7 things working parents can do in 7 minutes to improve their work/life balance

There's a feeling that working parents have that's pretty universal, Daisy Wademan Dowling writes for Harvard Business Review.

It's the guilt that you're not spending enough time with your child, or at the gym, or at work. And as much as we'd all like, we can't add more hours to the day, she notes. But, Wademan Dowling argues, there are a few quick things parents can do to improve their personal and professional lives.

Wademan Dowling bases her recommendations on her experience as founder and CEO of Workparent, a consulting firm that aims to help working parents and the organizations that employ them.

Here are seven of what Wademan Dowling calls "working parent power moves"—each of which, she writes, take seven minutes or less to do:

1. Give your manager some good news

Send your boss a short email that says something along the lines of, "this project is going well, the client was pleased, and it should be ready by Thursday." The note does not have to be groundbreaking, Wademan Dowling writes. But the idea is that it will make you appear competent and communicative, which are both attributes of a top performer.

2. Take advantage of short, high-impact workouts

Despite what many may think, you do not need to devote lots of time to get the most out of your workouts, Wademan Dowling writes. She refers readers to a New York Times app that teaches high-intensity cardio and strength exercises, all of which can be done in seven minutes. After you finish them, not only will you feel healthier, your mind will be more awake and able to take on new challenges.

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3. Practice your elevator speech

You never know when you might find yourself standing next to a senior leader in line at Starbucks or in the elevator. Make sure you're ready to take advantage of the moment and talk briefly about a few recent accomplishments, Wademan Dowling writes. Your speech should be polished and rehearsed, so you never miss out on a chance to showcase how well you're doing.  

4. Decline something on your calendar

Every once in a while, you should take a look at your upcoming, non-critical commitments and politely decline, Wademan Dowling writes. She suggests one way to escape is to ask someone to attend a meeting on your behalf and brief you afterward. You'll have an additional hour that you can spend on something that is more important.

5. Eat a family dinner  

In the past, families would all be home by six o'clock and they'd have dinner together and talk about what happened that day, Wademan Dowling writes. Times have changed. However, you can reclaim this time and spend it with your family on a regular basis.

But in order to make this a tradition, there are a few things you should keep in mind, she writes. First, it doesn't have to be every night or even every week. Wademan Dowling argues that the important thing is to put it on the calendar and take that time as seriously as you would a client meeting. It should also be a time that works for the entire family so that everyone can be included.

Also, don't stress about the food. Takeout works just as well, she writes. You can also consider having weekend brunch if that's easier.   

6. Update your LinkedIn profile

As LinkedIn has become popular to people in every industry, it's important to keep it fresh, Wademan Dowling argues. So take a moment to add a line or two about a new skill, your latest accomplishment, or connect with a professional contact you met recently.

7. Take a "math break" with your child

The motivation for your hard work is most likely the desire to give your child the best education possible, Wademan Dowling writes. So get involved by doing a problem with them each night before bed. Wademan Dowling recommends bedtimemath.org, which offers word problems based on recognizable situations.

This is quality time that your child will appreciate, Wademan Dowling writes. And it gives you both an opportunity to have the satisfaction of solving a challenge and increases your child's analytical skills, she adds (Wademan Dowling, Harvard Business Review, 6/29).

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