How a Simple Book Changed the Way I Work as a Parent

“People will read again!”

It’s a relatively unimportant line from a largely dismissed movie. But I love it. And it’s true for me.

I grew up loving books. I was fascinated by them. I read everything I could get my hands on.

And then I stopped.

I stopped because I completed a university degree in English Literature. Instead of furthering my love of reading, it killed it. I read too many books I loathed. Once the kids came and my eyelids got droopy, reading became more and more of a chore.

And then recently it all changed. I got a little less tired and a little more inspired and I started reading again. In particular, I started reading a lot of behavioral and organizational psychology. I’m fascinated by the way people work and the way people have mastered the art of getting more done.

In that process, I’ve read some VERY good books and some VERY poor ones. I’ve read some that have transformed the way that I’ve worked and some that have wasted hours of my life that I’ll never get back.

Recently, one book fundamentally changed the way I work and so I’d like to share it with you.

Two Awesome Hours by Josh David, Ph.D was a book that I happened upon, perusing Chapters in the middle of my summer vacation. I’d never heard of Davis, or the book, but the cover caught my eye so I took a glance and then took a chance, picking it up.

Over the next two days, every moment that I wasn’t actively parenting was spent reading this fantastic take on the way we work. And while it was very relevant to my work as a digital marketer, it seemed much more relevant as it related to my life as a parent.

“Set up the wrong conditions through constant work and we can accomplish little.”

One of the things that we think, as parents, is that we just need to keep working.

Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.

We pick up the clothes we find on the living room floor and take them to the laundry basket, where we find a plate of half-eaten rice crackers, which we take to the kitchen, where we find a sink full of dirty dishes, which we wash, and then we do the laundry, and then it’s time to pick the kids up and our day is done and we realize that we got absolutely nothing accomplished.

We’ve been taught, throughout our lives, to work…and work…and work.

But that doesn’t work.

Sure, we get a lot of things done but we don’t actually do anything. It’s all just busy work.

“A decision point is to be savored; it is to be honored.”

Most of us think that when we finish one thing we just need to jump directly into the next thing.

We can’t “stop and smell the roses.”

Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.

But that’s not what works.

When we blindly forge ahead, refusing to contemplate what we SHOULD do next, or more importantly WHY, we miss an opportunity - an opportunity to do the right thing.

The right thing is the thing that SHOULD be done.

And we can figure that out. If we take the time.

These moments, which Davis calls “decision points,” are opportunities to decide what is important.

Yes, it’s hard to think of what to do next when your child is asking, for the 1000th time, if they can eat salsa on the couch. But you need to take a moment. Savour it. Honour it.

“Our brains are actually constructed to respond to distractions.”

Last year, I wrote a book. It was a book about productivity. It was a book that took the way that I’d been teaching people to work and put it all on paper.

Now, I’d tried to write that book for a very long time. I’d tried to write that book when I was tired. I’d tired to write that book when I was angry. I’d tried to write that book through distraction after distraction.

Because I thought, like most people think, that distractions were something to be overcome.

First, do you have any idea why we get distracted so easily? It’s because when we were hiding in caves and running away from monsters, we needed to be alert. Do you know what happens if you focus on one thing for too long when you’re hiding in caves and running away from monsters? You get eaten…by a  monster.

Second, and this one is REALLY important.

 “Your kids are not a distraction that you need to overcome.”

Your kids are your life. They’re your world. They’re your everything. They will annoy you. They will destroy any semblance of order that you can muster. You can’t overcome that.

Do you know what happened when I started giving in to distractions?

I wrote that book.

How? My kids got what they needed and I wasn’t spending my time trying to jump from being a dad to writing a book. I handled my distractions. I worked ON them. I didn’t work THROUGH them.

“The right metric for human performance is effectiveness, not efficiency.”

I don’t want to be an efficient dad.

I honestly don’t want to be an efficient anything.

I used to think that being efficient was awesome. I don’t feel that way anymore.

Instead, I believe that we need to measure our lives by how well we do the things that we do, not by how many things we can get done in a day.

We need to stop measuring how busy we are. Busy doesn’t mean anything.

Don’t be a busy parent.

Enjoy it.


Mike Tanner has been blogging for almost a decade, beginning with food and film reviews and for the last 5 years, has blogged from on all things small business. He is a full time stay at home father who also writes his musings on parenting at and is in the process of launching a charity in Halifax. He’s spent the last two years blogging for national and local companies in the fields of insurance, financial management, education, swimming pools and technological gadgetry. He’s currently spending the year working on 2 books, 9 eBooks and 145 personal blog posts.