Monthly Archives: July 2011

A Simple Way to Babysit and Work at the Same Time

My daughter just turned two, so I thought I’d share a tip about balancing fatherhood with being a couch manager. When she was around 18 months old, I had to figure out a way to babysit her while remaining productive – especially when my wife had to run some errands in the evenings. I’m all for spending quality time with my child so she has my full, undivided attention, but there are times when I’m inundated with papers to write and reports to draft, that I really have to multi-task while babysitting.

One option was to use my laptop in the living room while she watched her favorite show on TV, but the problem with that was I couldn’t focus on both her and my screen simultaneously – especially since she wanders around picking up random things off the floor and sticking them in her little mouth. Another option was to have her sit on my lap and watch YouTube videos on my laptop, but that meant I was stuck watching Barney with her as well.

So I figured out a really simple way to do both.

I basically split my laptop screen into two parts, with the top part being for me to work on anything I wanted (like writing a blog post on Word), and the bottom part for her to watch YouTube videos she liked. I simply re-sized the two windows so that they sit on top of each other, and hit play in the bottom window while working in the top one.

So the set-up looked something this:

To make it even less interrupting for me, I added several of her favorite videos (she loves Barney, Caillou and the Phonics song) to a playlist and then just clicked “Play all” for continuous playback. If you’re not familiar with how to create a playlist on YouTube, you can find instructions here.

Of course, another alternative is to play full feature cartoon movies by popping in a DVD or subscribing to NetFlix or Hulu – which works equally well.

There are a couple of advantages of babysitting while working this way. First, you have full control over your child because they’re right there in front of you and they’re locked in from falling because of your arms. Second, your child can have a dry snack while watching at the same time, which is an added bonus (just stay away from liquids – keyboards don’t like them very much).

And that’s pretty much it – a simple solution to a common problem. Know of any other tricks to babysit and work at the same time? Let me know in the comments section below!

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The 4 Types of Managers According to Abraham Lincoln’s Productivity Rule

Abraham Lincoln famously said:

“Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the axe”

I’m a big fan of this quote, and I’ve used it over and over during my career – especially when planning large and complex initiatives. In essence, the quote refers to how much time you should spend planning versus executing a project. According to Lincoln, you should spend two-thirds of the time you have sharpening the axe (planning your project), and the remaining one-third of it chopping the tree (executing the project). While the optimal ratio of planning to executing obviously depends on multiple factors, Lincoln’s basic point holds true: you need to spend more time planning a project than you probably think.

I believe this becomes even more crucial when leading teams in a virtual environment. In most of the troubled projects I had assessed at Fortune 500 companies, a big portion of them failed because the project manager either:

  • Spent way too much planning the project – losing valuable time before executing it.
  • Spent very little time (if any) planning, and started executing immediately – resulting in a hefty price down the line.
  • Spent all the time going back and forth between planning and executing – wasting valuable time due to a high switching cost.

The following visuals show the four types of managers I’ve encountered , and how each of them uses those six hours:

When I first started managing big projects, I was more of an obsessive-compulsive sharpener (like #1 above) – trying to think of every what-if scenario and trying to “perfect” my plans. However, only after taking Lincoln’s advice to heart did I realize that I was being counterproductive and pushed myself to start chopping early (with great results).

How about you? Which type of management style do you relate to? Let me know in the comments below!