Archive for the ‘Creativitity’ Category

Go ahead…. make my day!

March 12, 2009

Ok, so it’s not the best title for a blog post as you’ll probably be thinking of cowboys shooting each other right now!

However I got a comment about my blog yesterday which made my day!

Lisa said:

Hi there, I follow your blog on mine. Its really good reading and brightens my day when I need a pick me up, which at the moment is quite often seeing as I am launching my own website and looking after a 9 month old who is teething and testing his boundaries (and my patience) – hey ho, wouldn’t have it any other way though. Thanks for helping me stay sane!

I thought that was lovely and it really made me think how us mothers need each other – we know the isolation that can sometimes come with being at home all day with young babies and being able to read something or communicate with someone on an adult level who knows what we’re going through is life saving!!  I used to enjoy reading The Times blog Alpha Mummy for this reason!

If you are a Mummy-blogger (and there are more of us out there now!) join the British Mummy Bloggers social group which was started by Susanna who writes the blog A Modern Mother.  I’m on there!  Blogging is a great way to connect to other like-minded mums and provides a creative outlet for your skills at a time when creativity becomes a scarce commodity!  How many different ways are there to change a nappy!

I enjoy blogging and I love comments so feel free to let me know what you think about this blog.  All comments posted are moderated so they won’t appear straightaway, but they will be approved ASAP.

Have a great day!

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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!!

How to bribe – ahem – ‘Incentivise’ the kids!

February 27, 2009

As any ‘business mum’ knows, when you have babies you get to learn lots of new skills that don’t involve your brain (like learning how to erect a Travel System – this used to vex me!)  So when you can use some of your savvy business skills when it comes to your kids, it’s like the ‘Supergirl’ putting on her cape!  You can rediscover your “don’t mess with me” side and remind yourself that ‘pre-kids’ you did lead a team of people, or juggled multiple ‘kick ass’ projects or just that you used to actually have business cards with your name on them!

My 6 year old has now moved into the discipline territory of ‘good girl charts’ with stickers rewarded for effort but my 18 month old is coming up to the stage where I can use the “Lucky Treat Box” to teach him that good behaviour will get him a ‘dip’ into the box for a new toy!  The “Lucky Treat Box” was named by my daughter.  I called it a ‘lucky dip’, my hubby called it a ‘treat’, so my daughter christened it a “Lucky Treat”!  But essentially what it consists of is a large wicker basket that I keep in the cupboard with the ‘Happy Meal’ toys from McDonalds in it!  I’m sure some of my friends think I’m tight, but I believe a trip to McDonalds is a treat enough, without getting a toy for it too.  So when we go there, I confiscate the toy from the Happy Meal box and put it straight into the Lucky Treat Box so it can be used to ‘incentivise’ good behaviour later on.

Whenever I need to get my child to ‘make the right decision’ concerning their behaviour, I remind them that they can have a dip in the Lucky Treat Box which seems to work more often than not!  The Lucky Treat Box hasn’t cost me anything to procure as we’d have been eating the Happy Meal anyway, and it is always greeted with excitement when it comes out – as the toys which they’ve glanced at then forgotten, are tantalisingly still encased in their new cellophane packing and are ready to be picked!  Not only is it a good behaviour incentiviser, the Lucky Treat Box is also useful for making up ‘party bags’ at birthday time and for if a little friend comes round for tea it makes a sweet ‘going home’ present for them to have a dip.

The only trouble with it is that stock needs to be kept up which isn’t so good for the waistline(!) but I started the box when my girl was 18 months old and she got the occasional trip to McDonalds as a treat and at that age, she had no idea that you also got a toy with the meal so she never knew that I was secretly building up a ‘bribery stash’ over time!

I have to say, if I ever pop to Maccy D’s just for me, for an ‘on the go lunch’, I never get a proper ‘adult’ meal.  I get a Happy Meal so I can put the toy in the stash.  Good thing my back seat car windows are blacked out so it isn’t really obvious that there’s no child with me!!

Has anyone else found a useful method of incentivising good behaviour?

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!

Competition!! Gimme your ‘Me’ Time!!

February 5, 2009

Being a juggling, business owning mum (and wife, and trying to be a domestic goddess but not doing so good at that as my cream carpets need a good shampoo – but let’s not go there girlfriend!)

Well, as I was saying, a busy mum like me needs all the ‘me’ time she can get – and so do you!

Today at the school gates another mum made me laugh as tomorrow is Friday – this means ‘Family Learning’ at our school.  I don’t know if every primary school does this but Family Learning is where you go in with the child and stay for approx 45 minutes into the lesson to observe the class and see what the kids are learning.  Parent’s don’t have to go but if they can, the kids love having ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ there and any toddlers or babies that are with ‘mum’ that day are also in the classroom so the kids all find it fun!

Family Learning is great for the kids but can be a drag for some of the parents, because they can’t always make it because of work then they feel bad as their child lays a guilt trip on them, so whenever Family Learning is cancelled – a lot of the parents’ are secretly pleased!:)

Well as it is Family Learning tomorrow, Ive promised my 6 year old I will be there.  One of the other mums has her first Friday off work in months and said how she was looking forward to it, so when another mum reminded her it was Family Learning tomorrow, her face fell and she said she was going to tell her son that she had to work!!  We all laughed – I’m sure she probably will come tomorrow, but sometimes a busy mum has to be creative with getting her ‘me time’.

So it’s COMPETITION TIME…..

I want to hear about your ways of getting some ‘me time’ for yourselves in your busy lives.  Don’t worry – the blokes and kids don’t read this blog so no-one will ever find out!  But tell me what is the most creative way you have ever found to carve out some time….

To make it fun, I am offering a prize to (what I think is the) best or funniest tip!  The winner will receive a Dream PA ‘Busy Book’.  This is a loose leaf personal organiser with a year 2009 week to view diary insert, in a stunning red colour!  The front cover features the kitsch ‘Dream PA’ girl logo embossed into it and it was designed for the stylish modern busy woman to plan her life!  The Busy Book retails at £39.99 and you can read a little more here.  I will be getting photos of this organiser but not until mid Feb so until then you’ll have to make do with a ‘cartoon’ image!

If you want to be in with a chance of winning, simply submit a comment to this post including your first name, your tip or story and your email address so I can contact you if you win!  If you’d prefer to keep your email confidential, then PM me at enquiries@thedreampa.co.uk telling me your tip but if you do this you still need to comment on the blog!  The idea is to share the tips and stories around!!

The competition closes on Friday 27th February at 0900 and I will select the winning story and post the results by 1700 – Good luck!

PS) If you can’t wait that long and want to buy one of these fabulous personal organisers (I use one myself every single day – it goes everywhere with me!) then you can click here and purchase one directly.  That’s an idea – with it being red, it could make a great Valentines Day present!  You’ll have to tell the fella!

PS) Any mums can share their stories but for the purpose of the competition, it’s UK entries only.  I’m not Rockefeller!!

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.

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

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!

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!