For working moms, it’s all the rage: ‘Split shift’ parenting, the act of dipping out of work by 4 or 4:30 p.m. in order to have a bit more time with the kids before bed.
The caveat? You have to log back online after the kids are asleep in order to tie up loose ends or finish up that PowerPoint presentation that’s due in the morning.
At its core, the "split shift" is a work-around for parents who need to work a 40-plus hour workweek, but also want to be around for consistent (and daily) family time.
But as someone who has fully embraced this approach to work/life balance for almost two years, I realize—courtesy of Laura Vanderkam’s recent piece in The New York Times—that there are ways to do it better, which is why I’m embracing the below.
Get the Tough Stuff Out of the Way in the AM
That aforementioned PowerPoint presentation? Yes, your boss kept the deadline loose, but that doesn’t mean you should tackle this end of day when your brain is depleted and running on fumes. A better approach: If you are splitting your work day into two shifts (for example, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. followed by a post-bedtime hour or two), make an effort to lay out your to-do list based on energy levels. In other words, you’ll want to tackle the big-picture items that require more creativity when you’re feeling freshest. (Lower lift tasks like email are a better use of that after-hours time.)
Be Realistic About What You Can Get Done
When you’re rushing out the door from work, it’s tempting to make a laundry list of tasks that could never get done in under six hours. Instead, be honest—and specific—about what you can do. For example, you might not be able to achieve inbox zero, but you can prioritize emails you flagged as important that require a more immediate reply.
Set a Timer
With off-hours work, it’s easy to lose track of time spent and find yourself plunking away into the wee hours of the night. Or, worse, procrastinating when you open your laptop. (There are grocery orders to place! And play group emails to send!) Instead, do your best to schedule a time to start working—say, 20 minutes after the dishes are washed—and a time to log off as well. (Succession is calling.)