Not long after leaving the army, Bram Connolly became a dad. His new job as a consultant involved a two-hour commute each way. In addition, Bram was writing his first military thriller, The Fighting Season, and completing a university undergraduate degree and a graduate diploma. Oh, and he was also attempting to maintain his fitness regimen and social life, too.
“The truth is it’s bloody hard to have so many things going on,” he admits. “I was drowning for a while there and I often felt like I’d taken on too much and was never doing it to the best of my ability.”
Sound familiar? While your schedule might not be quite as demented as the above, part of having kids involves confronting the reality that you’re suddenly more time-poor than ever. And it’s a problem that’s particularly acute for the current generation of dads.
Becoming a dad certainly doesn’t give you any reprieve in the workforce. The Australian Institute of Family Studies report that “for most families the number of hours fathers spend in employment remains the same before and after having children”. At the same time, however, dads are now more actively involved in raising their children. The Pew Research Centre in the US has found that modern dads spend three times as much time with their kids today as fathers did back in the 1960s.
When you’re trying to squeeze an increasing amount into a limited number of hours, inevitably something has to give and you don’t want it to be your sanity.
Faced with this exact challenge, Bram took a tactical approach. His 20-year career in the army had elevated him to the position of Major in the Special Forces. “When I finally acknowledged I was time-poor, I developed some tricks and techniques, based on my military experience, for managing my time and managing my projects.”
Working off the principle that if it’s not measurable, it’s not manageable, Bram decided to learn exactly where his time was disappearing to. That’s why he did a week-long time audit.
Using a free tracking app called Toggl. every time Bram started an activity, he plugged in the start time and end time. What he quickly discovered was that he was spending more time than expected on Facebook, Instagram and watching TV. Habits like these were eating into his intended productivity.
“A time audit is an intervention of sorts,” he admits. “By showing you where all your time goes and where you’re wasting your time, you can start to adjust your behaviour to form better habits. You’re able to see where your priorities could be or should be.”
Essentially, the week-long audit gives you the precise breakdown of your time that you can then reconstruct in a more effective way to achieve whatever you want, whether that’s hanging out with your kids or writing that blockbuster screenplay.
To manage his own time, Bram simply uses the old-fashioned to-do list (albeit in the slightly modern incarnation of Microsoft To Do). “I’ve always been an early riser,” he says. “But when I get up in the morning, the very first thing I do is write a to-do list for the day to establish the priorities of what needs to get done. That list is usually pretty extensive.”
You don’t want your list to get too granular – just a line on each task, suggests Bram. But he also recommends building in dedicated “thinking time” to map out a new project or idea. “I might allow an hour where I switch off my phones and computer to just think deeply about something in front of a white board.”
“I’ve written three books now, created two businesses, and it’s all been around management of time,” continues Bram, now a father of two. “That’s how my book chapters get written. That’s how my podcast gets recorded. It’s through that skillful use of time.
“What I’ve found is that you can slow time down and speed it up depending on how much application you put into it.”
Buy Bram Connolly’s book The Commando Way here