“You are always so busy! How do you fit it all in?”
People say this to me A LOT.
Other mums even, ones who work full-time just like I do. It does kind of spin me out, I thought we were all just fantastical super mums, excelling at doing as much as we fucking can to keep our heads above water and not actually bloody drown?
Isn’t this just a mum’s life? I don’t really think there is a definite answer. There are no hacks, this is your life now! You just need to be like Nike and Just Do It.
However, since you asked, here are my top tips on Time Management for Working Mums.
Dishes, Washing, Schedule.
That’s pretty much a mums’ time management 101. No matter what the rest of your house looks like, if the dishes are done, everyone has clean clothes to wear and you have a plan of attack for the rest, you are sorted.
I do a load of washing and a load of dishes every single night. If you miss a night, you end up with double the next day, and that’s how Mt Washmore was built. I don’t know a single person on the planet who actually LIKES doing dishes or laundry. So don’t make it any worse on yourself than it has to be. You are a grown-up, it should be easy. Throw stuff in a machine. Press Go.
I also only wash my work clothes on the weekends. I’ve spoken before about making a capsule wardrobe and I now have a stack of black dresses which I wear to work every day. Saturdays they get washed and dried and hung up on hangers for the next week. It’s not often you see me in something other than a black dress in my office. Dresses are simple. Dresses mean you only have to choose 1 thing to wear. Dresses always look good. Besides, I like black!
Get A Diary and Use It
Hard copy or one on your phone, who cares. As long as it works for you.
You want to hit the gym? Put it in the diary. You need a babysitter Friday week? Put it in the diary. You need to drop off kid#1 to recorder club Thursday at 8 am? put it in the diary, Kid#2 needs a healthy baked at home, vegan, nut-free low carb treat for a school party? Put it in the diary!
I tend to use both, which works for me as I share an iCal with Himself so put everything in there that he needs to see (bills, kid pickups or activities, etc.) Everything else I do I tend to keep in my planner which I carry around with me. I find this an easy way to plan out my months/weeks. Things that I want to do, as well as things I have to do. You can see what I mean here.
Find Your Groove
I pre-make/pre-do/pre-schedule as much as I possibly can so I don’t have to think about it every day.
I also try & keep good habits and routines. Every night as soon as I walk in the door, I chuck my dirty lunchboxes in the dishwasher, my dirty clothes in the basket and put my PJ’s on, leave my bag and keys in the same spot so I know where it is in the morning.
The girls have a similar routine. Walk in the door, lunchboxes cleaned out, schoolbags away, homework and music practice done, bags packed for tomorrow. THEN relax.
Its all about making the little steps easier, rather than stressing when you don’t think you can reach utopia.
Make Sunday Prep Day
Sunday afternoons are made to be stress-free. Sunday afternoons you will normally find me making lunch for everyone, choosing & hanging out 5 x work outfits (right down to the underwear) and packing 5 x sets of gym gear (ditto). I don’t rush. I take my time and spend a lovely few hours getting organised with a wine in one hand and a cheeseboard in the other. I normally also have my audio-book on in my earbuds so I can continue whatever I’m reading at the time and don’t have to listen to the Moto GP on at full volume or the girls trying to kill each other.
After that’s done I sit down with my planner and my personal email and go over what’s on for the next few weeks. I add anything to the iCal that’s not already there, I sign school notes, find excursion money, go on a “locating lost library book search” with Miss Z and hang up all the school uniforms I’ve washed on hangers to dry.
I then open my work laptop and do a quick email cull. Get rid of anything crap, action anything urgent I forgot to do on Friday, view & file reports, check my work calendar for the week, check I’ve booked enough meeting rooms, and then do all of that again for the Boss, just to make sure that when I arrive at work on Monday I’m not going to get hit with a pile of shit.
Don’t Do It All Yourself
I make my kids and Himself pitch in as much as possible. Just because you are the mum doesn’t mean you have to do everything (holy shit I swear I yell that line at my family like 5 times a day).
Everyone lives in the house, therefore everyone helps in the house. Himself is sent to do the outside stuff, the annoying DIY jobs that have been pissing me off for weeks, the clothes folding, vacuuming or the “standing-at-kids-bedroom-doors-ensuring-rooms-are-actually-getting-cleaned”.
Kids do their own rooms, their bathroom, bring down dirty clothes, put away clean ones, pick up all their shit from my lounge room, and help with menu planning for the week ahead or cooking lunchbox treats.
Try & Focus
I’m the first to admit I’m shit at paying attention. My brain goes 24/7, I have no idea how to relax and I’m the absolute master at having 3 conversations at once.
This, however, is not very conducive to quality work, whatever type you are doing. Over the years I’ve learned that whatever job I’ve got on, I just need to get stuck in, get it done and get out.
If I’m at work, I’m AT WORK. I don’t want to be interrupted by home stuff, phone calls just to say hi or spending time doing jobs for home that should have already been done. Emergencies are different and yes they happen, but for the most part, concentrating on the job you have to do RIGHT NOW and getting it done in the best, quickest and most complete way possible is key to being on the ball.
One that’s done, move to the next job. And the next, and the next and the next, until it’s time to go home.
Being flexible is a big part of making your day run smoothly. Thankfully my office is really big on flexible working options (which is tops). This means that if I need to come in late, I can. So, I drop my kids at school every day, because I hate dealing with the shitstorm that is Sydney traffic. By doing this, I’m never in the office before 9:45am.
I make this balance by staying back as much as I can, a few times a week to ensure I can finish everything I need too. The weeks’ I can’t, I work through lunch, work faster, take things home to finish or come in early if that’s possible. It’s all about give and take. I ensure I get my work done properly and on time and my boss doesn’t care if I’m next to him at my desk or at home in my PJ’s.
Work At Your Best
I am at my most productive during the day and early evening. This means that I can get the most done during these times. I find I can get twice as much work done at my office between about 4 pm and 7 pm than I could for the prior 6 hrs. This may well be as there are a lot fewer people around to annoy me at that time, but also as this is when I’m alert & able to concentrate, so, therefore, shit gets done much, much faster.
If you are at your best first thing in the morning, then this is when you should focus on doing your most important tasks, if you are a night person, do it at night.
Get Your Rest
Please note I didn’t include “get up earlier” on this list. Just so you know, I’m not and never have been, a morning person. I do not DO mornings. I wake up as late as I possibly can. I can do this because I am organised. If you are not organised then
a) go back to the top of this post and read it again or
b) if that still doesn’t work, feel free to get up early. Just know I will be sleeping in:)
Whatever works for you, is what you need to do. This may take some time & testing to figure out.
Don’t say you suck at time management. Start a routine, pre-prepare as much as you can, create daily habits, stick to a schedule and focus on the most important things you need to get done before you move onto the next thing.
Remember, be like Nike. Just Do It
Just Be You, Everyday