Approaching the end of my parental leave, I'll take a moment reflecting on how I tackled the occasional boredom of a longer absence from work.
I live in Sweden where we have good possibilities for taking long parental leaves. In my case it has been 7 months – 8 if I count the summer vacation. While I'm absolutely thankful for the possibility to stay home with my daughter and getting to know her, I'll never get a second chance etc etc 🙄, it's still boring as hell from time to time. Having an ocean of time, but all the time being consumed by baby care was a new and frustrating experience for me.
What saved me from becoming chairman of the bored was the small technology projects I could work on during the short periods of focus time (like when the child was asleep). Problem solving during stroller walks was also a great way to make progress even in pure AFK days (Away From Keyboard).
Looking back at these months, I'm quite satisfied with my accomplishments. In short:
- Rebuilt personal website for my wife from WordPress to Gatsby, saving us the annual fee for WordPress.com and ended up with a more personal site.
- Added dark mode to my own blog
- Added lazy loading of images on my blog
- Built a family recipe collection site with a CMS
- Kept the daughter alive (happy and well) 👶🏻
I think a key success factor was to start small, keep the scope smaller than what you think you'll manage to complete (because you'll be wrong, you'll always be able to do less than what you initially think).
Define a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and keep track of nice to have stuff separately. When you have other stakeholders, like with my wife's personal website, it can be a good idea to explain the concept of an MVP – what's simplest version I can build that you can use and we still can kill the old site?
Once the new site was live, I could continue to do small improvements without time pressure (when the WordPress.com subscription was already cancelled). These were things that was easy to do without longer periods of focus.
Since you'll need a bag with diapers, change of clothes, food, water and so on, you might as well throw in your laptop when leaving home. That way you can make use of the random chunks of time that appears when the kid falls asleep.
When you get a great idea during a walk, it's nice to be able to easily catch that so that you can process it later. I carry the David Allen Notetaker wallet (not sold any more) since many years, but I guess most people take notes on their phone.
I'm not saying that everyone should do as much work related stuff as possible during their parental leave. For you the best decision might be to disconnect from work as much as possible, but for me this was a way of staying sane. Thanks for reading!