Archive for January, 2009

Happy ‘Twisting Time’ Month!

January 31, 2009

It’s official!  I’ve decided that February 2009 is Twisting Time Month.

What’s ‘Twisting Time’?

It’s a phrase that I made up because I like the sound of it.  I am a bit of a freak and for some strange reason I am ridiculously passionate about time management.  I love getting things done.  I love juggling a busy life.  I always have several projects on the go.  I love it when people say to me “Oh you’re just so organised!” but I also love it when I can give a hint or tip that might help make someone else’s life that bit easier.

I have all sorts of crazy ‘things’ that I do which I’m sure other people think are weird (I’ve been called both quirky and eccentric within the last month alone!) but these things help me to stay organised.  Whether it is wearing a lanyard round my neck with the car keys on or carrying a range of post it notes with me wherever I go (yes – seriously!)

So how can you get involved with Twisting Time?!!

If you think that tips, stories and observations on time management are something that you might like to know more about (written in a non techy, entertaining, and positive way of course!), then I’d be obliged if you could fill in my survey and give me your views.

I am currently working on the Time Management Blog with an awesome blog designer and I am writing the strategy for this blog which will be relaunched with a new URL very soon (I’ll keep you in the loop).  I’ll give you a link to this fantastic blog designer as soon as she has handed over my site but not before as I want my work completed in the timescale I’m working to and if she gets inundated, it might push my launch date back!

So go to the survey, give me your opinions and I’ll have a fab new site for you with the content you love very soon.

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How your baby can help you beat ‘ID fraud’!

January 29, 2009

I’ve discovered a great new tip!

When you open the post there is always some junk mail that you don’t want, but of course before you recycle it, you need to remove your printed name and address details as an identity fraud measure.  We all know this!

However I usually shred anything I’m disposing of with personal details on it, and my shredder is in my office (just across the driveway in our outbuilding).  I didn’t have time to go and get it as the baby had a ‘nappy situation’ to deal with, and when I opened the said nappy, I found that it wasn’t a harmless wee.  It was the stinkiest No2 you can imagine, but it gave me an idea…

I ripped up the personal details and rolled it into the nappy that was then put in the nappy bin with all the other stinky nappies.  No fraudster will ever go in there!  He’s 1 year old and already fighting crime!  Bless!

If you want to know creative tips on managing a busy life, just ask any working mum

How to make a pink ‘Bratz’ bathrobe look like Yves St Laurent!

January 28, 2009

This morning it struck me how my 6 year old daughter looked like the famous YSL ‘Le Smoking’ images wearing her pink Bratz bathrobe over her ‘trouser suit’ style school uniform.  Now I know that Helmut Newton shot the picture in black & white – there was no pink to be seen!  But if you picture her in black & white it’s a near match!  It made me smile because of course she has no idea who YSL was when I told her my observation, but it brought a touch of fashion glamour into my day – however unintentionally!

I’d made her wear the bathrobe over her uniform because we always get dressed upstairs before going downstairs for breakfast, and I didn’t want any Coco Pops spilled down her white shirt.  She never actually spills on the bathrobe but I feel safer knowing that it’s there when she’s eating.  I have enough to think about on a morning without having to get a change of clothes sorted before half past eight!

Having said that, I regularly have a change of top myself after the school run so I always dress in something I wasn’t intending to wear that day so I can change into my preferred top after the kids are safely dropped off.  With a 1 year old in tow, I’m bound to get some dribble on me or have a Weetabix covered hand brush my top or when I’m really in a rush, some very attractive sweat patches!  It’s essential to have a clean top to pull on after the crappy school run one goes into the wash bin.  This is why some school run mums look like they do – we are dressed in our ‘utility’ gear for the active duty and will change into something more uncomfortable when we are back to only having ourselves to worry about!  We are all yummy mummies really!

So to recap, use the kids bathrobe to stop breakfast spills and have your children neatly turned out for school and have a spare top for you!  If you want to know about modern time management, just as the Time Management Mum!

Taking ‘Time Management’ out of the boardroom and into the bedroom, and kitchen, and classroom, and car…..

January 27, 2009

I came up with a new phrase last week – ‘Holistic Time Management’.  I like it – it really describes how modern mums work!  You see, the subject of ‘Time Management’ only exists in a lot of people’s eyes, in a ‘work’ setting.  All the time management ‘experts’ that have published books and are widely quoted on blogs are men and their stance on time management appears to focus quite a lot on productivity and prioritising and on getting things done in a work environment – usually an office.  Little consideration is given about the other 16 hours a day when we are at home, with friends, caring for family or out socialising!  What about giving a ‘nod’ to the other things that we all have to manage, like how to cope when the traffic is against you or when you have to get from the school gates at 3.30pm to the dentist at 3.45pm and you have a toddler asserting his will against your desires to make a swift beeline to the next item on the agenda?!

This is why I began this blog.  I am a modern working mum.  I also run a business which currrently looks after 100 small business clients and growing.  I have two young children aged 6 and 1.  I have a husband who runs his own business and even though we are both bringing income into the household, I still take on the majority of the childcare tasks and pick up a lot of the slack domestically.  I’m also super organised.  I have to be.  I’ve always been naturally organised (It’s the Virgo in me) – a bit of a perfectionist, but since having kids I have learned to become ‘uber-organised’, and if I can share these strategies for coping with a busy life, then maybe I can make someone else’s life run more smoothly.

Time Management for modern mums, doesn’t involve reading books on how to prioritise – we already know all that.  It’s learning ways of dealing with the routine to our best advantage.  In most working mums’ daily lives, there will be a rigid structure that cannot be moved or adapted.  The school always starts and ends at that time.  There is no changing it.  If the child goes to out of school activities like the dance class or swimming lessons, these take place on a regular routine as well.  Now let’s add a second or third child into the mix – each child has his/her own activities that need to be addressed and within all this, the working mum has to fit in her paid work.  In my case, I juggle clients and my workload to suit my schedule.  I have that freedom which is precisely what I wanted when I set up my business in the first place.  Some other mums have to finish their work at their pre-defined hours and dash like mad over to the school or childcarers to collect with just a small window of time with little contingency for error / traffic / other things beyond their control.  Some mums are the opposite.  Maybe their schedule means that they have loads of time to get to the school on time but then they are sat for 25 minutes in the car waiting for the child.  The spare time they have is not enough to get something on their ‘To Do’ list done, but it is long enough to create a void in their day.  When you are juggling children and their routines, there are often pockets of time that spring up and as a busy mum, it can be frustrating when you have so much else to do, to have a void!

I like to eliminate these voids by making the time productive.  One of the ways I do this is to always have my phone on me.  Then I can return calls if I need to.  If i’m anticipating a void during the day, I might take my nail polish in my handbag to paint my nails in a ‘spare’ 25 minutes.  Or I’ll take a magazine, or my iPod.  Just having the time to relax and read is better than sitting there drumming your nails on the dashboard because there is nothing you can do to ‘kill the time’.  When you start to think strategically like this, it turns everyday living into an art!  This kind of multi-tasking comes much easier to women than to men.  I have taken my make up bag to the hairdressers before to make up my face whilst the stylist is doing my hair.  I have dropped off a prescription to the chemist or a roll of film to the photo processing place at the start of a shopping trip so that I can collect the complete order by the end.  On a morning, my computer is switched on then I go off to do other things while it loads up.  Women do it all the time – several things at once.  We don’t even think about it!  Time management is an area that is dominated in the public eye by men, but in the real world, ruled by women.

I want to dedicate this post to all the working mums out there – I applaude you.  We all do a sterling job of keeping the balls in the air – keep it up and make sure you take a little time out of your busy day to value yourself – each day, every day.  Whether it’s a bubble bath, watching a TV show uninterrupted or simply enjoying a cuppa whilst it’s still hot….  as a well known commercial says, “because you’re worth it!”

Habit Control – getting into good habits to make life run smoothly

January 26, 2009

Isn’t it hard to change a habit?  Like if you wear your watch on the ‘wrong’ wrist, it feels strange at first but over time, the new way will become a habit.  It’s the same with habits for productivity.

We all get bombarded with junk mail and bills and the occasional letter or other ‘nice’ communication, but the trick is to stay on top of it because more will come through the post tomorrow.  When you get 20 emails, they need to be read and dealt with or deleted because the next day will bring even more!  If you text message your friends, it’s best to acknowledge them straightaway as there will only be more texts tomorrow…

I think the message is to deal with things as they crop up.  This is certainly the way I organise myself and the family’s admin.

I have several ‘big’ projects on the go at any one time, and I have to diarise some time out each day to concentrate on them.  But each day inevitably brings more of the ‘hum drum’ daily activity.  Stuff that’s not urgent but is important, so it needs dealing with.

The habit I’ve developed and you can too, is to be ‘switched on’ to the task you are doing, when you are doing it.  Don’t do anything with ‘half a brain’ on it – give what you do 100% of your concentration then you can move onto the next task faster and knowing that you did a good job on the thing you were working on last.

There are only 3 or 4 activities that I ever do where I allow my mind to wander, and I often get my best ideas when doing them!  One is ironing.  I quite enjoy it when I get chance because it’s nice to be doing something productive but where I can afford to dream a bit too!  The other is sitting in the hot tub at the gym.  I lay in the bubbles and stare into space, allowing my mind to wander.  I hate to say it but driving is another activity where I can go on ‘autopilot’.  Not in a dangerous way and only when I’m familiar with the route I’m taking but I do have some great ideas whilst driving.  I keep a dictaphone on the passenger seat at all times so I can dictate any ideas and flashes of inspiration then they are not forgotten!  The only other activity would be watching TV which I don’t do much but sometimes it’s nice to put something mindless on when I’m tired and winding down before bed!  I don’t really get ideas when watching TV but it does send me to sleep so I get to relax!

For everything else, I’m ‘on the ball’ and present, which is great for me (I get stuff done quicker) it’s great for who I’m with (they always feel valued and important in my presence as I never glaze over when talking to them) and it’s great for my ‘To Do’ list.  Tasks done faster = more time to play!!

If you want to learn about time management and running a busy life, just ask someone with a lot of plates to spin like any modern working mum!

Holistic Time Management is the stress free way to get everything done!

January 21, 2009

We all have natural peaks and troughs during the day – often it is after lunch that we experience a lull and feel like we have less ‘get up and go’ than we may have had first thing that morning.  Some people are slow starters then gain more energy as the day progresses, peaking later in the evening, but normal working patterns don’t allow many of us to play to our strengths and work when we are most capable.

I think that a holistic approach to time management is the future of productivity, allowing each individual to work when they are at their natural peak rather than trying to shoe-horn productivity into set patterns that don’t always work.  Business in general is starting to become more enlightened – introducing flexitime, annualised hours or term time working which are all great working practices for some people, enabling them to better manage their busy lives and juggle their many roles.  However it would be great if the UK took a more continental approach to working patterns, and allowed workers a ‘Siesta’ during the day.

Fortunately for me, I am a working mum but one who runs her own business from home.  The nature of what I do means that whilst I do have to fit into usual ‘office hours’ to some extent, when returning calls to clients etc… but I can also do bits of work at ‘odd’ times, for example, no-one in the world is going to mind if I update my website at midnight or if I do my book-keeping at 8pm after the kids are in bed!

When I’m working with clients, it tends to be within the confines of ‘the 9-5’, but there’s nothing to stop me doing ‘any other business’ at any time I choose, meaning that I can have a long lunch if I want to, or even a ‘power nap’!

I find that working to my natural body clock is a great way to stay motivated, alert and enthusiastic about work, as I work when I feel at my best which means that clients get the best of me – it’s a win win deal!

If you want to know about time management, just ask a working mum!

Clear desk = a clear mind!

January 19, 2009

Have you ever found that when your desk is messy, you cannot get anything done?  You procrastinate and drag your feet, shuffling bits of paper from one side of the desk to the other!  It’s a common problem – the clutter on your desk really does act as a barrier to getting on with things because it simply reminds you of everything else you still have to do, but fortunately there is a way to get your desk clear without losing information or missing an important deadline.

I’ve run my own business for 4 years, been a mum for 6 years and worked in an office before that for more than a decade.  All of these roles involved being super organised and the one ‘paperwork system’ that I have brought with me through all of these years is my beloved concertina file!

The humble concertina file is largely underused in my opinion, but it is a fantastic way of organising yourself so that you accomplish more, meet your deadlines and avoid overwhelm!  It is a stiff board backed file with 31 individual slots inside – all numbered, and this is for the days of the month.  How you use the file is to open your days post and if it is not something that can be filed or actioned immediately, then choose a day when you will be able to manage the task and file the paper into that days’ date.

If you have a meeting with someone and need certain notes for that meeting, you can file these into the concertina pocket for that date so you don’t forget to take them with you.  If you have entered a competition and want to keep track of the closing date so you know when you might hear if you’ve won, you can file the competition entry form or flyer into the relevant date so the paper is not sitting on your desk until then, draining your energy and adding to the clutter.

I use my concertina file for both business and home.  If I have a domestic bill that needs paying by a certain date, I will not leave it out on my desk so it can distract me, I will file it in the date when I will choose to pay it.  This also means that the money stays in my bank for as long as possible, so I get the bank interest rather than the company who invoiced me!

The key is to have the discipline to check the file every day for ‘todays tasks’ but this should quickly become a habit then it becomes part of your ongoing routine.  If you find that you miss deadlines, cannot find a clear space to work or feel that you don’t have a clear head, this is a great way to ‘download’ your thoughts and get the physical paper drains off your radar whilst you put yourself 100% into something else.

Try it!  You will find that you feel lighter, your office or workspace is neater and no-one can inadvertently glance at a confidential document because it’s all neatly filed away!  I have shared this trick with several of my business clients and they love it.  It is a mechanism that yields instant results!

If you want to know anything about time management, just ask any busy working mum!

Learning new tricks all the time!!

January 15, 2009

I’m jazzed!

I have just found another way to make my life easier and regular readers will know that I LOVE to make things as easy as possible!!

Thursday is my ‘dynamite day’ where I already have loads to cram in to an already busy schedule, so on a Thursdsay I try to use slow cooked food for our evening meal so it can be cooking whilst we are all at the swimming lesson which ends at 5pm.  Well tonight I have my Toastmasters meeting too so this afternoon is as jam packed as possible, and it would be hard to squeeze in time to do a little cooking before the lesson (although sometimes I do!)

We are having sausage casserole and mash tonight but after grilling the sausages they need just 40 minutes in the oven with the casserole sauce and the mash takes just 30 minutes in total so this is usually a meal I would prepare when we get back from swimming.  Only problem there is that everyone is hungry and hunger leads to tantrums from my toddler and attitude from my 6 year old, so I try to be as timely as possible with the food!

This afternoon I had a slight lull whilst I was grabbing a sandwich between clients so I made the food then – all the grilling and potato peeling etc.  The meal is prepared in the oven and will just need re-heating when we get back in.  I am really pleased that I decided to prepare a few hours before I needed the food – I’ll have to see how it all tastes and how happy everyone is tonight when we get back  to deem it a complete success but I love to shave time off tasks where I can.  Doing it this way keeps my stress levels lower – I really dislike having immediate demands make of me when I’m juggling a hundred other things – I much prefer to do my hundred things one at a time – spinning my plates!

Gotta leave now or we’ll be late for swimming – I’ve asked my daughter 3 times to turn off the telly and it’s still on!  Looks like I’d better get back on the case!

If you want to know about time management, just ask any working mum!

The big chill…

January 12, 2009

The best saying I’ve ever heard is so true – it goes like this:

“I am a human being – not a human doing!”

I heard this a couple of years ago at a personal development workshop and I’ve tried to remind myself of it frequently.  You busy mums will know – you have so much to do daily – just to stand still, never mind progressing with any dreams and goals, so we do end up spending a lot of time ‘doing’.

This weekend, I indulged myself with a rare treat – I had a pyjama day!  I slept in, had breakfast in bed, followed by a shower and into a fresh pair of pyjamas then I spent the day pottering around the house, watching a bit of TV, reading my book, and just generally enjoying doing ‘nothing’.  My husband took our eldest child to watch the rugby game and my 1 year old son and I had a nap, played with toys and generally hung out.  It was fantastic!

When your whole week is about schedules and getting places on time and returning calls, making meetings and responding to urgency, it is so nice to switch off and chill.  So this tip from the Time Mangagement Mum is to make space to do absolutely nothing once in a while.  It is necessary to switch off to be so ‘on’ the rest of the time!

If you want to know about time management, just ask a modern working mum!

Have you heard the one about…..

January 6, 2009

the person who had so much to do and so little time?

It’s not a joke when we are so bogged down with things to do and then we hit a ‘crisis’.  Have you ever noticed how the traffic is worse on a day when you are rushing to get somewhere?!  Yes, it all boils down to perception, and I was reminded today that we have to have a degree of humour when we are rushing round our busy lives.

I wanted to make a call and went to the phone, but the cordless handset was missing.  After a fruitless minute searching I dialled the number from my mobile and I found it!  My one year old son had put the telephone handset in the newspaper recycling bin that was due to be taken away tomorrow!  Then I found my keys outside the cat flap and my purse in the fridge.

I had a meeting and needed a top to go with my skirt.  The one I wanted was in the wash and the second choice had been accidentally put into the dryer and had shrunk!

We were rushing to get breakfast and get out of the house to reach school on time and my six year old daughter told me that she doesn’t want to eat bacon again (even though she usually loves it) because it comes from pigs, and pigs are dirty.

A call from a client came in after I had collected the children and I’d only usually deal with client calls when I have the space to concentrate.  However  I had to take this call so my client was treated to the sound of the kids wrestling and howling in the background!

My daughter has just come down from bed for the third time (it was bed time half an hour ago).  This time it was to get a banana but the first one my husband gave her wasn’t good enough, she wanted the one with the sticker on!

Little things, all of them.  But we have to remain calm and smiling and breeze through them to have a chance of getting anything done.  If we allow one little hiccup to ruin our day we won’t accomplish what we have to achieve that day.  One way I’ve learned to stay focused and in a good mood is to blast a song out of my iPod.  It’s amazing how music can alter your mood so quickly and an upbeat track can make you start wiggling your hips and singing like Mariah!  Keep your MP3 player loaded with great, catchy tunes and carry this around.  It’s a fab way to alter your frame of mind or enhance your mood before an important meeting.

I have one of those iPods that plays movies as well, and I have found it an absolute Godsend to have in my bag if I’m somewhere with the children and there is a wait involved.  Say we are at the dentist and we’re in the waiting room and the kids are bored, or at the train station or on a long car journey.  There are only so many times you can play “I-Spy”.  When I realised I could buy TV Shows from the iTunes store I was delighted.  I downloaded an episode of  the ‘Mickey House Clubhouse’ onto the iPod for my toddler.  I got ‘Hannah Montana’ for my 6 year old and Lipstick Jungle for me!  To be able to hand over the iPod with a TV show on it keeps the tired and bored tantrums at bay.  I get to watch Lipstick Jungle when I havetime to kill at an airport, waiting for a meeting or just when I need an injection of glamour in my day!

If you want to pick up tips on managing a busy life, just ask any working mum!