Few people are as time-poor as a working mum – juggling your career or business plus family responsibilities. So it’s vital you work smarter, and learn effective time management habits.
With the right time management skills, you can learn to be effective and successful at work or business, and have plenty of time and energy left over for your family and friends. They can also help to reduce stress so you can enjoy your career and home life with less worry.
And the great news is that you can learn time management skills quickly and easily.
12 quick time management tips for working mums
To help you work smarter, we’ve put together 12 quick time management tips for working mums. Read through the list and pick three things you think will make the biggest difference to your life – then practise them over the next month.
Try to work on tasks in order of their importance, rather than urgency. Answering or making a phone call, or responding to someone’s request for help might feel urgent, but it may be better to continue concentrating on what you’re doing and let them know you’ll be free in an hour.
2) Do the most difficult thing first
It’s natural to want to put our most difficult tasks off until last, but this means we have to face them when we have less energy and enthusiasm. If you put aside the first half hour or hour of your day to tackle your most difficult tasks, then the rest of the day will be easy.
3) Be realistic about your limits
There’s no point taking on a new project or task if you know you don’t have time. Instead drop one of your current projects or be honest with your manager or customer about the time you have available.
4) Learn to say no
It’s not always easy saying no to people, but if you take on too much, then you’ll just end up letting yourself and other people down. You’ll feel exhausted, disillusioned, fed up and guilty. You may even feel like you’ve failed.
So, be realistic about your limits and have the confidence to say ‘no’ when you need to. And give your manager the opportunity chance to pass their project or task onto someone who can devote the time needed to complete it properly.
5) Avoid procrastination
There’s a simple tactic to help beat procrastination. If you’re putting something off, book ten minutes into your diary first thing in the morning to work on it. Spend just ten minutes on it, and then stop – and repeat until the task feels easier. (Learn a simple technique to overcome procrastination.)
6) Break big projects into manageable chunks
If a project seems dauntingly big, break it down into manageable chunks and schedule them into your diary for the week ahead. Make each step easy and quick to tackle, and you’ll soon find yourself making steady progress. (Learn how to chunk big goals down into smaller steps.)
7) Make use of lists
Every morning, get into the habit of writing a fresh to-do list for the day ahead, and enjoy the satisfying feeling of ticking each task off as you complete it.
Make sure your list is realistic – nothing is more demoralising than looking at a barely touched list at the end of the day. You could also get into the habit of writing a ‘done’ list at the end of the day, to help you feel satisfied with a great day’s work.
8) Keep your desk tidy
Be honest – how much time do you waste each week hunting for something on your desk or in your drawers? How many piles of paper have you rifled through to find documents that you’re sure you’d put there earlier?
If you get into the habit of keeping your desk tidy, and organising your documents in an efficient filing system (and putting things away the moment you stop using them) you’ll have everything you need to hand when you want it.
9) Stop putting off tasks
How much time and energy do you waste worrying about tasks that you keep putting off? Instead of guiltily delaying them, instead consider whether they’re really necessary.
If they are, tackle them now, or delegate to someone else if you don’t have time. And if they’re not necessary then wipe them off your mental to-do list and focus on your real priorities.
10) Take regular breaks
It’s easy to assume that you don’t have time for breaks – especially if you’re working flexible or part-time hours. But slaving through the day without a break is a false economy of time.
If you don’t give your body and mind a rest, your concentration will fade, you’ll be less creative and you’ll work more slowly. So listen to your body, and take a short break when you find yourself glazing over or feeling tired. And make sure you take proper lunch breaks.
A key element of working smarter is to delegate the right tasks to the right people – ensuring that you have the time and mental capacity to focus on the tasks that only you can do.
This principle applies at home too – don’t be afraid of sharing out some of the home responsibilities to your children, giving them tasks that are suitable for their age. (Learn how to delegate successfully.)
12) Reward yourself
Make the most of that lovely, satisfying feeling of completing a big or difficult task. Enjoy a well-deserved coffee break, or plan an evening out with your partner or friends.
Taking a bit of time off to savour your success ensures you approach the next big tasks with renewed energy and enthusiasm, ready to work efficiently and successfully once again.
What to do if you’re feeling overwhelmed
If you’re reading this article because you frequently feel overwhelmed at work or home, you’re not alone. It’s easy for stress to build up slowly over time, and before we realise it we’re snapping at our colleagues and family without reason, and feeling like we’re a grumpy failure.
If you do feel overwhelmed there are a number of things you can do:
- Ask for support – don’t struggle on in silence. Let your manager at work know that you’re finding it difficult to cope and ask for support, and agree a strategy. Speak up at home too – be honest with your family and friends and ask for their advice. Sometimes just voicing how we feel can be a relief.
- Take time off – if you’re really struggling, take a couple of days off work to relax. Ask your manager if you can use up some holiday time, or speak to your doctor. It’s much better to take a couple of days off now, rather than let things build up to a point where you need much longer to recover.
- Don’t make any big decisions – it’s never a good idea to make big decisions when you’re feeling stressed or depressed. It’s easy to view everything in our life through a negative lens. So wait until you’re feeling positive, confident and in control before you consider any important, life-changing decisions.
- Talk it through – when you’re ready, sit down with a friend or colleague and talk through the problems you’ve been having, and where the pressure is coming from (it may be external, or it could be from yourself). Ask for their perspective and advice and try to come up with some solutions between you.
- Notice the warning signs – make a list of the warning signs you noticed as you were becoming more overwhelmed, for example it may be working late, losing your appetite, feeling miserable in the mornings. Memorise the list and make a plan of action you can take if you notice them happening again.
Practise healthy time management habits and stop stress in its tracks
As working mums we have a lot on our plate, but with healthy time management skills, we can comfortably and successfully achieve everything we need to each day, and enjoy our work and home life.
So get into the habit of putting at least three of our tips into practise over the next month, and see what difference you notice in your life. And be vigilant for any signs you aren’t coping well, and tackle your stress quickly – so you’re soon feeling happy and confident once again.Hannah Martin