How I Make Time for My Own Projects
Finding time between work and family for things that matter to me.
Someone recently posed the following question on Twitter:
People with young families:
What’s your key to focusing on side projects when working at home?
I’m fine on work but after work, it’s family time in one way or another, so how do you balance?
Getting up early is an integral part of my day, but most of that deep focus time is spent on work that I’m being paid to do — not my own personal projects.
And the person who posed this question is absolutely right: kids are somewhat all-encompassing. They constantly demand attention, no matter what the age. Sure, my older kids are more self-sufficient than the 4-year-old but finding chunks of uninterrupted time to focus on myself is something that I have to be intentional about.
Almost by accident, we started some habits when my oldest son was very little: fiercely guarding naptime and bedtime.
To this day, all of the kids are “tucked in” by 7:00 p.m. The older kids retreat to their rooms to do their own thing, and the 4-year-old actually goes to sleep. Sometimes the older kids have homework, but they’ll work on their Chromebooks on their own. We have parental controls on the Chromebooks and their Alexa devices to turn off at 8:00 p.m. so that they don’t stay up all hours.
Then, on weekends, we have “quiet time” from about 12:00–3:00 p.m. Both Saturday and Sunday. We eat lunch, and then everyone goes into their own spaces. The 4-year-old rarely naps anymore (much to my chagrin) but because this is our routine, she’s used to playing quietly in her room for the duration of this time. The older kids will sometimes nap but often listen to audiobooks, read, or go to our backyard and play.
Because of these habits, I have some built-in time every day for myself. I can work on my own projects — whatever makes me happy — in the evenings or during quiet time. My kids like the downtime as well.
A big caveat to this is that my kids are not involved in activities that require a lot of scheduled participation. They’ve done after-school clubs, usually only one or two days per week. Never anything that demands practices that go late into the day or have weekend commitments.
And this works for us. The kids have learned to balance participating in things they enjoy along with time alone. Whenever something new comes up, the older kids think through what it means to give up some of their “free time.”
I like working on personal writing projects. I like doing ancestry research. I like naps, and I like time to watch something brainless on Netflix. By having this routine, I know that there is always some downtime waiting for me.