or studying. Anything hovering around our minds slows us down. So, get those things out of your mind and onto paper.

You should write down and capture every thought that comes into your head.

This is the only way to ensure our minds are free to focus on the important tasks at hand. Some people may think this dulls the mind and we should focus on cultivating memory but I really think that’s just a party trick and most of us just simply want to be able to function.

As far as tools for capturing things go there are many out there. You could use a simple pen and paper, a notepad, or you could type into the notes section of your phone. If you really want to be clever you can dictate the notes into your phone or another device as you think of them.

However you capture thoughts, and it really needs to be something you’re comfortable with, do it every day and every time you think of something.

The key thing after capturing everything is to organise it. Set sometime at the end of the day, hopefully when the children have gone to bed, to organise everything and set deadlines. Ask yourself, “do I really need to do this?”, prioritise the important things and then make them happen!

People are always telling us to get a proper night’s sleep. The benchmark to aim for is around eight hours. My Jawbone Up is set at achieving 10,000 steps per day and eight hours sleep. I can usually reach my steps for the day but I probably hit my sleep count less than 10 times over the past year.

I’m not particularly good at going to bed early, although I always end up regretting it the next day. I’m also not particularly great (probably because of what I just said) at getting up early. But some of the times I have gotten up early have been my most productive. On the other side, the reason I’ve gone to bed late isn’t just because I’ve been watching a cheap horror flick on Netflix, but often because I’ve been up creating, writing, producing things.

We only have 24 hours in a day. All of us.

Nobody can gain any more or less hours but it is what we do with them that helps us to become more productive. My daytimes, as I’m sure for many other parents, are filled up almost to the max. Weekday mornings consist of getting to school and then to work, doing my work, collecting from school going home and doing a bedtime routine. By the evening I find it hard to create anything meaningful. Parents everywhere will understand the stresses and strains involved, but millennials in particular are finding a big contrast between their carefree 20s and their newfound parent lives.

I read something by Tim Ferris not too long ago where he said he produces some of his best work at night time. This got me thinking. When do I do my best work? When do I feel my most productive? How can I fit that into my daily life?

I believe we do our best work between the hours of 11 PM and 7 AM.

This sounds counter-productive, counterintuitive, counter everything we’ve been told so far. But working between these hours could be our best opportunity at getting things done.

Here are five reasons why I believe the night-time could be your most productive.

  • There are fewer distractions.

I don’t think many people would consider calling or texting between the hours of 11 PM and 7 AM, unless they were out at a party (and those don’t count, right?) Emails get sent at all times across the world but mostly in your time zone someone is not going to email you between these hours.

  • You can be productive as a night owl or an early bird.

I’m not suggesting you work through all of these hours, but working late or getting up early will give you a real edge. If you work late you can work as long as it takes to get the job done, then go to sleep and (hopefully) have a lie-in. If you can get up early you get a jump on the day ahead. Whatever you do, don’t burn the candle at both ends!

  • It’s guilt-free time.

Nobody wants work to take them away from their families. We should always try to prioritise spending time with our children. But we shouldn’t feel bad if we need to work, and 11PM to 7AM may be the best time to do this. Assuming your child is settled into a rhythm of sleep you can get on with working in the night-time without feeling guilty.

  • Your brain is energised.

If you can master night time productivity then science may be behind you. Working late and sleeping in late can keep you sharper throughout the day Getting up early in the morning primes your brain for the day ahead.

  • Join a legion of other successful people.

Don’t just rely on my hazy advice, look at the examples of so many successful people who extol the virtues of night-time working. Some of them are early risers, some work late into the night, but all managed to get things done in a way the rest of us sometimes struggle.

Try experimenting with this kind of working. You already know whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, so make a plan that works for you.

In a world that demands so much of our attention, and with increasing family responsibilities, the millennial dad needs to focus on prioritising the most important work that he can do.

Sleep is absolutely vital. What I’m proposing isn’t radical. When you sleep each night your brain is perhaps at its most productive ever; it’s sorting your experiences from the day you just had, preparing your body and mind for the following day, and gaining vital rest. So whether you take advantage of working late, working early, or trying to get those elusive eight hours sleep, you’re doing yourself a favour and can’t go too far wrong!



Let me take you on a brief tour of the technology in my life. When I was growing up in the 1980s personal computers were starting to become affordable and to arrive in classrooms. One of my memories at primary school is helping the teacher plug in the cables to the class’ new Acorn computer. They said they needed my help; maybe they were just being kind but part of me likes to think our teachers were overwhelmed by this sudden intrusion of technology. Acorn and BBC computers were fairly compact, certainly nothing like the clunking great computer rooms of the past. The World Wide Web had already been created by the mid-1980s although none of us knew its potential.

I grew up learning to use a computer on a weekly basis for basic word processing and learning.

At home we had an Amstrad computer, which ran on cassettes, bought with the help of my uncle, who was an early adopter – I still remember seeing his first mobile phone with a huge battery in the boot of his car. Then we got an Amiga 1200; it wasn’t entirely mainstream, as my most of my friends had Spectrums. I used these computers for a mix of educational and gaming purposes.

It never occurred to me back then that they would have the potential to transform productivity.

When I went to secondary school we bought a custom-made PC with the brand new Windows 95 operating system. It also came with a modem and for the first time we could connect with people and websites around the world. It was exciting and there were so many possibilities.

With hindsight I should have cracked on with some serious computer programming and I would have become a tech billionaire by now!

Over time I was became increasingly reliant on the use of computers for regular tasks. They were used for word processing, for looking up information, for storing photos. I began to connect with people around the world. I had an email address for the first time.

The hardware was quite large and of course immovable. I started to see people with laptops and was envious about their portability. Little did I know the batteries were terrible and the laptops were heavy as breeze blocks. It wasn’t until I got to Sixth Form that I got my hands on a second-hand laptop.

The possibilities with a laptop seemed endless; I could take this thing anywhere.

At university technology became part of our everyday student lives. Things began to be communicated by email. And the professors were lamenting a new rule that essays had to be typed and printed, rather than handwritten. I managed to transport my laptop between the library and my college room, but only in a big laptop bag.

At the end of university, I succumbed to the beautiful new designs of the MacBook and ended up buying one with what little money I had. It looked great but took a while to get used to a whole new operating system. It can’t have been that bad because since then I purchased a MacBook Pro 2006, which I still have nearly 11 years later. Ok, I say still have but I no longer use it; although it still connects to the internet and has a lot of my old photos on it.

At each of my workplaces there’s been a desktop PC. My current job uses a laptop with a docking station. Things are more portable and convenient than ever.

All this leads me to the main point of this post is that technology is increasingly part of our lives in such a convenient way.

So what do I use today?

I still use a laptop PC for most of my daily work. And I had a couple of iPads in the past. However, things really changed when I got my hands on the latest iPad Pro 7 inch. I almost cannot fault it and I can take it anywhere to replace most of my PC work.

The most amazing thing is not how great it looks or how smoothly it runs apps, but how portable it is. It’s currently transforming my life; my ability to have a full time job, take care of my daughter and start up the Millennial Dad blog is largely due to using the iPad Pro. I’ve been able to get things done in incredible ways that just integrate with my daily life. Right now I am writing this post while waiting outside for my daughter to finish her ballet class. And the best thing is I just tucked it under my arm as we walked here. No large laptop bags or clunky chargers. I’ve also got a Logitech keyboard to go with it. The keyboard helps me to bash out documents and emails with surprising speed and comfort. It’s not as large as a normal sized keyboard but I can go for a long time without my hands getting tired. (Less of the small hands jokes, please!) I even once went for a four hour walk with the iPad in my backpack and got it out to do some typing at a café at the end. I didn’t even notice it was there. That wouldn’t happen with a laptop.

If the point of technology is to help us get things done, then I think we’re living in pretty amazing times.

The Millennial Dad movement is all about getting things done while being the best possible father and there are plenty of resources out there to help us be more productive. I’m going to road test a few different things and share what work technology works best for me. For now, I hoped you enjoyed my nostalgic trip through the past!

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?