Tips On Productivity For Location Independent Parents


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If you are anything like the three of us, you’ll very likely have several projects on the go at once. That plus looking after the kids and maybe travelling the globe makes for a tribe of busy parents!

Jonathan & I frequently ask each other “What on earth did we do with our time before we had Mali?” – yet when we look back over the past few years of being location independent and running our own businesses, we have launched more projects, serviced more clients and generally just achieved more since being pregnant with, and then subsequently having Mali.

It’s most certainly not been easy…working until 2 or 3am as a new parent, when your baby still wakes for feeds every 2-3 hours is tough – and when you add travel to the mix, you can quite easily find yourself reaching breaking point much sooner than ever before.

So just how can you fit it all in? I asked both Sharon & Amy for their tips, and I’ve added mine at the bottom…

Here’s what Sharon said:

As a location independent parent you are always juggling. I know I am. Yet I still manage to handle parenting responsibilities, keep my writing clients happy and have some fun.

One of the things I have struggled with is letting e-mail be a tool instead of a distraction. I manage that by checking email at set times during the day (8 AM, 12 PM, 3 PM and 7 PM). I also use a get-things-done (GTD) approach to processing mail, by responding immediately to what I can deal with, or archiving and labeling mail as “do now”, “do soon”, “someday” or “wait for response”. This keeps my inbox under control and then I can work through email in priority order.

Two more important tools are Remember The Milk (RTM) and Google Calendar. RTM is a task list application, which integrates with my calendar and email. It’s easy to set priorities and move tasks around. Google Calendar is not only great for managing work commitments, but for scheduling family time. I have multiple calendars: one for my daughter’s increasingly hectic social life, one for my personal commitments, one for holidays around the world and a work planning calendar.

It’s important to me to make time for family — that was part of the point of becoming location independent — so in my head I schedule a couple hours every afternoon for family time.

My last big productivity “secret” is matching the work I do to my creativity peaks and troughs. That means that I do most of my writing in the morning when I am most alert, saving the afternoon for editing and other less creative tasks (though sometimes editing can be quite creative too).

I also operate a reward system for myself, especially when handling a task that I don’t find particularly inspiring. For example, I’ll allow myself a 10 minute social media break after one hour of successful work or set a target for completing a certain number of articles before making myself a cup of coffee.

Here’s what Amy said:

Prior to establishing my social media business, I was engaged in full-time education as I completed 3 degrees in English literature. Juggling research, work and home-education has been exceptionally challenging and it has only been possible to keep all the balls in the air through the establishment of routine.

For example, when the children were much younger, we established meal times, bath times, nap times and bed times and these remained fixed for as long as those times suited us as a family. By setting this structure it then became much easier to work in and around business and study commitments.

As the children got older we started to introduce a certain amount of structure to their learning. While we are ardent supporters of autonomous child-led education, for practical purposes, some established routine to daily learning has allowed us to establish and grow our business while ensuring that our children are receiving the education they need to continue widening their horizons.

Today that routine consists of maths exercises, project work and music practice before lunch, followed by free-play, story-writing, drawing, science experiments, documentary watching in the afternoon, and then a film before bed. This obviously does not account for the days when they have lessons in music, tennis, drama, and Hungarian or when we have excursions to workshops, historical sites, family visits etc.

This kind of structure means that when the children are engaged in their learning I can be working on emails, article writing, research etc. while remaining available to them if they should need assistance. I can also monitor that everything is going smoothly, give comments on their work and mark the exercises they’ve been set.

Without this basic structure, it would be very difficult to keep everything in balance. It also allows me to look back over the week and assess what has been achieved both by my kids in their learning and myself in my work, and gain satisfaction that we are all making progress and attaining a desirable level of productivity.

Here’s my advice:

To some extent, as relatively new parents, we’re still finding out what works best when it comes to running a location independent business, being nomadic and being parents to a 6 month old. My best advice so far is this:

As soon as you figure out what schedule your baby is on (or you determine what schedule they’re on, depending upon your parenting approach), fit your work in around it. One of the main benefits of running your own business and being location independent is that you don’t have to stick to the norm, you can simply implement what works for you.

For example, we currently choose to spend pretty much the whole day together as a family and then, when Mali goes to sleep (usually around 7pm), we get to work. In the days when she wouldn’t sleep until 10pm, it was exceptionally hard and Jonathan would often find himself working until 3am. These days it’s more manageable – knowing you only have a certain amount of time in which to get your “to do” list done, really focuses the mind and reduces the time-wasting. We’ll often get done in 3-4 hours what seems to take many people (often non-parents!) a day or more!

Another important part of being productive and utilising your time in the most effective way is to focus on what matters most. That is, when you have a “to do” list as long as your arm (as I frequently do), I often have to accept that I am just not going to get it all done when I want to.

Instead, I focus on what matters most. I do this by asking 2 simple questions:

  1. If I don’t do this today, what is the real impact going to be tomorrow?
  2. Which of these tasks will take me closer to where I want to be?

It’s hard to let go of the other stuff but I’m getting increasingly better at it, out of sheer necessity. As I said, we’ve not got it perfect yet but we’re getting better.

What are your top tips for productivity and getting things done as a location independent parent?

2 Responses to Tips On Productivity For Location Independent Parents

  1. antonia

    March 5, 2010 | 11:36 am


    I absolutely love this article. I’m not a parent yet, but it’s so inspiring to hear from people who are successfully raising children while continuing to live location-independently–such a contrast to the naysayers (i.e., “You know, you won’t be able to keep this up when you have kids”)!

    Your site is a wonderful resource. I’ve mentioned you in an article at and have linked to you…thanks again for all the information and inspiration!

  2. Lea Woodward

    March 6, 2010 | 11:28 pm

    @antonia – Thanks! And for the link too :) You are so right about the naysayers – I can’t count how many times people said that to us or subsequently said they thought it but didn’t say it!! Fortunately we’ve proven them wrong which is always quite satisfying!

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