Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

….. And the winner is…..

February 27, 2009

Terry Anne!

Terry Anne’s “Me Time” was inspired – it consisted of bubbles, massages and music! Absolute bliss!!

If you missed it, here was Terry Anne’s post:

“My me time has all year round availability. I venture out of the door into the garden and indulge in the 102degrees warmth of the hot tub.

I can relax quietly, listen to the CD player or have a massage with the various water jets.

The added bonus for me is that when in or around water I become very creative, so I often have “light bulb” moments and come up with great new ideas for my business.

Twenty minutes indulgence and I feel like I have had a weeks holiday and ready to face the world again. Bliss!!!”

Terry Anne wins a fabulous ‘Busy Book’ – a fashion led loose leaf planner to diarise her busy life!  It’s on its way Terry Anne – well done!

Ladies, I loved all of your ideas (except perhaps the Sudoku on the toilet – sorry Sam but it reminded me of my hubby who takes the paper to the loo and it drives me mad!!)    🙂

However if you really wanted your own exclusive Busy Book, you can still get one for £39.99 here.

Keep reading Time Management Mum because in the coming weeks I’m re-launching with a fantastic new blog design and will have some great Guest Bloggers, special features for busy mums and more competitions!  Watch this space!

I’m having the whole weekend as ‘Me’ Time now because I’ve just handed my book over to the publishers and this will be my first weekend off in months!  I’m also going to see the Live X Factor show with my daughter tomorrow!!!  Catch you later hot mamas!

Nadine – the Time Management Mum

xx

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Mumpreneurs – Prepare for World Domination!

February 21, 2009

Thought that might get your attention! Well perhaps not quite world domination but I do believe that us working mums are ideally positioned to build our businesses and actually gain something positive from the economic crisis we find ourselves in.

Something positive to say in amongst the doom and gloom and the “Don’t panic Mr Manwering!” type attitude the media can’t seem to get enough of? Well actually yes and it makes a nice change doesn’t it?! I’m no authority on the economy and I certainly don’t wish to position myself as an expert on surviving the credit crunch (although, as a marketing consultant, I can certainly help companies develop marketing strategies to raise their game and differentiate from their competitors) but when I look around and talk to colleagues, contacts and friends it seems to me that the people booming while others flounder are the freelancers and small work-at-home businesses.

I am a freelance marketing consultant and work-at-home-mum and the work that I do often requires me to use other freelancers to deliver client projects. I use specialists for particular types of work that require skills that I don’t have or I don’t have the time to do myself including graphic designers, web developers, PR specialists, telemarketers, photographers, administrators etc. I use freelancers because it’s a cost effective way of doing things, it allows me to use the people who will be particularly suited to the client and the project and I know that they will deliver and not de-value my own brand because I have worked with them many times before and trust them to do a good job. These are the people whose businesses are booming!

In a climate where companies are laying off staff and even going under, all the freelancers that I work with have never been so busy and that is exactly what is happening in my own business. This made me wonder why and the conclusion I have come to is that it’s down to the flexibility and affordability that a freelancer brings to organisations of all sizes.

People who run a business from home, and that includes us WAHMs, are equally as qualified, experienced and resourceful as larger companies offering the same products and services but we have an enormously powerful bargaining tool at our disposal and that is the cost saving that we can pass on to our clients. We don’t have expensive offices, big staff bills or fleets of company cars to maintain and this can make a huge difference to the fees we charge and at the end of the day, the service we provide is just as good as any of our more sizeable competitors.

I personally think we also offer extra flexibility and a more personal service. Because we are always the central point of contact and we work on every client project personally we know the client and the project inside out and we build a relationship with them. We’re also prepared to go the extra mile if we need to because it’s OUR business and we want to make sure the job is done well. We’re not working for a monthly salary or as part of a corporate machine, we reap the benefits that we sow and we see direct results from our actions. Yes, we may take time out of our day to put another load in the washing machine or pick our children up from school but we will no doubt make that time up and more by doing a couple of hours in the evening or over the weekend or even at the baby’s nap time because we’re dedicated to what we do.

Clients see this and they keep coming back. Even companies who would have never used the services of a freelancer before are seeking us out because they know they need still to market their company, access admin services, control their finances, manage their HR function etc and they may not have the internal skills to do that. We represent the best solution for their needs at a cost that is affordable and that, my fellow mumpreneurs and freelancers, is why we are about to take over the world!

Sarah Ainslie runs Sarah Ainslie Marketing, offering creative marketing solutions to UK businesses. http://www.sarahainslie-marketing.co.uk

Stylish women now have a stylish planner to put their dreams in!

February 19, 2009

This week I realized a long held dream and actually launched my own range of personal organisers! Some people get excited about colourful clothes, I get my kicks from colourful organisation and having a place to plan my day and my life! Here are some pictures of the planner and my press release so you can see what it’s all about!




Planning, productivity and prowess now comes in a red package with the launch of a new personal organiser designed for modern businesswomen.

‘The Dream PA’ personal organiser is a fashion led leather bound planner embossed with a stylish girl logo and adds a dash of colour to any business meeting. Who says planning has to be boring? This ‘Busy Book’ is a loose leaf personal organiser and reflects a stylish and practical way for the modern woman to schedule her activities.

Created by businesswoman and former London College of Fashion Graduate Nadine Hill, the planner appeals to the super organised. At A5 size it is large enough to cope with a demanding work and social schedule whilst the elegant ‘girl’ motif says the owner has flair and personality. The owner of this organiser is both savvy and fun!

The Dream PA is the name of a boutique Virtual Assistance firm based in Yorkshire, and the girl logo is the identity of the brand. The company formed in early 2005 to assist entrepreneurs and small businesses with PA services, and quickly grew to serve clients across the globe. The name now stands for efficiency, pride in a job well done, individuality and time management.

Managing Director of The Dream PA Nadine Hill says:

“I was frustrated with all the black organisers on the shop floor and wanted something that reflected my individuality whilst being spacious enough to handle my busy life. The Dream PA stands for effective time management so I created this ‘Busy Book’ to keep track of my many appointments and roles. I use the planner to organise me, my business and my young family!”

The Dream PA ‘Busy Book’ has a smooth stitched red leather cover and operates with a standard 6 ring mechanism. Perfect for everyday use, the A5 executive organiser features a pen holder, storage pocket and credit / business card holders, week to view diary and retails at RRP £39.99.

To make a purchase or for more information, visit http://www.thedreampa.co.uk/shop.html

-Ends-

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  • The Dream PA is a boutique Virtual Assistance business based in West Yorkshire, UK.
  • The business serves small business clients across the UK and Internationally (Australia and USA) with PA and Virtual Receptionist services.
  • The Dream PA spinoff product line launches with the exclusive leather Personal Organiser and will expand in 2009 to include mobile phone charms, designer mugs and fashion key chains.
  • Nadine Hill graduated from the University of the Arts, London (London College of Fashion) in 1995 with a Higher National Diploma in Fashion Journalism and Promotion.

What do you think? I think this organiser rocks!

I’ve already had one review in from a buyer – see below:





– 5 Star

“I was very excited when Nadine Hill of The Dream PA launched her own personal organiser “The Busy Book”.

I am very busy with my own business, young son, husband, etc (list to long !) so for me “The Busy Book” was a MUST have.

The organiser is good quality, very competitively priced, it is a good size, great colour and has just about everything you would need in it.

I use my Busy Book on a daily basis and it travels everywhere with me and it really does keep me organised.

12 February 2009

Caroline Coward

The Business Network (Leeds) Limited

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! 😉

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!

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

January 21, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clear desk = a clear mind!

January 19, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning new tricks all the time!!

January 15, 2009

I’m jazzed!

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

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

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

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

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

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