Each of us believes that other working women have the secret to time management that has not been shared with us. We look at these women who are impeccably dressed, carrying a briefcase, a healthy packed lunch, and a bottle of water with infusions of herbs and we wonder, “how does she do it all?” and “why do I constantly feel that I have a hundred things still to do?”
When I ask a working mother, “what is the one skill that you would like to develop this year?”, eight out of ten times, the answer is “time management”.
Why is time poverty such a recurring theme?
I strongly believe that there are two reasons that make us feel that we are perpetually short of time
Let us talk about each of these – "we want to do too much"
The first role models we have in our lives are our mothers and grandmothers. If they didn’t work outside the home, they got our uniforms washed and ironed, made the beds, cleaned the house, cooked delicious food and observed every festival, ritual and prayer. We want to be like them. But then, we spend 9 hours at work and 2 hours on commute. There are not enough hours in the day, when we attempt to be ourselves and our mothers.
Let us start by asking, “who am I?”.
Answer – “a successful professional, a homemaker with a family”
All the nouns – professional, homemaker and family – are equally important and meaningful to you. The next question then is, how do you define each of them?
Let us take homemaker – what constitutes one?
Will you be a ‘good’ homemaker only if you do all household chores yourself? How does sweeping and mopping and making the beds add value? Can you use that time for more interesting tasks? Or, are you a successful homemaker if you observe every festival and every ritual – from your parents’ family and from your husband’s family?
Or is it ensuring that the home is comfortable and welcoming to family and friends and as a family, you celebrate the festivals that you enjoy the most and observe only those rituals that are deeply meaningful to you?
The second reason, actually follows from the first –
We need to plan - "more and better"
I recommend a weekly plan instead of a daily routine. When you think ahead and plan for a week, the routine of a working mother runs like a well-oiled machine.
To create that smooth flow, think of what you learn at work – about processes, procedures, and checklists at work. Implementing these at home too can help. A list of activities that must be done during the week can be broken down into tasks that can be done in advance the previous weekend. Once you identify the tasks, for example – grocery shopping for the week, menu-planning (including lunch and snack boxes), planning what to wear over the week, having multiple sets of uniforms and shoes ready, etc., lead to checklists that can be used to reduce the stress caused by thinking-on-the-fly during the work week
Other tasks that pop up at different times, for example, doctor visits, PTA meetings, birthday parties or other social commitments. What can you do ahead of time to prepare (retrieving the doctor’s file, buying the birthday gift, etc), that give you breathing room during the week?
Each of us will need to customise this list for ourselves. As you plan, your planning efficiency will improve. You’ll find shortcuts, workarounds and as your family observes you, they too will start contributing ideas – it can then become a family goal – “create a hassle-free daily routine”.
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