6 Tips for the Smart, Modern (and Harried!) Woman
Drowning in a sea of Post-its, you answer the phone to hear a friend checking that you’re still on for dinner tonight, just as you remember — for the sixth time – that you need to buy mom a birthday card. Feeling deflated, you let your friend down (you know at this point that have too much to do) as you scramble for the shopping list, before hitting bad traffic and giving up, getting home and realizing that– for the third year running — mom’s getting a belated card.
Sound familiar? Juggling work and life is tough, and time management doesn’t come easy to most, but follow these steps and you’ll begin to find balance a breeze.
Plan your Day
Sounds simple, and it is. By taking time for a deep breath and scheduling tasks first thing in the morning or, better yet, the night before, you’ll have a clear idea of how things should pan out. The opposite scenario: you’ve got lots to do and plunge into the day with no plan, then have to waste time prioritizing along the way — but if it’s all scheduled, you can get cracking immediately.
Some easy ways to schedule:
- Remember to allow, and factor in, leisure time. Successful women aren’t superhuman; realistically, as Eventa’s immensely helpful (and fun-to-read!) survey proves, routines are about balance. So if you set aside an hour or two for television viewing, it eradicates the opportunity for guilt.
- Ensure that you plan a break as well, even if it’s only twenty minutes to escape your desk, as it will improve productivity. Despite numerous articles stating that fewer of us are inclined to stop for lunch, 56% of those featured in a recent survey still allowed for a regular break, and you should too.
- When you’re planning your day, assign realistic timeframes, and plot them to the hour. Why this works: if things get unexpectedly shuffled, but a task doesn’t need to be completed that day, round up what you’re doing at the time you had planned, then carry on with what’s next; this stops your day getting out of sync.
Use a Calendar
Learn to use your calendar to its full potential and things will get easier:
- Streamline activities – work and play – into the same place, so you’re always aware of what’s upcoming. Work meetings should sync to your phone, so add leisure plans here, and remember to sync Facebook too, so you never forget a birthday.
- Reminders are a great way to keep on top of things, so for upcoming meetings or tasks, set a reminder for at least 15 minutes before.
- For leisure activities, set reminders for the day before – particularly if it was arranged weeks in advance – to have it fresh in your mind when planning the next day.
Aim for Early
- If you aim to be on time for a meeting, or deadline, you’ll only ever be on time, or late. – but never early, which is preferred. So bump your personal deadline up to allow for any unforeseen setbacks.
- When it comes to meetings, don’t be afraid to prompt if it looks like it’s going to run over. This can be inevitable, but everyone involved probably has as big a to-do list as you, and will appreciate a gentle reminder 15 minutes before to help round things off on time.
- Allow a ‘buffer’ of around 5-10 minutes between tasks and meetings too, to permit for any overruns.
- Research shows that our brains can only hold around seven things at a time, so if you’re extremely busy, and routinely trying to remember lots more than this, it stands to reason that you will forget things.
- So don’t rely on your memory all the time, especially if trying to juggle work tasks with items to add to your shopping list; instead, embrace to-dos. As long as you keep them tidy, and in one place, they can be a lifesaver.
- Carry a notepad in your handbag to write things down as and when you remember, or download an app like Wunderlist, which is great for logging things on the go. It’s surprising the satisfying feeling you get when you check a task off!
Learn to Say No
- If you’ve been asked do something and really don’t have time, don’t be afraid to say no; chances are the person asking didn’t realize how busy you were.
- Why this is important: because it’s always better to have one less job to do (so you can focus on completing the others to a high standard), than to have so many to rush through that none are completed to full potential.
There are a plethora of distractions online just asking to be explored, and whatever your top procrastination pleasure, you need to find a way to cut it down. Ways to do that:
- If you use Skype or chat – and rarely need it for work – turn it off, at least when you have a major task to complete. And if your phone’s not needed at that moment, do the same with it.
- Social media is a popular distraction, so start by deleting any bookmarks from your taskbar to avoid visiting repeatedly. Inevitably, you’ll still head to Twitter every now and then, but the frequency will lessen.
By planning out your day – leisure time included – it’ll help streamline your routine and ensure that things don’t get forgotten. Embrace lists and reminders, and you’ll soon find that your stress levels return to the safe zone.19