“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”, with Dr. Ely Weinschneider & Alexis Haselberger

In my experience, kids need to feel seen and heard. It’s really important that they have parents who listen to them, and who are present every day. When I travel, my kids aren’t too happy with me. Even when they don’t really seem like they want to spend time with me, it’s clear they want […]

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In my experience, kids need to feel seen and heard. It’s really important that they have parents who listen to them, and who are present every day. When I travel, my kids aren’t too happy with me. Even when they don’t really seem like they want to spend time with me, it’s clear they want me around. Facetime is a real life-saver here. Also, kids soak up our values from our actions. If I were to be gone all the time, then I’m teaching my kids that I don’t value family time. I want my kids to value time with family and therefore it becomes really important to ensure that I’m living that value and spending time with them.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Alexis Haselberger. Alexis Haselberger is a productivity, time-management and efficiency expert. She spent the first 15+ years of her career managing business operations and HR at several early-stage start-ups, where there was always way more to do than people to do it. Yes, she believes that work-life balance is essential for everyone, even though the definition may be different for everyone. As a result, Alexis began to develop and implement productivity systems in the companies she worked for, and in her own life, to ensure that goals were met, balls were not dropped, and that, most importantly, she and those around her stayed sane. Alexis’ productivity and time-management systems, techniques, tricks and hacks can be customized to any team, individual or household. With her help, individuals build the balance that’s right for them, so that they can do all that they want to do, with less effort and less stress. In short, through her business, Alexis helps people figure out how to do more of what they want, less of what they don’t and reduce stress at the same time.

Thank you so much for joining us, Alexis! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

Ofcourse, I’d be happy to. I grew up in Bellevue, WA, just outside Seattle, with 2 sisters; a half sister 6 years older than me who lived with us on weekends, and a full sister 5 years younger than me. My parents were both federal government “lifers”; one at the EPA and one at the FAA. Civil service and a commitment to ethics and integrity were central tenants of my family’s values. I went to public schools all through school, and I had an amazing experience going to a public charter school for 6th through 12th grade. I was always a very organized and self-sufficient kid. I loved to play “school” (as the teacher, naturally), and I remember creating schedules for myself at 8 years old and cross-referencing my schedule with the TV Guide to make sure I watched the “best” half hour of TV that I was allowed each day. In high school I was always scheming; it was my goal to always get straight A’s, with as little effort as possible. I was always making deals with my teachers about how to could do extra work in exchange for not going to class. I relished finding a loophole that would allow me to excel with minimal effort and time. Nothing’s changed, I guess.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I spent the first 15 years of my career running HR and business operations in early stage start-ups in the Bay Area. In a start-up environment, there is always so much more to do than people to do it. People work hard, they work long hours, and they burn out. My super-power was always the ability to get A LOT done, and done well, with minimal effort and stress. I had a boss that used to tell people that I could do in 20 hours what most could do in 60 hours. Over time, people started recognizing these skills and starting to come to me for help with streamlining processes, creating systems, prioritization and general time management. When the last start-up I worked for went out of business (as more than 90% of start-ups do), I decided that the most impactful thing I’d been doing was helping others with time management, productivity and stress reduction. And luckily, that was also the aspect of my career that was the most fulfilling for me. At that point I decided to open my own time management and productivity coaching and consulting business so that I could help others kill it at work, and have fulfilling personal lives as well. I haven’t looked back. Turns out, there are a lot of folks really struggling in this department so there was strong product-market fit.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

I typically get up between 7 and 7:30 am, spend a little morning time cuddling with my kids and chatting with them while they eat breakfast and I make coffee. Then our babysitter drives them to school and I start my workday between 8 and 9. I run my business out of my home, so I have no commute most of the time; this is HUGE for my own time management. (Although, I do travel, both locally and nation-wide, to teach workshops with fair frequency.)

Then, I typically have 2 different types of days: those where I’m in back to back client coaching sessions, and those where I’m going to a company’s office to teach a workshop. I try to arrange my schedule so that on Mondays I have no meetings and can really focus on the head’s down work of running my business; writing, accounting, working on long term projects. I also arrange my schedule so that every other week is jam packed with client coaching sessions and the opposite weeks I teach workshops and I have a bit more breathing room.

Regardless of the type of week I’m in, I generally stop working between 5 and 5:30pm and then I go for a 2–4 mile run (depending on how much time I have). The run helps ground me and marks the transition between my work and home lives. I run outside, in Golden Gate Park (I live in San Francisco), so this also ensures I get out in nature almost every day. Once I’m done with my run, I start cooking dinner and we eat together as a family almost every night, between 6:30 and 7. My kids then clean the kitchen while I might spend another 20 minutes working. At 8pm our whole family piles into our bed and we read to our kids until 8:30; then it’s bedtime for the kids. Most nights, my husband and I will then either watch TV/movies together, or we’ll read. I tend to go to sleep between 11:30 and 12:30 (I’m a night person, so I don’t really get tired before then). Once a week or so I will do a little work from bed while we’re watching something.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

In my experience, kids need to feel seen and heard. It’s really important that they have parents who listen to them, and who are present every day. When I travel, my kids aren’t too happy with me. Even when they don’t really seem like they want to spend time with me, it’s clear they want me around. Facetime is a real life-saver here. Also, kids soak up our values from our actions. If I were to be gone all the time, then I’m teaching my kids that I don’t value family time. I want my kids to value time with family and therefore it becomes really important to ensure that I’m living that value and spending time with them.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

When I spend time with my kids, it really helps me to understand them and them to understand me. The more quality time we spend together, the better I feel like we get along. Kids push away from their parents; that’s just how they are and it’s a healthy developmental step. But fundamentally, kids NEED us to be there when they are ready to talk, to be there when they are ready to share, to be there when there’s an issue we can help them resolve. Kids can be fickle; if I’m not around when they’re ready to talk, I might miss that moment and they might not be ready again for a while. As my kids get older, they need me to show up in different ways, but they don’t need me less. In my experience, the younger years are full of physical care-taking, while in the older years the focus shifts more towards emotional care-taking.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

I LOVE this study. In fact, I cite it all the time when I’m working with clients who are working parents. This study made me feel so much better about being a business owner and a parent.

Here are things that I do that I put in the category of quality over quantity:

● Every morning, my kids get into our bed with us and cuddle for just a few minutes before breakfast.

● Every day when my kids get home from school, if I’m not currently in a client session, I stop what I’m doing, I leave my office and I ask them about their day and give them a hug. We talk for a few minutes, I make them a snack, and then I go back to my office and they go play. If I know I’m going to be in a meeting when they get home, I always leave a note for them on my office door that lets them know when I’ll be done with meetings. As soon as I’m done, I go say hi, ask them about their day and give them a hug.

● Family dinner is sacrosanct in our house. I cook dinner from scratch every day (I love cooking, so this is actually fun for me) and we eat together as a family.

● Every night from 8 to 8:30, we also gather in our bed and read together before bed. Sometimes we read aloud and sometimes we all just read our own books.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.

● Turn off ALL of the notifications on your phone. You can check your email and Slack as often as you want, but you want it to be because you decided to do it, not just because you got a new message.

● Enact a family tradition; we often do family game night as we love board games. Family movie night is great too.

● Buy tickets to events where your phone will need to be on silent. We take our kids to plays, musicals, shows like Cirque du Soleil, etc.

● Do a brain-dump before you end your work day. Get all those work thoughts swirling around your head into your task system instead. Once you get them out of your head, it’s amazing how much more present you’ll be at home.

● Go on walks on the weekend! To entice our kids, we often offer a treat 🙂 We’ll go on a long walk, but stop for lunch or to get boba tea on the way back.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

This is quite a question! I think being a good parent is simply being responsive to the needs of your children. My kids are constantly changing. I need to be on my toes. But for me, feeling like a good parent means that I communicate with my kids daily and that I hug, kiss and tell them I love them daily. Right now, I’m travelling cross country to teach a workshop, but I’ve been communicating with my kids via our family Slack channel all evening and Facetime.

I also think consistency is key for kids; that’s why family dinner is so important to us.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

We frequently talk to our kids about the future; we let them know that life is full of possibilities. One of my kids keeps talking about how he wants to be a video game beta tester when he grows up. But we also make sure to mention that he could do that, but he could also be a video game designer, or a million other things. I want our kids to know that their limits exist only in their imaginations. I say this from a very privileged point of view, to be sure, but I want them to view the world without limits (or, at least, without limits of their own making).

I also think that my kids pull from our experience. I started a business when my kids were 7 and 9. My husband started a business around the same time. But our kids have also seen us happy when working for others. There are so many possibilities.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

Success, for me, is easy to define and so simple: success is knowing that I spent my time TODAY in service of my own goals and values. And knowing that every day.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I love:

● TIme to Parent (podcast)

○ It’s a great podcast about how to manage all the aspects of time and parenthood.

● The Longest Shortest TIme (podcast)

○ Interesting stories about parenthood that help me to understand there are so many ways to successfully parent.

● The Double Shift (podcast)

○ It’s about mothers but not about parenting. It helps remind me that I’m a person first.

● Mom and Dad Are Fighting (podcast)

○ This is a fun one. It’s irreverent (and sometimes a bit judgy). They have a great “triumphs and fails” segment that is so relatable.

● Their Own Devices (podcast)

○ This one helps me to navigate the confusing world of kids and technology.

● Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting (book)

○ I read this every few years. It grounds me as a parent and help me remember what’s important, and what’s not.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’ve got one main central motto to my parenting life, which I’m going to say is a “life lesson quote”:

“These are problems we can solve.”

I started saying this to my kids when they were little, within the context of:

● You’re upset because you got the green cup instead of the red one? These are problems we can solve. (Let’s switch it out.)

● You ripped your favorite shirt? These are problems we can solve. (Let’s sew it up or add a patch.)

But I also have found that this mantra is really useful in a work context:

● Upset client? These are problems we can solve. (Let’s figure out what happened, how to resolve it, and how to avoid the same thing going forward.)

And at home:

● Kids didn’t get into the school of choice? These are problems we can solve. (We’ll choose a plan B school, and reapply for the dream school next year.)

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Here’s what I want the world to know: You’re never going to get everything done. As a parent and a successful business person, there’s just too much to do. And that is OK. Seriously, it’s fine. What’s important is that, every day, you know that the things you did were more important than the things you didn’t get to. That’s it. It’s realism. Let’s stop feeling bad about what we didn’t do, and start feeling great about what we did to. That’s all that matters. So go run your business, or excel at your job, and then go cuddle with your kids.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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