When I was tasked with writing this article, my youngest son was two months old. Now, he’s four months old. For the parents reading this, they can probably guess and empathize why it’s taken over 3 months to get this article written. (I’m tired.) For those interested in being parents (or not), I’m going to break down what I’ve done to continue to drive my career and success while juggling the perks and perils of parenting two under two.
I’m going to break it down into 3 main categories:
A lot has happened at work since the birth of my first child. For one, I switched careers entirely (3x my salary waddup). I went from a mature and seasoned sales development organization to a scrappy healthcare startup. I’m still in sales development, but my focus has become entirely internal, with my only prospect interactions being Q&A. With that said, sales is still very much the lifeblood of what I do in product development and without sales, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. Luckily, the workflows aren’t much different. The main difference is I must sell my product to the internal company rather than external companies, and then advocate for my product if the sales team can’t. (They can. They’re good people.)
OKRs in the Professional Context
At my current company, we adopted a process I used many times before and something that many of you are probably familiar with; OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results. (see: John Doerr’s TED Talk) TL;DR OKRs are the process of establishing your goals and projects for the quarter or year, working on those items as exclusively as you can, then assessing a grading percentage at the end of the quarter.
While I could discuss the minutia of my daily duties and projects, I want to focus on OKRs and how they’ve helped in my professional and personal life, especially in regards to parenting. The best word to describe my life is, “chaotic.” OKRs help keep all of it manageable. Controlled chaos, if you will.
For starters, OKRs are a direct indicator of my effectiveness and pay. It’s something that is agnostic to any company or division and can be implemented personally or professionally. In fact, if you presented OKRs as an action plan to your boss, they’d probably welcome it. OKRs are usually set by the employee alongside management and is all about gradual, realistic goals. It’s a way to avoid scope creep and unattainable quotas.
The secret sauce to OKRs comes down to something that is a must for the active working parent (or any professional for that matter,) discipline and responsibility. If you fail your OKRs, that’s on you. Your OKRs can be a part of your job, your parental duties, your household, whatever.
In my professional life, as much as an overachiever I am, OKRs reel me in to avoid burnout and Stockholm Syndrome. They look something like this, with 3 main objectives with key indicators working towards those OKRs (these are redacted versions of my actual objectives):
O1: Analytics & Reporting R&D – 30%
KR: AI – Reporting Capabilities Vendor – P1
KR: Vendor – R&D their Business Suite Capabilities & Cost
KR: Write SOP and Train Staff
O2: Vendor Member Populations: Accessibility or Other Needs – 30%
KR: Join Team in UAT Selection & P1 Join Assessment Team
KR: Develop Onboarding Tips, Tools & Suggestions for CS Team (Quick Strike)
KR: Host a Training Session or Lunch & Learn for internal & external Teams
O3: R&D Project Management & Sourcing – 30%
KR: Vendor Evaluation and Partnering
KR: Vendor products: Explore the potential
KR: Audit R&D – Gather all projects and resources and assign value
Join the R&D Advisory Board
O4: [PERSONAL OBJECTIVE] – 10%
KR: Personal Development: Leadership – (Schedule One-to-One)
What you see above is how I work for my paycheck. If I achieve a 100% completion, I am granted that much as a bonus. But, let’s say I only achieve O3 and O4, then I would get 40% of my bonus.
Now, why am I talking about all of this in an article about parenting? Two reasons: It helps structure my day so I’m not “clocking out” after my kids go to bed at 7:30 PM. I can always see a light at the end of the tunnel during the quarter. Two, I apply these principles to my personal life.
Before I go into how I work this in my personal life, I want to address one thing about OKRs. They’re not concrete. If you’re halfway through the quarter and you find one of your objectives to be completely unreasonable or unattainable, or something happened to completely pivot the course of your quarter or year, change them! As long as you have a goal, you have a plan, and if you have a plan, you have a path towards success (and more money.)
OKRs at Home
When I had my first child, I assumed a level of responsibility I’ve never had before. I had everything to do in my job, plus, now I had this little sack of potatoes to help keep alive. Luckily, I have my wife (more on that later). But, I saw it all laid out in front of me. The extra bills, lack of sleep, lack of social life, etc. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t accept it kicking and screaming. When he was little-little, we tried to hang on. Going out to eat. Events with friends, etc. We desperately wanted to keep being our old selves, + 1. We found ourselves leaving events saying, “We can’t do that again for a while.” My wife was quicker at growing up. I’m still working on it. In the minutia of all of that, I was going insane with work, stress, responsibilities. Did I mention we bought a bigger house, car, my aging mother moved in with us?
In the midst of all of that (while battling COVID), I found out during Christmas of 2020 that we were having another in August. So, what have I done? I sat up one sleepless evening feeding our second sack of potatoes brainstorming, “Scott, how are you going to do all of this?” I implemented what I knew best, OKRs.
I realized quickly that life isn’t going to slow down, no matter how much I daydream about a 40-acre homestead or a villa in Italy. What I can do, is work towards those goals one quarter at a time. Anyone that knows me personally knows that I often dream of big plans and ideas. Having children stirred up something in me to make sure I put words to action. It’s probably the fact that two tiny humans rely on me and my wife to survive. I established a set of goals that I’ll do my best to accomplish just a few months at a time. Whether it’s something small to do with the house (hang up all the artwork) or to something big (buy a minivan).
When you set goals and action plans for yourself, your family, and your children, you’ll find yourself having a much easier life. As much as we wanted to sit on the couch, tired, watching The Great British Bake Off, we found ourselves feeling much more fulfilled when we had the playroom and nursery fully decorated.
How did I execute all of this to keep my sanity, and to continue to flourish our success as a family? I set clear goals and boundaries. The blessings in our life have allowed for my wife to be a stay-at-home mom, so with that, came some ground rules and boundaries. The emotion and minutia that’s involved can be challenging, but it’s crucial to my and my family’s success.
I made it very clear to my family, that if I’m to WFH full-time. I’ll have my own isolated office and a strict ‘Do Not Disturb’ policy. I reinforced this by linking Amazon Echo Glows to my calendar so they turn red whenever a meeting is about to start. I linked a calendar and chore list using Dakboard so everyone can see the upcoming events and appointments, along with chores due that week. I established that I need sleep. I set a goal of 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Of course, I’ve helped tackle that 1 AM feeding if asked, but I made it clear to my wife that she has to ask because if I’m the sole provider, I can’t jeopardize our livelihood.
Now, I understand that this may sound bold or harsh to some, but we established what works for us. There’s a solid trade-off. I’m usually working hard around lunchtime while my wife gets to take a nap (sleep when the baby sleeps). House projects usually happen in the 2.5 hour span that I can make noise with tools before the kids go to bed (if I have them planned). She puts the youngest to bed, while I get to tackle the two-year-old put him to bed (usually).
I can go on and on, but overall, what we established is a plan and routine. We are two people that were and are very, “go with the flow,” but the maturity and discipline that came along with effective planning have ironed out quite a few speed bumps. As boring as it can sound, it isn’t. Every day is a new adventure with children. A new exciting thing they’re learning or doing, or another round of Paw Patrol. That’s my biggest piece to recommend to this. If you’re a new parent, or well-seasoned, consider establishing OKRs in your personal life.
Ever since we have, life has gotten sweeter every day.