Say what you’re doing. It’s great for parenting, and great for work.

My brother recently became a father, and asked me to share some parenting tips. Here’s one: when my children are around, I say what I’m doing out loud. “Now I’m putting these dishes into the dishwasher, and then I’m going to … turn on the faucet, and wash my hands. Now I’m walking to the towel … and drying my hands.”

My one-year-old loves this, and my four-year-old still kinda loves it. People like to see how other people do things. (Hey, look, some nice folks just launched a thing that shows people how they do things.)

My four-year-old has leveled up, though. She wants to know what I’ll do next, and when I will do the thing she cares about. Coping with these demands has vastly improved the accuracy of my time estimates at work, partly because I know better when to commit. At home, I don’t tell my daughter that we’ll play after dinner — I tell her to finish her dinner, and then we’ll talk about it again. I’m rooting for her — I want to play too — but more importantly, she needs to eat.

I tell her about sequences of events and fixed constraints too, but I try not to make promises; I say I hope we can go outside later — but it depends on the weather, and when Daddy gets home from work, and first we need to do these other things (x, y, z). We make lists together, and rank tasks. It shows her that I care about her priorities, and helps us both practice managing time and ideas.

Inevitably, when she has finished being reasonable, I need to remind her about our plan. So we keep our lists in her “idea book” (a small notebook). Writing things down helps us remember, gives me reasons other than “because I said so”, and will be really fun to look at when she’s older.