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Taking time off and having to juggle kids and career over the summer can be tough. MD of leading training company, Pitman Training and mum Claire Lister gives her top tips on how to stay productive, effective and impactful over the six-week holiday.
As we peruse our Facebook timelines we all see the tales of woe of parents already struggling to juggle holding down a job and looking after the kids for six weeks. We see much more wine being consumed due to the stress of it all, we see favours being called in from family and friends far and wide and we see pictures of mums on laptops whilst toddlers climb over their head and scribble in their notebooks.
Let’s look at how we can make this all a little bit easier…
It pays to be realistic over the summer months, of what can be achieved and what can be moved to be dealt with in Q4, since overpromising and underachieving is one of the sure fire ways of getting yourself in a hole. Also consider what tasks you can achieve independently as the frustration of relying on others who are on holiday and who are not able to work to your timelines is hugely annoying and demotivating. If you’re going to struggle to do the usual overtime you put in as standard, just spell that out and ensure clarity within your team – people understand you’re human, but they won’t tolerate you letting them down at the last minute.
Can you re-organise your schedule to give yourself a bit of a break? I don’t mean sit with your feet up everyday, but I do mean try not to pack in four back to back meetings in a day when you also have to leave early for holiday club pick-up and try not to take on extra projects when you know you have less ‘you time’ and more ‘kids time’ to manage. On the flip side, try to get key meeting dates scheduled in advance and move hell and high water to be there – so you have a presence with those who matter when it’s business as usual.
Use this time to test out more efficient ways of working – it’s time to put in place shorter meetings with structured agendas and prepared notes. It’s time to introduce Skype calls and FaceTime for business catch-ups – you’ll find this can not only save travel time of face to face meetings but it also reduces actual meeting time as online sessions tend to be quicker than face to face ones. Another benefit I’ve discovered with virtual meetings is that people tend to prepare better for them as they are ‘on show’- I’d encourage you to allocate agenda slots to all attending to ensure engagement of all involved.
If you really struggle with your kids’ childcare it is totally acceptable to ask employers for flexible working options. If you are going to break your back racing between holiday club drop-offs, pick-ups and meetings it makes sense to ask if you could do some of your hours from home to cut down on travel time to the office.
If you have zero cover for your kids one day and need to be at home, talk to your employer to see if you can be flexible and work from home rather than taking holiday, on the understanding that your allocated tasks are achieved. We know that when juggling kids and career many evenings are spent working on the laptop to get ahead for the next day and catch up on email and admin – being open and honest about this helps your employers to appreciate that you do put the extra time in so a bit of give and take when you really need it is fair enough.
Beware, though, that with this topic comes a lot of politics, not because it’s not do-able, but more because some employers feel this opens a can of worms. Tips for asking an employer about flexible working:-
When sales calls are getting nowhere, marketing is making no cut through and you can’t track any of your customers down on the phone, don’t waste time flogging a dead horse. Use your time for a different focus. Take stock and up-skill. Make the summer a time to focus on your career development and see what skills you could learn via flexible online courses to enable you to hit the ground running when normality returns. It’s common to feel happier, more confident and more driven when you treat your brain to new knowledge and this could just drive you on for a sterling last Q4.
If all else fails a great way of getting things done quicker in most jobs is by improving your typing speed. Statistics, revealed by Pitman Training, show that by increasing typing speeds by just 10wpm, we could all save ourselves a whole working day per week….oh the dream.
When time is poor you need every minute to count. Try using a tool like https://toggl.comwhich helps track your time on tasks. This can help by making you aware of where your time is going, and also make you work in a more focused way if you pre-allocate time slots for your day.
Your body needs looking after or it can’t work for you. Good health improves productivity performance so make sure you plan in some time for exercise be it before or after work, in your lunch hour, or whilst the kids are watching tv. A healthy body really does lead to a healthy mind.
Remember when the time for your holiday does come around to live it, to fully embrace it and to then draw a line under work. Holidays are prescribed time to re-charge. However good-willed offers to respond to emails and take calls are whilst on holiday, ultimately this does no-one any favours as your family will resent it, your colleagues will take it for granted and you’re not getting the down time you need. If you’ve nailed all the above when you get on that plane you are more than entitled to sit back with a G&T….and relax!
For more advice and top tips on improving your work-life balance visit our advice hub at www.pitman-training.com/advice-hub