My 80/20 rule for new parents

“You’ll never have any time to yourself again,” people told me when I was pregnant. To be sure, parenting a baby brings new meaning to time management and prioritisation. But it’s nowhere near as bad as I had been led to fear.

Photo by Sarah Chai on

On parental leave, I’ve followed the rule: 80% of the time I do what needs doing first, 20% of the time I do something I want to do first.

So the question then is, what is a need and what is a want?

Some, like basic hygiene, may seem obvious: a need. But it’s surprising how easily things like cutting your nails or having a shower get relegated down the to-do list when you have a helpless human to keep alive (and, ideally, thriving). If you need the loo and have the opportunity to go, don’t wait – you might miss your window. Now that’s prioritising well.

Yoga or other exercise? A need, because it’s essential for my mental and physical health, without which I can’t parent effectively. Even if it means simultaneously acting like an overexcited children’s TV presenter to keep my baby happy.

Photo by Valeria Ushakova on

Cleaning the house? A want, because dusty shelves and a bathroom crying out for a scrub don’t directly harm my baby or impact my parenting.

Whether you’re in paid work or an unpaid caring role, it’s always tempting to do the tasks you like or that you’re good at, first. I found it easy to create a detailed weaning schedule for my daughter (spreadsheets are my forte), but hard to prioritise daily exercise.

Stopping for just a second and asking ‘is this a need or a want?’ and choosing ‘need’ 80% of the time has helped me tick the top things off my to-do list this year. Does it mean the house is often a mess? That’s a big fat “YES”. But ultimately the stuff that needs to get done gets done, and I reckon that’s pretty good going when there’s a baby around.

This post is the third in a series of three posts I have published as part of the #UPFRONT course I am doing. Check out my other posts on LinkedIn and my blog,

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