Archive for the ‘Twisting Time’ Category

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

March 6, 2009

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

Have a look at today and tomorrow…

my-diary-060309

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

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

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

What will make your ideal weekend?….

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How to juggle without dropping the baby!

February 17, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sledging tips the work/life balance!

February 11, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Now back to the sledging!

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

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


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.

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!