Time management: Business Trips, Bosses, and Kisses.
Do you ever feel like there’s not enough time in the day? Do you feel like you get to the office and have already done a full working day before you even got there?
Are you rushing your work, cramming in an impossible amount towards the end of the workday so you can be home for the bedtime kiss? And do you take that one last call, send that one quick e-mail and find that when you finally step into your home you are late for bedtime once again? Ouch, that really hurts, right there and then.
Long-term you end up feeling guilty for rushing your work, and guilty for not being the wonderful mum you imagined to be for your children. You get frustrated for lack of a social life and find yourself getting angry when you hear your partner actually managed to go to the gym this week.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Some alpha mummies seem to fit these time management things in effortlessly. What do they do differently than you, what are their secrets? Let me share them with you in this post.
How to fit it all in!
Surely, if it was that easy, if it was just a few tips, you would have already cracked it. How come it never fits in, in the first place? That’s easy. The problem is you’re fitting two lives into one. Senior jobs weren’t designed for mothers. They were designed for people that have a full-time partner at home, so they can have their mind focused on work from the moment they get up. No shopping lists, nappy rash, forgotten homework assignments or healthy lunch boxes that need their attention. Not even a worry about clean and ironed shirts, it’s all ready for them, the focus can be on work. Then you can actually fit in many hours of work, a social life and a work-out without feeling guilty.
Jobs are designed for men. Just like bins and garden tools are designed for men. Ever notice how garden tools are always a bit too heavy? That’s because they are designed to be the weight that one man can easily handle. There’s nothing random about their weight, they are made to fit. There’s no reason a lighter shovel, wheelbarrow or rake couldn’t work. It’s just that when designing them, no one thought about women.
The same is true with working days. They aren’t random hours either, they are made to fit with what a man can handle in a day. There’s no necessity why a client needs you 70 hours a week, it could have been 100 or 30 just as easily. These hours have grown over time around what men can do and feel comfortable doing.
No wonder you can’t fit it in. It’s not meant to fit.
6 tips from senior women
But what can you do about it? Ideally you would just redesign your job, into a 30-35 hour one. But that’s not easy, and even if you managed, your manager might not agree. So what can you do in the meantime?
I have met many senior women over the past years, picking up some of the best tips from them. None of those tips are rocket science, most of them aren’t hard to implement, but many of them really helped me get a tiny bit more organised and find more time in my day.
- Find ‘new’ work pockets in your week
When you can be really flexible about your working hours, you can actually free up time to be at the school pick-up twice a week. Try finding a pocket in your week that you can work in, where it doesn’t interfere too much with family life. Two hours in the evening, Sunday mornings, or getting up at 6 before the family wakes might work for you. A senior manager who works a lot with clients in the US and China told me it works well for her, as she gets client contacts around the clock anyway.
- Shorten your ‘standard’ meeting to half an hour
Business meetings tend to be scheduled for an hour. Any issue, whether it is meeting a new contact, a colleague to discuss a key issue, or lunch, is typically given that one hour. Try scheduling half an hour meetings standard. You will be surprised how quickly people get to the crux of the issue when they know you have only half an hour for them.
- Replace business dinners with business breakfasts or lunches
Dinners typically take the entire evening, after all, there’s no end time to an evening. Breakfasts tend to be more to the point, especially when you make it clear you have a meeting booked afterwards. Of course you miss the morning school or nursery run, but you do get to do the pick-up. On top of that it’s a great way to get your partner involved in morning responsibilities as well.
- Teach your child to do jobs around the house
I know, I know, this isn’t easy and the jobs will actually take more time initially, and it might take six months before your child does their designated jobs properly, but it makes a huge difference in the long run, believe me. Start with easy tasks like putting plates in the dishwasher and laundry in the designated basket. Insist they are done properly, so it really does save you work. Do try it and stick with it. If nothing else it will be a pleasure for life to have good habits.
- Involve your children in your work
Personally I was quite astonished this was even possible. But apparently some senior managers take their child on a business trip, to a conference, to the office, or get them to design their Powerpoint slides, fold brochures, or find images for a website. It can be a wonderful way of giving them a peek inside your world, creating some understanding as to why you are not always there, and of course, of spending some bonding time with your child.
- Network more deliberately and online
Skipping too many evening engagements can be detrimental to your career. After all, you are missing out on key networking opportunities. However, many of them can be replaced by online networking, or targeted networking. Have a list of key new contacts, those that are key to your current project or position, and those that might be key in future. Connect online with them, or set up a specific informal one-to-one appointment – for half an hour of course. This can be just as effective and doesn’t encroach on evenings when you wish to be at home.
Of course you can’t apply all of these time management secrets all the time, and perhaps they won’t work for you. There’s no need to follow any of these secrets religiously. Just pick two or three of the ideas you think might work, and start experimenting with them. Try them for a week. The next time someone wants an appointment suggest you happen to have a half an hour slot, right after breakfast and would that work for them? Then see how it works for you, take away some learning points for your next half an hour meeting and try it again.
As you see, it’s not rocket science. I'd love to hear what you do to make it all fit in a day. What tiny things have you changed that worked for you? Perhaps you have started doing all these things many years ago and have a few more tips? What do you do differently now than when you first had children? Which new routines have you picked up that work for you? How have you become more efficient? What worked to relieve some of the pressure in your busy life? Do let me know, I would love to hear them all, as even the simplest ideas can help us working mothers to fit it all in, and finally, for once, really be at home for the bedtime kiss.
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