This month’s article has been hard for me to write. I was hoping to share some insight on time management, or some secret to balance that I had discovered and would love to share with every other mom striving to run a business. When I mentioned time management as a possible subject to my husband and he responded with, “like how you try to put in a load of laundry when I needed you to drive me to work fifteen minutes ago?” I realized I was quite possibly the worst possible person to offer advice on how to keep yourself on track. I had also thought about doing a “before” and “after” series with the transformation of my office from cluttered mess to zen-like work space worthy of a magazine shoot, but sadly that hasn’t been achieved yet either.
When I started university, I remember Frosh Week included optional workshops on time management and organization. I went, thinking it would be the best possible start to the hectic life that is engineering studies. I have no idea to this day what I learned in that workshop. School became a blur of assignments, lab reports, classes, projects, all with an amazing intensity designed to “weed out” the weaker students. I became adept at last minute cramming, fitting in a bit of studying here and there, and managing the chaos. A decade-and-a-half later, I have two children, I am expecting a third, and run two businesses with the help of an amazing staff, but I continue to manage the chaos. I am, however, also committed to improvement, so here is my own plan for action:
• Write down all your activities and the time they consume for one week. Think of your hours as billable time. You can do this for your home activities or work activities, or both, if like me, you’re checking email AND doing laundry while you write your article for OMHG.
• Have a really close look at what your week looks like, and where most of your time goes. Is there someone else who can take that responsibility off your hands? Or is there one or two times a week you can dedicate time to this task rather than several 15 minute sessions? Are you starting a task AND following it through to completion or are you picking at several tasks that then take longer (guilty) to complete.
• Create a schedule around the above AND STICK TO IT. This is my biggest downfall; I spend time creating a system only to fall back into my controlled chaos patterns. One very smart tip I learned in my former life as an engineer: if you are able, try answering phone calls and emails after lunch rather than having them eat up your entire morning. I know my brain is always most effective in the morning, and if I have serious analytical work I need to do, I try to do it first thing in the quiet hours of the morning with my cup of tea. This takes an immense amount of discipline, and is always a work in progress, but it helps keep my head organized.
• Keep your desk clean. I can hear the roars of laughter from anyone who has worked with me as my desk is covered in piles of paper. Today, I will clear my desk and discipline will prevail.
• Get plenty of rest. My ability to function in an effective way is severely diminished when I’ve missed too much sleep. Not only does my mood suffer, but my appetite changes, and my ability to concentrate (and be a parent) falls apart. Whatever your schedule looks like, be sure you are still able to get to bed by 11 pm. I can’t stress how important this is, from personal experience.
A list of five items seems manageable. I will report back on progress in a future article, in the meantime, what is your top tip for staying on track?