It may have once been the case that after you clock out for the day at 5, you can relax for the rest of the night. Maybe you play some video games, watch some television, or read a book. But the reality for today’s working parents is quite different. After you finish a full day at work (the first shift), you come home to all sorts of home and parental duties (the second shift). And then after you put the little one(s) to bed, work is just a couple of keystrokes away. And so begins the third shift.
Now, I’ve written about the third shift before and I’m probably going to write about it again. Since I’m a freelancer, I can work at any time, so I feel compelled to work all the time. If you hold a more traditional job, you can probably get some work done at home too. Or maybe you have that side business you’re trying to get off the ground.
And the only time you have to work on such endeavors is after the kids are asleep.
Some people, myself included, have asserted that the third shift isn’t sustainable. It’s too draining. It’s too taxing. You simply cannot keep it up over the long term. Or can you? Should you? The rationalization is compelling.
1. The House Is Quiet
If your home is anything like mine — and if it contains young children, it probably is — then it likely resembles Jurassic Park after the fences went down. There are toys everywhere. Children are climbing on the furniture, making animal noises. And you’re listening to “Let It Go” for the 27th time today. This environment is not conducive to getting stuff done.
But during the third shift, you can hear a pin drop. It’s eerie to be alone with your thoughts, but it’s only when you’re alone with your thoughts that you can get anything done.
2. Get More Work Done
You don’t gotta go to work, work, work, work, work. But you gotta put in work, work, work, work, work. You don’t gotta go to work, work, work, work, work. Let my body do the work, work, work, work work. We can work from home. Oh-oh, oh-oh.
Yes, I know the popular Fifth Harmony song isn’t actually about working from home, but it just seemed appropriate here. Regret is one of the worst feelings in the world and you don’t want to feel like you are missing any opportunities. If you throw in the towel after your kid’s bedtime and don’t try to get something done instead, you’re sacrificing invaluable productivity time. You gotta put in work. Work. Work.
3. Screen Time Means You’ll Stay Up Later
Experts commonly recommend staying away from any illuminated displays, like those of your television or smartphone, for the last few hours before going to bed. The wavelengths of light given off by these displays interfere with our natural rhythms and can lead to a poorer quality sleep.
Enjoy the paradoxical combination of exhaustion and an inability to sleep. This empowers you with even more time to be alone with your thoughts, consciously and unconsciously working out the kinks in your business strategy or better ideas for your grand project. How’s that for passive productivity?
4. Afternoon Naps Come More Easily
As an added benefit of getting a terrible night’s sleep, because of course the kid will awaken with boundless energy at 6 a.m., you’ll be extra tired throughout the day. This will help to make napping in the afternoon that much easier. Put the little one down for her nap and catch a few Zs yourself.
I mean, I guess you could be productive in the afternoon instead of enduring the third shift, but why would you do that?
5. Indulge in a Midnight Snack
You need fuel if you’re going to be productive, right? Burning the midnight oil is as good an excuse as any to break open that bag of pretzels or that tub of ice cream. Indeed, the temporary sugar or carb rush is what is going to get you through these final, dwindling hours of getting stuff done.
Go on. You deserve it.
6. Tap into the Lucid Thoughts of Insomnia
Thumbing through the annals of history, you’ll quickly discover that some of the most amazing artists and the most inspired thinkers needed a little help. They’d get struck with their great ideas in the most unexpected of ways and oftentimes while in some sort of altered mental state.
You don’t need to turn to narcotics or hallucinations to be at your most imaginative. You can get into a flow through the pure delirium of the sleep-deprived mind. Let those inhibitions melt away, pushing you to your furthest corners.
7. Eliminate the Burden of Guilt
When I’m working, I feel like I should be parenting. When I’m parenting, I feel like I should be working. Free yourself from this treachery of split attention. Fully dedicate yourself to mommy or daddy duties when you’re with the kid, knowing full well that the third shift is waiting for you at the end of the night.
Because obviously you’ll be totally satisfied with everything you do and will be left wanting for nothing after you’ve completely drained your physical and mental resources with yet another restless night in front of the computer. Oh, the glories of the third shift indeed.