Archive for the ‘Mummy Manager’ Category

A reason for mums to sit down whilst kids are entertained!!

March 13, 2009

Right now I SHOULD be getting my daughter ready for school and changing my son’s nappy but I’m blogging instead!  I know that once I get up and start being domestic that I won’t see this computer again for at least 12 hours and there is something I wanted to do first!

As you know, Time Management Mum is about the MUM, not kid focused (although they do play a part of course!!) so I was keen to tell you about a new way to put your feet up for an hour or so whilst the kids are occupied, as we all deserve a sit down from time to time!

If you have pre school age children, you will no doubt have heard of ‘In the Night Garden’.  Well the people who create this TV show have brought out a movie which is showing at Picture House Cinemas across the UK where you pay £3 for a child entry, you get in free and the child gets a toy too!  Double whammy!

in-the-night-garden

The screenings run from 20 March to 2 April and you can check local cinemas and times at the website: www.inthenightgarden.co.uk

PLUS, if you are London based, you could get to go for free if you are a mummy-blogger!  The screening is on 20th March and you should join the British Mummy Bloggers social network and you can find out more there.

I love the cinema as it really is a valid excuse to sit, eat chocolate and do nothing for an hour or so and the kids are happy whilst you are doing it!!

Now, if only I could get a free screening to see the gorgeous Owen Wilson in Marley and Me…..

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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

You’re already a Supermummy – here’s how to be a ‘Mumpreneur’ too!…

March 1, 2009

I love getting parcels in the post, and this week I got one containing a brand new book which launches this month!

This book is aimed at mums who have just started or are thinking of starting a business, as it has lots of tips and information for coming up with a business idea and promoting this new venture. One thing I always look for as a business mum, is advice from people who ‘walk the talk’. I’m quite choosy about who I listen to just because I want to know that if you are telling me a way to do something, that you understand what it is like to be in my shoes, and this book doesn’t disappoint on that score. The writer, Mel McGee obviously writes from experience, knowing the little barriers that many mums put up to stop themselves from achieving great things, and Mel shows you how to remove them. There are some really powerful messages in the book around stopping limiting beliefs, something I’ve had to deal with in my past as a Mumpreneur and I know many Mumpreneur friends have too.

The book starts by building the reader’s confidence that they can start a business and the chapters are sprinkled with ‘Supertips’ to help you along the way. One message that rings out loud and clear from the book is that nothing is achieved without ACTION! And I fully agree – ideas are great but it is putting them into action that makes the money.

Even if you don’t have a business idea but are thinking that you’d like to start a business, then this book gives you some useful exercises to get started and help you create your money making idea

I really liked the tip about trying out your sales message on your kids or your mum. If they can understand the benefits of your business, you’ve cracked it! This is a great way to check that you are delivering the right message to your potential clients and getting to the point quickly and coherently. I worked in marketing for more than a decade before starting up my business as a Virtual Assistant and have never heard it said quite so succinctly before!

All in all, a very practical book loaded with advice. If you are looking for both a guide-book on starting a business and a cheerleader to encourage you along the way, this book is it!

It’s available from Amazon – check it out: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Supermummy-Ultimate-Mumpreneurs-Business-Success/dp/1905430515

Five stars:

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?

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


Time Management from a man’s perspective!

February 7, 2009

This web post made me smile!

It could only be a man’s perspective… The key to time management is ….. to get better at what you do!!!

How funny.  We are already the best at what we do babes!  It’s just that sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day, no matter how organised we are!!!  Without being sexist here, I have to say that it’s biological – men are linear.  They are very focused, will do one task at at time until it is complete and really lets face it, aren’t as adept at multi-tasking as us women.  In Tim Ferris’ s book The 4 Hour Work Week, his advice about Time Management is “Don’t do it!”

Whereas women are all encompassing.  We can hold a conference call whilst roasting a chicken and bouncing the baby on our hip, texting our BFF and putting on mascara!  I swear, I actually did this once – nowadays I’d leave the texting until after because anything that requires brainpower should be done separately and the client conference call is more deadline specific.  What I call ‘mindless tasks’ can be done in their many at the same time.

My husband is generally fantastic but on occasion I have to wonder about his observational skills.  He just doesn’t seem to notice the pile of stuff on the stairs that needs to go up – he’ll walk right past it.  Or when he boils the kettle for a cuppa, he can do that and read his paper at the same time, but when I boil a kettle the few minutes that takes are spent loading / unloading the dishwasher, putting on a washload, sorting the drying and listening to the 6 year old’s reading for school.  Not a second of time is wasted – every minute being productive, and this is the same for the majority of women I know.

So never mind getting better – we’re already the best!  The real secret to time management? …….become a woman! 😉

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!”

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!

Even ‘downtime’ is ‘action time’ for working mums!

December 27, 2008

Christmas is a special time of year and for mums, it’s a hectic time too!  The main present buying and card writing responsibilities usually fall to us and we also have to prepare the house for guests, plan activities for the kids who are off school and home all day, keep on top of the food shopping and decorate the place.  The planners amongst us will also anticipate potential situations and prepare a contingency plan for them.  This usually includes buying a couple of extra ‘general’ presents for unexpected visitors and ensuring the medicine cabinet is stocked with headache pills, hangover remedies and something to aid digestion!  We are like swans on the surface, seemingly gliding through the water – bringing it all together effortlessly, but under the surface we are paddling like mad!

For many people, Christmas is a chance to relax but for working mums, this ‘downtime’ is still ‘action time’!

What is special about mums is that what looks to people on ‘the outside’ like basic housekeeping is actually the most important job in the world – we are making memories for our children and providing the framework that they are to grow up in.  Think back to your childhood.  Did you have happy memories of Christmas?  Why were they happy (or why weren’t they?)  Was the house dressed up with tinsel and baubles?  Did you have a tree to decorate?  Someone had to organise these things.  Did Christmas feel like ‘an occasion’?  Our experiences form part of our environment and I believe that people are a product of their environment.  Mums across the world are shaping the people that their young children are going to be so even whilst we’re ‘relaxing’, we’re still ‘working’ on the most important job in the world.

If you are one of these busy mums, how can you sail through the festive period and enjoy the fruits of your labour, whilst still getting everything done and finding time to wind down?  Well the most successful ladies have done some pre planning on this, so work this out for next year.  The first task is more of a life strategy and you will find life run more smoothly in general if you have identified this for you.  Take some time to consider what your values are.  By this I mean what are the qualities that are the essence of YOU – what is important to YOU.  The reason that this is important is knowing this information is helpful in empowering you to say “NO” to activities or responsibilities that others try to hang on you, so knowing your values ensures that every activity you do is strengthening who you are and what is important to you.  We’ve all had an invitation that we say ‘Yes’ to when deep down we really don’t want to go.  What a waste of time!  If you know ‘up front’ what is important to you, you will feel less obliged to ‘keep the peace’ by agreeing to everyone else’s priorities if they don’t sit well with your own.

For example, one of my values is fun.  For some people this may not be considered as important a value as something like ‘kindness’ or ‘truth’, but it is a firm part of my make up.  What I do has to be fun or sit within one of my other values to be worth doing.  If you know that one of your core values is integrity and you are asked to so something that you don’t agree with or are invited to a charity event that support something that isn’t a priority for you, if you have a clear idea of your values, you can politely decline without feeling bad, because you are being true to yourself. Time is precious, so why spend it doing something that doesn’t benefit you by providing enjoyment or taking you nearer toward your goals?

My idea of fun is having a spa day, some pampering, having a meal out, socialising with friends at an activity like bingo or the cinema.  I do not find it much fun to go to a packed bar where you cannot get a seat and you have strange men you don’t know, trying to chat you up!  I know that this particular activity is fun to some people, but as I find it boring, I can say ‘No’ when I’m asked, and just tell them its not my thing.  Since I was honest with myself about what I actually enjoy, rather than trying to please other people, I have always looked forward to every outing with anticipation and excitement, rather than dread!  When I was younger, I cared about seeming ‘cool’, and knowing the hot places to go, or knowing who the latest bands were – I wasn’t as interested in that as I was about fashion, but my friends seemed to know all the music scene info so I thought I should too.  However now I just admit that I’m not ‘cool’, I don’t know about bands and to be honest, I don’t care!  I like to be comfortable on a night out – not standing all night on achy feet.  Part of this is growing up but also it is knowing my values, so know in advance what you like and what you don’t.  It’s okay to say ‘No’, we don’t always have to do everything that is asked of us.

Another thing you can do is to carve out some time just for you over Christmas.  Negotiate with a partner or parent to take the kids out for the day whilst you have a bubble bath or get your home back in order!  I like to have time to myself to write my blog, read a magazine and have a lie in so I arranged in advance to do this today whilst my husband takes the kids to the supermarket to restock our kitchen!  What do you need to have or do to feel like yourself again?

Managing your time during ‘unstructured downtime’ like Christmas or a summer holiday is just as important as managing your time when you have your business or a job which makes demands of you.  It’s the same skill just with a different principle.  The outcome of managing time in either situation is to gain something; in downtime, it may be to gain relaxation whereas in work time it may be to move forward with workload. So keep your eye on the prize and spend some time curled up with your journal or planner and work out what is important to you.  As the kingpin that your family revolves around, it is essential to look after yourself first too!

If you want to know about prioritising effectively, just ask the Time Management Mum!

Dancing through a dynamite day!

December 18, 2008

Do you have one of ‘those days’ ?  You know the type, they are the kind of day that is jam packed with events / appointments / things to do and if one part of the day fails to run smoothly, it can make the whole day explode! My ‘dynamite day’ happens every Thursday.

At least I know it’s coming! But on a Thursday my day starts at 5.20am when I wake to get ready for a business breakfast meeting so I have to be out of the house for 6am.  My breakfast meeting runs from 0630 to 0830 but I often don’t get away until 0900 and then I have a days’ work to fit into five and a half hours.

I do the school run every morning except Thursday, because I’m out of the house so early, so I have had to put a framework in place to allow Thursday morning to run like a military operation, without me.  But because I am a ‘hands on’ mum, I choose to finish my desk work / meetings by 2.30pm on a Thursday, so I can collect my daughter from school.  I still have a full 8 hours work to do (and often more!) but on a Thursday, my capacity is shorter, so my activities are more jam packed – but the day doesn’t stop there!

After I collect my girl from school, I try to beat the ‘mums rush hour traffic’ back up the main road to get to my mothers house where my toddler son has spent the day.  My mum has had the kids since about 0730 so she is exhausted and ready to hand them over, so it’s kids,nappy bags, school bags, gym kits, coats, scarves and hats loaded into the car and back home for a 30 minute pit stop.  During this ‘break’ (if you can call it that!) I have to get the children a snack (notice how they are hungry when they get back to you!), get my son’s nappy changed (Grandma always fastens it quite tight bless her, but I don’t like to say; she’s doing me such a favour by having him for me all day!) and I need to get my daughter out of school clothes and into ‘civvies’.

The next event is swimming lessons!  My kids will watch TV for the 30 mins it takes me to feed them, change outfits etc and during this time I like to get the tea on if I can too, so there is something waiting for us after swimming, but it’s not always possible.  However when I plan the weekly supermarket shop, I try to plan ahead for Thursday so I can either get the slow cooker on first thing in the morning, or else get a casserole into the oven to be ready about 1 hour later.

We set off for swimming at 4.15pm and I have my daughter in her swimsuit, sat by the pool ready for a 4.30pm start.  My son and I watch from the poolside where the parents are allowed to sit, and I have to confess that I’ve even multi-tasked a swimming lesson before now – when I have had an urgent client call to make or a piece of work that’s needed my approval.  I always have my BlackBerry on me so I can keep on top of what I choose to, so calls have been made from the poolside (clients never know that I’m not at my desk, I usually have what I need to hand) but the 30 minutes that the swimming lesson is on, is never spent ‘relaxing’ – it’s mostly spent chasing an active toddler around the spectator section if I’m not making a call.  However after the lesson, my daughter gets a shower and my son and I drive the pushchair back into the changing rooms to meet her so we can get her dressed again.  If it’s a week where she has successfully completed the next swimming level and will get a badge for it, I’ll have to have the cash on me to order the badge at the counter before we leave.  Once we’re all in the car, we head back home for the food I (hopefully) prepared earlier!

My husband usually arrives home once we’re all eating so he’ll heat up his plate, and once he’s home I can get him to take over feeding the toddler who likes to throw his food out of the highchair or else smear it all over his face!  At least once Simon gets home I can sit down and eat myself!  However the day doesn’t stop there!

After tea it is bath-time and bed routines and once this is over I will either collapse onto the sofa  or, every two weeks I have a meeting of Toastmasters to attend.  This is a group I have joined to develop my public speaking skills, as I regularly deliver talks on my enterprise journey, so if it is a ‘Toastmasters’ day, I will have a 30 minute drive to the meeting then participate for 2.5 hours then drive home!  After that I collapse into bed!

So as you can see, Thursday is a really busy day in my weekly routine, and this is pretty much the format week in, week out.  So I need to be prepared for Thursday because it’s already a stacked day, and this is without any room for contingency.

How I ensure that I ‘dance’ through the day (and how you can too) is to prepare myself the night before.  I mentally ‘walk through’ my day starting with the breakfast meeting, so I get out the clothes I’ll wear and also my make up and hair styling products.  Then I will take these downstairs to my living room (as it would be too noisy for the rest of the family if I got dressed upstairs on a Thursday morning!)  After this, I put my breakfast meeting folder into the car, along with any extra items I might need for the meeting.  Before now I have taken props to the meeting such as a desk-phone, to illustrate my Virtual Receptionist service to the other people in the room.  I then check my diary and see what meetings I have.  Once I know who I’m seeing, I can take their client file with me – this all gets put into the car beforehand, so there is no chance of forgetting it if I sleep in or whatever!

Thursday is an ‘eat on the run’ day, so I always have a bottle of Slimfast milkshake in my cupboard as a meal substitute.  I don’t buy this to lose weight, but because it’s handy to have on hand in case I cannot get a sandwich.  At least I’d have something to stop hunger pangs if I’m nowhere near food, so the Slimfast goes into the car too!

Once I’m sorted, I get the kids things ready.  Uniforms are laid out, clothes chosen and bags prepared for the next day, so my husband can do a smooth transition from our house to Grandmas.  Then I pre-pack the swimming bag complete with a drink for my son, and hang this in the hallway on a coat-hook, ready for the next afternoon.  Then I’ll consider the evening meal, and defrost any meat that needs to be ready for Thursday.

Lastly, I’ll do my ‘re-stocking’, and by this I mean staple handbag items that I carry round with me every day, because otherwise I’d be caught short.  I re-stock my business card wallet so I never miss an opportunity by not having my cards to hand.  Then I’ll check I have a pack of tissues, a tampon (guys – you have no idea!), enough cash in my purse to get anything I might need such as petrol or a loaf of bread (although I try to fill the car early on in the week so I don’t have that to do on a Thursday) and I also ensure that my diary is in my bag with a working pen.

If this sounds like a lot of preparation, it is!  But you get used to it and the benefit is that I usually sail through Thursdays without getting stressed.  If you are not prepared for your day, little things outside of your control like roadworks on the way to the meeting or the school run, can put you over the edge.  Arriving at meetings flustered and apologetic is never a good look and unlikely to win you the business, whereas unflappable, calm and prepared usually impresses!

I know what I’m like; being hungry, cold or tired usually puts me in a bad mood, and I’m sure you are not at your best when suffering any of these either!  So by being uber-prepared, I’m never cold or hungry – I have what I need to hand.  I’m sometimes tired, but as I get my energy from being around people (a born socialiser!) I can usually handle it until I collapse in bed!  Luckily Thursday is my only dynamite day.  Other days of the week can be busy too, but I can schedule myself so that I’m not over-extended.  It just so happens that Thursday for me, contains a lot of regular events that have been set by someone else.  I had to get my daughter into the swimming lesson on the day that it runs, so I couldn’t control what day it landed on.

I hope that this story has helped you think of how you can tackle your own dynamite day, and remember -if you want to know anything about juggling a busy life, just ask the Time Management Mum!