Archive for the ‘Being ‘present’’ Category

Life is a bed of roses!

March 11, 2009

Look how beautiful these roses look!

rose-petals-bin

I got a dozen red roses on Valentines Day from my hubby, and now it’s mid March (almost 1 month later!) and I am just throwing them away.  I’ve been changing their water every few days and pruning the dead petals to extend their life and I’ve got a month’s worth of value out of them – beautiful aren’t they?

I was putting the roses in the bin and all the petals fell off before I could get them in.  They looked so pretty on the floor I had to take a photo!  I’m a bit of a romantic soul and I was going to collect them all and use them as rose petals to decorate the bed for a special treat(!) but they were getting a bit crunchy and I could see it being less romantic and more annoying as you get crusty rose petals up your bum!

I love it when my hubby gets me flowers – it doesn’t matter to me if it is on a ‘special’ day or not.  Having a lovely bunch makes up for all the time he spends being Jon Bon Jovi on Guitar Hero!

It’s Mother’s Day in a few weeks and I’m hoping the kids will get me some flowers – that or a tripod for my Flip camcorder!!

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Happy ‘International Women’s Day’!

March 8, 2009

Today (8th March) is International Women’s Day! Yay!

It’s a Sunday so it’s been a nice day to spend with the family and we all went swimming followed by dinner out where I had a cheesecake! (My fave)!

I have been thinking a lot about women this weekend (!) because yesterday I was at a women’s empowerment day in York which celebrated womens lives, helped us to see how we could turn the things around in life that aren’t helping us and generally how to get the life you want!  It was a personal development day and there was some real energy in the room.  There was a stage with lights and sound, then a band came on and played some toe tapping tunes including one of my favourites “Here come the girls”.

After the band were two keynote speakers and both of them had me in tears!  They were very inspirational women with great messages about owning your situation and proactively doing something about it.  I’m of this opinion anyway so it was nice to be in the company of like-minded women!

We all got a goody bag with some beauty freebies and there were chocolate truffles and sparkling pear and grape juice on tap throughout!  At the end of the day they broke out the bubbly and the ‘After Eight’ mints and we all had a cheeky sip to finish the event before heading home.  I loved meeting some fantastic women and having a day that was just for me!

I came home to remind my hubby that it’s Mothers Day in 2 weeks and that I want our kids (ie: him!) to get me a Flip Camcorder Tripod so I can take steady video instead of the wobble I currently get when recording!  Our oldest child is a 6 year old so he’ll have to buy the prezzie with his credit card online.  She doesn’t know how to do this yet but I’m sure it won’t be long till she does.  She can already turn on the laptop, log in and open up the internet browser and get it onto the Playhouse Disney website!  We’ll have to watch out when she starts taking an interest in shopping websites rather than just cartoon ones!

It’s just another Manic Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday…..

March 6, 2009

If you are a mum in her 30’s like me you are bound to recognise the song referred to in the title!  I used to love The Bangles!  It has been a very manic week this week!  Have a look at my diary from yesterday!my-diary-050309It looks scruffy but this was all things ‘to do’ and once I’d done the job I had to scribble the task out so it didn’t distract me!

Have a look at today and tomorrow…

my-diary-060309

I hope I haven’t got a record of my period written on here or any embarrassing confessions!

Anyway, this week has been really stacked and I’ve got loads of great blog content from the week – I just need time to blog about it!

Tomorrow (Saturday) I’m out all day at a womens event – it is work (research) but it should be fun too!  I really want a day off on Sunday – just a lie in and a read of the papers in bed – let’s see if I get it!

What will make your ideal weekend?….

A woman’s guide to surviving the recession

March 3, 2009

I love strong women – I think we rule the world, but in a gentle, unassuming way.

One of my favourite quotes is by Eleanor Roosevelt: “A woman is like a tea bag- you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”

So today I found a blog post by another strong woman – and I wanted to share it with you.  Penny Power is one of the founders of a business networking website which I’m a member of and this blog post of hers shows the hard work, tenacity and resourcefulness that goes into being a women in business.  I hope you enjoy it, I did!  http://www.pennypower.co.uk/?page_id=69

The Calm ‘After’ the Storm!

March 2, 2009

Aah, let me take a second to enjoy the silence – my 18 month old is asleep on the sofa having worn himself out chucking his toys around the living room and my 6 year old is at school!  Finally, I get some time to catch up!

This morning I dropped the balls – big time.  Do you ever find that being a busy mum with loads of projects you seem to run just to stay still?  Well on Friday I handed over the manuscript of my book to the publishers and breathed a sigh of relief!  I’ve been working on it for months and haven’t had a weekend off since Christmas so after getting this biggie off my ‘To Do’ list, I had a cheeky glass (bottle) of Asti to celebrate.  This is quite a ‘drinking binge’ for me as I rarely have a drink and can get hammered on 2 halves of lager!  Anyway, major deadline met, my body decided to pack in.  I’d been running on adrenaline for so long that I started to lose my voice, get a runny nose and get tired.  I even went back to bed on Sunday afternoon for a few hours and still fell asleep that evening at my usual time of about 9 o clock (party animal I am so not!)

So this morning we are all getting ready for school when my 6 year old starts dragging her heels.  She just got some cooking game for the Nintendo DS and wants to play on that rather than get ready so I’m trying to get her motivated with a series of tricks: gentle cajoling to start, then appealing to her competitive spirit “I can get ready faster than you”, followed by bribery, threats to remove stars from the Good Girl Chart and ending up in losing my rag!  She eventually got ready and then it was ‘battle of the breakfasts’.  She wanted ‘pain au chocolate’ and we had 2 left over from the weekend so they both had one each, cut into quarters.  The boy happily sat in the highchair and munched away.  The girl threw a strop because hers had been cut into quarters.  Give me strength!

I had said earlier that she could ride her bike to school because I wanted to jog with the boy in the buggy.  I have 4 stone to lose now to get back to pre ‘second baby’ weight so being a Time Management Mum, I thought i’d be effective with my time and kill two birds with one stone.  Do the school run (literally!) and get some exercise.  Anyway the breakfast battles had set us back so we had to go in the car instead to get there on time, prompting another tantrum!  My head was pounding and I just lost it.  After getting them both in the car and all the various book bags, PE Kits, dinner money, permission slips, buggy and hats, coats, gloves etc, I was still hearing whining from the back so I shouted “SHUUUUT UUUUPPPP”!

Instant silence! I should do it more often but then I think it’d lose its effectiveness.

I’d been racing round all morning, the house looked like a bomb had hit it and I still had a days’ worth of work to do.  Anyway, a peaceful drive to school ensued and we must have looked like the ‘perfect family’ getting out of the car and walking to the classroom door.  My daughter had forgotten what she was whining about and once she saw her mates, it was ‘social butterfly’ time!  It made me think – how many of the other parents who looked ‘normal’ had been embroiled in a war just 10 minutes before!  Actually, I don’t think they’d be normal if they didn’t have the occasional morning like this one.  There’s absolutely no such thing as the ‘perfect’ family and people are lying if they say there is!

So one task sorted, my rest of the day looks like this: Now the manuscript is done, I have to attend to my other business areas, plus entertain the boy all day, sort out my mountain of washing and remove all the furniture from the living and dining room as the carpet cleaner is coming tomorrow (Yippee!)  I used to have a showhome you know.  Pre kids!  I don’t know how I was so finickity – I couldn’t relax if a picture was hung on the wall wonky.  I’ve had to relax my standards.  A lot.  But at least my home has ‘life’ now.  I’ve also got to get old baby clothes and toys ready for the NCT Nearly New Sale in a few weeks (I’m having a good clear out and can’t wait to have the extra room!)

Calm reigns, for now anyway.  In just over two hours I have to collect the girl from school, then the fun starts again!  But I’ll tell you something – I can get more done in this two hour window that I ever used to be able to before I had the kids.  They’ve trained me up – I was just organised before.  I’m uber – SAS style – hyper plate spinner organised now!  In fact, Once I’ve finished this post, I am getting my work blog sorted, getting my expenses paid from the BBC, making a dentist appointment, administering a new client, creating my autoresponder follow ups for Virtual Assistants who subscribe to my information feed and getting the stack of papers on my dining room table filed into my office (these were only the weekends’ paperwork).  Let’s see if I can crack that in two hours…..

xx

How to juggle without dropping the baby!

February 17, 2009

Busy mums everywhere know the juggling act that is working and keeping a home whilst raising a small family.  Fortunately at the Time Management Mum blog, my Guest Bloggers and I are (hopefully!) providing some great time management tips and observations, embedded in some humour and at the very least, provide you with some affinity!  (Did you read my blog post about the eyebrows and the bikini wax?)

So this post from America made me smile.  Well, actually before I smiled I sat up straighter and felt I was being told off – and I never even have the TV on!

Modern business mums have enough to do, and this writer says that we are maybe spending too much time on personal calls or personal errands in ‘work time’.  However as you ‘Mumpreneurs’ know, work time is personal time and personal time is work time.  Look at Guest Blogger Sarah Ainslie’s recent post – her title has it spot on!  For a lot of us, we became business mums so we’d have some flexibility over our schedule so technically, whilst it may be between the hours of 9am and 5pm, I might nip to the supermarket or put a wash load on.  Otherwise, it won’t get done!

So what advice can business mums out there take, which recognises their actual real life circumstances?  here’s the lowdown on how to juggle without dropping the baby!

  • MOST IMPORTANT: First, take care of you.  You are the kingpin upon which the whole family revolves.  If you don’t do a lot of the tasks, they usually won’t get done.  Be sure to allocate some ‘me’ time into your day
  • Multitask like crazy!  When you are doing a ‘mindless’ task like sorting the washing or cooking dinner, use that time to engage your brain too by having a conversation with the kids and catching up on their day.  Do only one thing at a time when it is essential that you are focused.  If the task you are doing is not rocket science, then do several ‘easy’ tasks at the same time
  • When you are sitting down to your work, minimise distractions.  Divert your telephone to a Virtual Receptionist, check the emails only once or twice and make sure your desk or work area is clear of everything that you don’t immediately need.  Clutter just drains you.
  • Don’t put off any large projects thinking that you’ll clear the smaller stuff then get round to it.  That’s just procrastination!  Start the big task, allocate an hour to it then see if you want to continue.  Often ‘little and often’ is the only way to get something big done.
  • If you do have a big task that you could become engrossed in and you need to pick the kids up at a certain time or put the jacket potatoes on for dinner, set an alarm to go off at the time you need to set off or put the oven on.  This way you can immerse yourself in the task without worrying that you’ll forget the thing you have to do.  Having an alarm on my mobile phone has helped me get out of lots of situations where I’m stuck at a place where it seems impolite to just leave, so the reminder to pick the kids up is a great audible way to let others know I have to go!
  • Batch tasks together to do ‘similar’ activities in one go, such as returning phone calls.  Or if you have to go out to pick something up, try to knock two or three errands off your ‘To do’ list whilst you are out.  To help with this, I tend to keep a list in my personal organiser which is of things I need to do but don’t (yet) have a deadline, such as drop dry cleaning, go to Staples and pick up a new ringbinder or get nappies at Costco! (I buy in bulk – it’s cheaper and saves time, there’s another tip right there!)  By batching up my tasks I can eliminate as much ‘dead time’ and ensure I don’t repeat my actions just a few days later!

So working mums, are you just watching the telly?! …And even if you are, don’t beat yourself up about it!  A bit of Jeremy Kyle first thing on a morning never hurt anyone!

Sledging tips the work/life balance!

February 11, 2009

The fabulous thing about our recent snowfall has been that my work/life balance has swung completely in favour of the ‘life’ side! As a mum with two small children and with another on the way (Barnaby 6, Maisy 5 and ‘Lumpy’ (as the kids are calling the bump)) I have been on constant sledging duty, although at times I think that it has been me dragging the kids onto the hillside!

The beauty of the situation has been that whilst I have been out careering down the hill on makeshift sledges, my ‘Tots’ team have been able to work from home and keep the show on the road. Some things do work according to the grand plan!

Of course this is not the normal course of events for me. I run www.totstotravel.co.uk which keeps me super-duperly busy.  In the past I have found it hard to know when to stop working and there is no doubt that my business could take over my life completely if I allowed it to. So I have come up with some ‘rules’ which I try to be really strict about. These are aimed at allowing me to be a good mum, a loving wife and to run a successful business.

I don’t always get it right and of course there are times in the year when I do have to ‘break’ my rules (January and February for example are our busiest months in terms of bookings) but the rules are a good starting point…so here they are:

  1. Absolutely NO work on Friday evenings (a bottle of decent red wine and a bag of Kettle Chips are a must, less red wine at the moment and more Kettle Chips to compensate) This is time for my husband and I. No work on Sundays either – this is ring fenced family time.
  2. Time with the kids is sacrosanct – if I am with the kids then I turn my emails and Blackberry off so that I can concentrate on them properly.  I find the time between school finishing and 7pm quite stressful so I try not to make calls or answer emails in this time
  3. Equally time my time at work is just that – not time to put another load of washing in the machine
  4. We take at least one week of holiday without the computer being part of the packing – I am working at increasing this!
  5. No working after 9pm at night and absolutely no sneaky peaks at the enquiries after this time (my husband can’t manage this rule). If I work after 9pm I do not sleep well
  6. I try to do 20 minutes of yoga after dropping the children off at school and before I venture to the office. This gives me time to clear my head, stretch out my back before taking on the challenges of the travel business!
  7. I have learnt to say ‘no’ to things that in the past I would have probably have agreed to do
  8. I try to limit the amount of travelling about that I do. We live in the same village as the children’s school (the children have great scooters to speed up this process even more!), I am heavily reliant on my online shopping delivery and our office is in our garden – this has really cut down on wasting time travelling leaving more time for the important things in life…

Now back to the sledging!

PS. I will let you know how I get on with my rules once the baby is born in September…they may well go down the hill with the sledge!

Guest Blogger Wendy Shand runs family friendly holiday company Tots to Travel http://www.totstotravel.co.uk


Working from home? What about ‘home-ing’ from work?!

February 4, 2009

As most working mums will no doubt appreciate, the key to success lies in ‘fitting it all in’ or if not quite that ‘fitting in the most important stuff and being able to recognise the bits that aren’t really that important anyway’!! I am always busy – a state of affairs you simply have to accept and common to millions of parents around the country. I run my own business as a freelance marketing consultant, I have a 2 year old daughter and am expecting our second child in July. I also have a husband but he generally speaking has to take care of himself!

I go out and about to client meetings, networking events and training courses and the like but essentially I work from home. This has quite a different culture from leaving the house and going to work in an office. For a start there is a blurred line between home and work and figuring out where one ends and the other starts is often the biggest challenge of the day!

There are many pitfalls to this arrangement – not being able to switch off, checking e-mails and answering calls even when you’re not supposed to be working (a great case for using Nadine’s fabulous telephone answering service!) and so on but there are also a lot of benefits. I use time blocking a lot as a way of managing my time. I used to have a traditional ‘to do list’ on a spreadsheet which I still have but I found that there was no easy way to see how long each task would take. “Ring up and book networking event” sat alongside “Devise strategic plan for client XYZ” – one task a simple 2 minute job, the other a good couple of days work not to mention requiring a few days thought process before fingers even hit keyboard! It’s really difficult to plan your time that way and that’s when I was introduced to the idea of time blocking.

Time blocking allows me to plan my week (month, quarter etc) by blocking out when I plan to work on each task and how long it’s likely to take me. This way I can see exactly how I think my week will pan out (I say ‘think’ – something always comes up in the meantime!) and I know what additional work I can take on and when.

Time blocking can work for anyone whether they work for themselves or a large organisation but the way you use it can be quite different. This is where it gets clever for us working mums! I always build in what I call ‘buffers’ to my days! By this I mean little half hour slots where I don’t put anything in. My day might look like this 9am – 10am Check e-mails and catch up with admin, 10am – 10.30am Buffer, 10.30 – 12.30pm Prepare proposal for ABC company, 12.30pm – 1.30pm Lunch, 1.30 – 3.00pm Work on campaign plan for Joe Bloggs Ltd, 3.00pm – 3.30pm Buffer, 3.30pm – 5.00pm Continue with campaign plan.

So what are the ‘buffers’ for then? Well that’s the clever part – the buffers I fill with the little jobs I can get on with through the day that save me time in the evening which I want to use to spend with my family. One day my buffers might be filled with washing – putting machine on, transferring clean clothes to dryer, putting next load on, folding clothes up etc. Another day I might use them to peel a few potatoes for tea, pop to the shops for milk, tidy the lounge, flick the duster round etc; all things that most people who work (note I didn’t stereotype and say ‘women’!) have to fit in when they get home.

Of course we all know don’t we mums that the working day rarely finishes at 5pm so the rest of my unwritten time blocker could well read 5pm Pick Grace up from nursery, 5.30pm Finish off tea, 6pm Eat, 6.30pm Bath time, 7pm Grace’s bedtime, 7.15pm possibly Another hour at the computer, 8.15pm Flake on the sofa and watch telly, 10pm Wake up dribbling on said sofa!!

Working for yourself from home gives you the flexibility to arrange your day around your own needs. I’m now 16 weeks pregnant but I had terrible sickness for the first 14 weeks and it was always worst around 11am so often what I would do is give myself a break and have a lie down for an hour at this time (another ‘buffer’) and just catch up with my work later in the afternoon when I was feeling a bit more human!

Like I said at the start of this blog it’s all about fitting in what you need to in the time you have to do it and discarding the things that just don’t matter and for me that includes ironing underwear and bedsheets and painting behind radiators!


Sarah Ainslie runs Sarah Ainslie Marketing offering creative marketing solutions to UK businesses

http://www.sarahainslie-marketing.co.uk

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!