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BBC news presenter Joanna Gosling is speaking at Workingmums LIVE in London in March and has just written a book bursting with time-saving tips for working mums.
We talked to her about how she manages work and life and picked up some tips along the way.
If ever there was a Holy Grail for working mums it would be the power to stretch the day to fit more in. BBC news presenter Joanna Gosling hasn’t found the Holy Grail, but she has compiled a long list of time-saving tips which allow mums to spend more minutes on the things that are important.
Joanna, who is the keynote speaker at Workingmums LIVE event in London in March, has just written a book, Simply Wonderwoman, which allows readers to pick and choose from a whole host of practical advice on how to do just about anything with minimum fuss.
Although the book is called Simply Wonderwoman, it is not about being the perfect woman. Joanna says it is not about seeking the perfect life, but about being well-organised so you can spend more time doing the stuff that keeps you sane. She states: “How you spend your time defines you”.
The book has a coffee table-like look and is designed for people to dip in and dip out when they need advice.
The first half is about getting to grips with what she calls “the basics” – the everyday kind of stuff that most working mums struggle with, such as how to remember everything you have to do in a day or cleaning the bathroom.
The second is about what she terms the “nice stuff” – arts and crafts, preparing for birthdays or other special occasions…
Joanna, who has three girls aged nine, seven and three, says she realised she had to get more organised after she had her third child. “With the older girls I had got into a good groove then everything got chaotic again when my third daughter was born,” she says.
“I really needed to get myself in order. I was going to work feeling foggy. I never felt I was focusing on things properly.
I felt I was constantly running around and firefighting, I was neglecting friends and paperwork was being left. I got to a tipping point. I needed to get the fundamentals in order.”
She realised she wasted a large amount of time trying to find things. The baby was going through the hiding things phase.
“It’s those kinds of things that can make the wheels of your life come off. You feel like you are getting along, but then something goes wrong and those things make a difference,” she says.
She adds: “I have always been the kind of person who likes to solve problems. For instance, when I kept losing my keys it would drive me crazy. I didn’t want to have to think about it.
I needed a logical solution.” Her solution was to label her keys and wear the front door keys round her neck on a string.
She also recommends having a hook not too near the front door where you always hang them up so you know where they are.
Joanna says she has always picked other people’s brains for tips. “Everyone has some good tips, but they don’t always pass them on,” she says.
“I wanted to bring together what I had gleaned from people so other people don’t have to waste the time and effort I did finding out about them.”
It took her 18 months to two years from thinking about the idea for the book to publication. She squeezed the book in round her work and family time.
Her organisational skills had been honed by then, though. She says she has become very adept at thinking in advance and hates arriving anywhere early because it means she has “wasted a good five minutes”.
Joanna works freelance for the BBC and has worked an evening shift for the last three years. Currently she works Monday to Thursday from around 6.30pm to 10pm.
The BBC is just round the corner so she doesn’t have a long commute and she says her hours allow her to pick her children up from school and arrive at work with plenty of time to prepare.
Being a freelance means the longest she has taken on maternity leave is three months. After her first daughter was born she did the morning shift until 2pm and had a nanny to help with childcare.
By the time she had her second daughter she was working weekends so her husband looked after the baby.
Nowadays, she has a nanny for the after-school period until her husband gets home and her third daughter goes to nursery, but not for a full day.
She brushes off suggestions that going back to work after so little maternity leave must have been hard. Her response shows that organisation has always been her strong point. “It quite focused things,” she says. “I did the Contented Baby book and they all started sleeping through the night by at least nine weeks.”
For Joanna, an organised life is the way to get time to do the things you love. For her that is making things with the girls, whether that is sewing or baking.
In fact, she did all the catering for the book launch party last week herself, although, true to form, she says she realised she could cut corners by buying the cakes and then icing them herself. “They looked stunning and there was no big effort involved,” she says.
The aim of the book, she says, is to empower people. “As a mum, you can feel like an island and that other people are sailing along, even though they probably aren’t. You don’t feel you can say that you are finding things difficult. This book is about finding ways to make things easier,” she says.
Joanna says the two tips that have had a big impact on her life have been the key on a string [“I was literally tipping my bag all over the street looking for them every morning”] and cleaning her oven with lemon juice and boiling water so it doesn’t smoke – both simple and easy things to do.
“You don’t have to be perfect or run yourself into the ground,” she says. “It’s tempting as a working mum to feel you have to do everything, that you have to be across things. What I want to do is help people get by by passing good advice on. It’s about lightening the load, not adding extra pressure or burden.”
Simply Wonderwoman is published by Kyle Books, price £16.99.