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Five Ways Parents Can Become Independently Productive

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About five years ago I started my own business on the side in my "free" time. It has now grown to eclipse my corporate day job as a source of income and I am making the move to full time work from home. I want to share some tips and observations that I believe led me as a single parent of two beautiful girls to get there.

We all know that having little ones means there really isn't any time of the day (or night) with zero parenting responsibilities, and when you do get a blessed hour or two of peace it's spent doing things like catching up on emails, watching adult shows, or more likely multitasking a few things while getting household chores done.

Here's a few quick "life hacks" that I believe have led directly to a complete change in my lifestyle.

1. Swap totally indulgent downtime for indulgent but productive downtime

Some years ago I noticed that I had fallen into a very predictable habit of sorts every night. I got the girls to bed around 8pm, got my iPad out, popped into Netflix and started watching in the kitchen. I would clean things up, do some other physical chores, and just generally focus on the screen while getting things done. I thought I was being really efficient with chores and taking a moment to enjoy my shows.

There was just one problem that was nagging me. The routine wasn't helping to change anything for myself or my daughters. Everybody needs a break after a long day, but something didn't feel right about it.

Here's the secret: I swapped one enjoyable activity for another equally enjoyable activity with a goal. Instead of watching Netflix, I opened my laptop and started writing. I have always liked writing, but never had the ability to use it for anything that paid our bills. I had been reading blogs from other parents, and a lot of them were solving problems I had.

I started writing articles about problems I had solved as a parent. It was a lot of fun to rehash my day, think about my daughters, and just generally be more introspective about things in my life. Think about it as a daily journal with a purpose: To help other parents shortcut the lessons I was learning.

Before long I had about 20 well-written articles sitting on my computer. That was amazing to me because it only took about a month to get there and didn't impact my normal routine whatsoever. All I did was trade Netflix for Microsoft Word, and best of all I still felt like I was having downtime as I enjoyed the writing.

2. Make a list and learn a new skill in small, measurable steps

This is where things started to get interesting. I had a lot of content sitting on my computer and nobody reading it. I know from having a few friends in tech that websites make money, but I had no real idea how that happened.

So I made a list of things I needed to do to start getting there. I started by creating a really simple website using one of the many free and cheap companies out there that walk you through the process. The end cost was about $10 per month to get everything set up, well within my budget.

After that it was a matter of uploading and formatting my articles, adding images I took with my phone and camera, and just kind of working on it bit by bit. I made a goal to get one article uploaded and formatted each day. Granted it wasn't always easy to get that done thanks to unexpected happenings with work (and summer sports for the girls). After another couple of months I had it all working.

I had never built a website before, so I had a lot to learn. By working at it bit by bit, and taking things one step at a time I was able to take the pressure off. It was really cool to research and read up on the process. Google was really my best friend, and YouTube has videos on how to do almost anything on the web.

3. The world is changing, and people are behaving differently

After about six months of my new routine I had a website and what I thought was some really good content. I kept adding to it as part of my routine, and after about a year it had grown substantially. It was around this time that the marketing director of a large company filled out the form on my website asking if I wanted to be involved in a new campaign.

I honestly couldn't believe it, and thought it had to be a scam.

But it was real! It turns out they found me through their public relations agency, which had been researching on the web for parents in my exact situation. One of my articles had come up and really interested them. It never would have happened if I hadn't put myself out there.

After talking it out I was hired (for a pretty small amount in retrospect) to write a series of articles about the brand. It was really cool because I got to keep my style and flow, but integrate the product in. It was a new challenge and the start of something much bigger. After that more and more brands reached out, and I was able to slowly learn how to create and sell them something.

That's glossing over a lot of details about the exact mechanics of how it all works, and those details may be an article for another time if there is any interest.


As a parent of two young ones, I thought my time was 110% accounted for. But I didn't realize how much potential I had in just 90 minutes per day refocused. Thinking back, the steps I took that helped get me there were simple:

  • Find something that you love and that build upon itself Hint: It's not Netflix
  • Learn a new skill that helps more people recognize what you are making
  • Create something to sell to your new "customers"

I'm looking forward to sharing more about my parenting journey here on Today!

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