Spinning the time plate

Penny Clayton and Wendy Reus offer some tips on how to manage your time so you have enough to go round.

Time – do you wish you had more? Do you wonder what you did with all that time before children came along?

Things which matter most should never be at the mercy of things that matter least!” Goethe.

This quotation opens the chapter on managing yourself and your home from ‘Spinning Plates’, our book written essentially for working mothers. For all of us in this pressurised society, time seems to be at a premium and never having enough of it has become a particular cry of working mums. If you had more time, what would you do with it? Would it be for family, work and career development, friends, health and fitness, personal and spiritual growth, home-life, relaxation and fun or even sleep?

The key is to know what is really important to you and then to be ruthless deciding how to spend the time you have, making sure it is on the things you want or need to do. Building some time in for yourself can be just what your mind and body need to re-energise you, focus on what really needs to be done and can help you cope with the more challenging times. If you look after yourself you can look after your family, so give yourself permission to do just that.

It is possible to eke out more time and there are lots of suggestions in our book. For instance, we recommend you really understand how and when you work best. When your levels of energy are high, you are so much more productive. These are the times for scheduling those more demanding tasks. It might mean getting up really early if the morning happens to be your best time. You can then have work completed by the time the children are up and needing attention. In the evening, plan for the next day, by choosing clothes, getting food from the freezer and putting anything needed for school and work by the door ready to pick up. If you like to swap handbags, consider having a bag-liner with all the essentials in ready to put into your next bag at a moment’s notice.

Our time is often ‘stolen’ by others. Book an appointment early in the day with your hairdresser so you are seen before they fall behind. Don’t bother to arrive early for any medical appointments as it’s highly unlikely you’ll be seen ahead of time. If you have several phone-calls to make, group them together, deciding what you want to cover and achieve with each call beforehand. At work, check whether the task in hand is important or urgent. Sometimes, the urgent stuff is someone else’s agenda and the important things can get overlooked. Prioritise, doing the things that have the most impact and learn to say ‘no’! When faced with a difficult job, decide to work on it for 15 minutes. This should help you overcome the block to getting started and prevent procrastination. Often after this time, the work flows.

An important component of our book is the perspective of children. As well as listening to them we consider ways of involving them in all aspects of family life and this includes the management of the home. Even very young children can help and start to learn organisational skills. Let them choose what they want to wear the next day and put it out ready in their room. Have a box or bag for them to put their dirty clothes in at the end of the day – and as soon as you can, show them how to use the washing machine! Simple jobs such as tidying socks, setting the table, emptying the dishwasher take just a few minutes of your child’s day build a sense of belonging as well as giving you a bit more time.

Finally, ask yourself, “Does it have to be me?” and delegate where possible, either to a work colleague, another member of the family or by paying someone else. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your network of friends who may be experts in different fields from you. Swapping skills and knowledge can save both time and money. Do be wary of perfectionism and ask yourself, “Is this good enough?” or “Is going the extra mile worth the pay-off?” Would it really matter if you did something that wasn’t perfect? We can’t create more time but with some thought and preparation we can get more from it.

*Penny Clayton and Wendy Reus. Authors of “Spinning Plates” – tips, thoughts and ideas for balancing work, parenting and home. www.spinningplatesuk.com

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