You’ve got a whole host of things to do to get to the end of the day and not enough time to do them in. Your lists have developed sub-lists and you’re constantly running three minutes late due to task overload. You need a lie-down, but there are 23 more urgent things to do before you can drag yourself to bed, get a few hours’ kip and then start all over again. How can you save time and get to the bit where you get to sit down faster?
1. Never do just one thing. This is not the same thing as multi-tasking which suggests some sort of simultaneous, acrobatic approach to life which can lead to at least one ball being dropped at any given time and usually results in the dinner being burnt. It is about the journey, as they say in X Factor. As you are travelling towards task A, incorporate tasks B, C, and D into the journey so, for instance, in one trip to your child’s school you manage to pick up cat food, take a call from the US office, win a return favour by dropping off your neighbour’s kids, text your partner to book the car for an MOT, whatsapp your older kids to remember their gran’s birthday and generally keep the whole family thing going while still managing to arrive at work on time.
2. Use every available ounce of time well. If you are squashed on a train or lying on a small person’s bed trying to get them to sleep, use the time wisely. Call this your creative time. It is amazing the kind of ideas you can come up with while wedged between a small person and a wall. Perhaps this is how J K Rowling came up with Harry Potter. Write down any creative ideas you have immediately, even if all you can find is a broken crayon and it’s yellow, or they will evaporate as soon as you crawl out the room.
3. Delegate. Of course, this assumes that you have people who you can delegate to and that you are in a sufficient position of authority for any delegating you might do to be heeded. If not, you will have to resort to bargaining. Ensure you always come out on top in the bargaining stakes. For instance, create a lucky dip system so that 9 times out of 10 they win something like a smelly sock for doing the washing-up. 1) Kids love smelly socks – it may even be better to win a smelly sock than the so-called prize 2) It will encourage them to do more chores in order to get to the actual prize which will acquire almost mystical proportions after the eighth or ninth dip. NB The lucky dip may not work with colleagues.
4. Lower your standards – if they are not rock bottom already. Perfectionism is the enemy of the working parent. Learn to love just being good – or even satisfactory. Embrace your inner Ofsted and be happy that there are, as yet, no league tables for good parenting.
5. Write lists. Write lists about lists. Attempt to cross things off faster than you add new stuff. Tackle the quick wins first so you feel you are getting somewhere and use that motivating force to go for the long, boring stuff like writing a report or cleaning the bath.
6. Don’t scrimp on sleep. It’s a false economy and is only to be used when you have an absolute time emergency – say, several urgent pieces of work, a school play and a birthday all on the same day. You will end up passing out with tiredness only to wake up three hours later to find that you have 23 urgent things to do before you can go back to bed.