In an effort to use my ‘dead’ driving time more effectively, I have recently embraced the pod-cast for my journeys to and from work.
One of my favourite pod-casts is the ‘Get-It-Done Guy’ whose catchphrase is ‘work less, do more, and have a great life’. After a week of having my head crammed full of tips on topics like ‘How to Use your smartphone to organise receipts’ and ‘How to Hit Every Deadline Every Time’ I reached overload. On walking through the door after my 1 hour drive home, feeling the pressure of the need to be efficient always, I took one look at the basket of laundry, the pile of paperwork on the desk, the washing up in the kitchen, the dinner waiting to be made, and needed to go and lie down. Seriously.
After spending all day at work being productive, organising, making decisions, sometimes I just need a break when I get home. A nice lie down (ok I was interrupted every 5 minutes by my children that just wanted to see just what I was doing) can do wonders for the soul. Followed by a kick-a-bout in the park with my son, where I’m proud to say my football skills are coming along nicely.
Then some gentle reflection about the challenge in the work-life blend (we call it blend now not balance don’t you know!), and the difference between the lives of the Get-It-Done Guy and me, the Get-It-Done Mum.
So here are my tips for Getting It Done.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Ever. Your child’s hair needs a cut? No problem. It can wait longer. You haven’t washed the school uniform? So what. Just wipe out the yoghurt stains with a cloth. You’re serving pasta for dinner 3 nights in a row? The kids love it so it’s fine. They can have vegetables at the weekend. The house is a mess? Get used to it. And the list goes on.
- It’s ok to have help. Why do women think we have to do it all? Work, taking the lead on child-care arrangements and the house-stuff. At different times in my career I have had help, e.g. a cleaner. This has always been a battle, as intrinsically it feels wrong to pay someone to clean my house, especially when there is always something else to spend the money on. The times I’ve had a cleaner have been great, as weekends are freed up to do fun things and not spend half a day making the house feel less disgusting. At the moment I have a gardener – which I am so happy about. I found a really inexpensive gardening service, a local charity that supports people with learning difficulties, and now I don’t have to dash home and try to mow the lawn before it rains, at the expense of cooking dinner. Find what it is that will help you, cleaning, someone doing your ironing, using internet shopping to have your shopping delivered, and don’t feel guilty about it.
- Invest in every labour saving device you can think of. Dishwashers, slow cookers, bread makers (yes they can save the day when you run out of bread the night before).
- Train your children to be self-sufficient. If they’re hungry, do they know how to make a sandwich? Can they do their own laundry (if they’re old enough)? Can they get themselves dressed/choose their own clothes? Can they get their own breakfast/make their own lunch? All these are milestones I celebrated and took advantage of as soon as they came.
- As a working mum, sometimes we’re home too late, too frazzled, forgot to get anything out of the freezer in the morning etc. Beans on toast is an acceptable dinner, so is egg on toast, cheese on toast, baked potato in the microwave, oh, and pasta.
- It’s ok to use your child-minder when you’re not working. This is one it took me a while to come round to. Probably earlier in my career when money was tighter, paying the child-minder seemed like an expense that I wanted to minimise. Plus for some strange reason I felt I had to demonstrate to my child-minder that I had been working, and turning up in my jeans when I’d had a work from home day felt like I was being deceitful. I have no idea where that thought process came from, other than I don’t have it anymore. I use my current child-minder to help me with my life (sometimes a necessity as a single mum). So if I finish work early and go for a run before collecting my child, that’s ok. If I use a day of the school holidays to do something for me and leave my child in a paid childcare setting, that’s ok too. He’s having a good time, I’m having a good time. It’s a win-win. Yes there’s the cost but sometimes it’s necessary.
- You’re not in competition with the other Mums. Whether its school cake-sales, children’s birthday parties, or school dress-up days. I pride myself on using my practical and my creative business skills to knock up any costume using what I can find in the house the night before whichever dress up day it is, Roman, Victorian, or World-Book Day. The rule of thumb is, the more time you allocate to one of these tasks, the more time it will take. If you only have an hour, you can do it in an hour. Fair play to Mums that are at home all day and choose to spend time buying yellow feathers or hand-stitching a Victorian pinafore, but it’s not essential.
- As far as work goes, it’s good to remember you are not indispensable, and do not need to be at every meeting, event etc. Over Easter I was desperate for a whole week off, but was due to be giving a presentation at an event on the week I wanted off. I weighed up the options, and decided someone else could do my presentation.
- Always have a backup plan for key events at work. In my job over the years I have often had days I’m meant to be delivering training or giving presentations. If your children can be sick on the day you have something really important in your diary, they will. Make sure you always have a second in command that can fill in for you, and that your team know what you are meant to be doing and where all the information/materials are. This also means having back-up childcare plans. Childminders can get sick too, and as I don’t have any family living near me to help out in emergencies, I have made use at times of my support network of friends. Yes it’s hard to call someone at 8am in the morning and ask them if they can have your child that day, but if you don’t ask you don’t get. I would always preface this conversation with, I don’t mind if you can’t and the answer is no, but I have to ask anyway, and then I would keep working down the list of people I could ask.
- Plan ahead and be organised as if something can go wrong it will. Last year I spent all night in the hospital with my daughter receiving emergency treatment, around 5am I realised we weren’t going anywhere and my thoughts turned to the presentation I was meant to be giving at work that day, with people from other companies travelling long distances to attend. I knew we could not cancel as we had no way of reaching all the attendees, so around 7am I called my second in command, who was due to be attending the presentation. Using my I-pad and the hospital Wi-Fi I was able to email her my presentation and talk her through it. Had I not been so organised to have had my presentation and a full set of notes prepared ahead of time this would not have been possible. Of course she was a little panicked but she stepped up to the challenge, the session went well and no harm done. And my daughter was fine J.
Well that’s it today from the ‘Get-It-Done’ Mum. I’m off to go do more stuff. Have a great day everyone!