In my previous blog post, The Power of Balance, I shared that the key to balancing my life is time management. It’s easier said than done, so how do I manage my time to be able to do it all?
Finding an effective work-life balance is a challenge every woman faces. From managing her personal life, home, business or work, and children, it can be overwhelming. In this article, I will share my favorite time-saving hacks that make me more productive and manage my time most effectively. Saving a few minutes from each task adds up over the day and can free up valuable time if you manage it efficiently.
Time management is something you need to master over time, it doesn’t come to you overnight. The key skills you should focus on are:
- Set goals
- Manage your stress
These skills are important because they help you structure your work. While most people apply these skills towards only their work, I find that applying these skills both to your work and personal/home life helps you succeed overall in managing your time.
Time Management at Home
Let's start with your home because if your house isn't in order then nothing else will be.
Cleaning: Living in Dubai we are spoilt with full-time or part-time help and by all means go for it if you are able to as it takes care of all the cleaning chores and frees up a lot of time.
If you aren’t able to hire help, then set aside time daily or weekly to clean the house. Assign household chores among your family members to take the load off you. I’m a strong believer in teaching kids from a young age and the best way to do this is to give them some responsibility by giving them daily chores. These simple chores can include:
- Making their bed
- Tidying up their bedroom
- Setting/ cleaning up the dining table before/after meals
- Loading/unloading the dishwasher
- Folding laundry
Make it fun by adding incentives such as weekly pocket money or extra screen time so they feel rewarded.
Cooking: Coming up with ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is every mother’s nightmare not to mention how much time you waste thinking of what to make. What’s made it considerably easier for me is a weekly meal plan. You must be thinking how can I possibly stick to a meal plan? Well, in all honesty, I don’t, but the trick is to make a plan that has some simple recipes and some not so simple. This way, if I have a last-minute meeting or errand to run, then I can switch Monday’s lunch with Wednesday’s!
There are days when things don’t go as planned. A meeting goes longer than expected or my errands took longer than I had planned. At times like these I order food and my go-to app is Deliveroo simply because they are always on time! So, by the time I’m home, so is my food.
Groceries: If you’re as forgetful as me then write down a weekly grocery list to take with you. I keep my grocery list on my notes on my phone and during the week if anything runs out, I add it to my list. Look over your weekly meal plan to ensure you’ve got everything you need on your grocery list. I find Saturday morning between 10-11 is the best time to do groceries. If you go earlier, you don’t get the fresh vegetables because suppliers come in around 8-9 am, and if you go later most of the good stock is gone. Plus, when you shop on a Saturday you’re all set for the week when you have more important tasks to handle.
If you’re comfortable with ordering groceries online, then this saves you a few hours of the grocery trip. I have tried many apps, but my favorite ones are the Carrefour and Instashop apps and the Green app for fruits and vegetables as they are always fresh.
Laundry: It’s never-ending, no matter how many loads I do, my hampers are never empty! Having said that, I take out the laundry at night before going to bed so that I don’t have to sort it out in the morning. This way I just have to pop it into the machine in the morning.
A laundry app that I absolutely love and use weekly for my bedding and towels is Washmen. They recently launched their Homecare pink bag which is exclusively for linens, you can fit 12 items in the pink bag for a flat fee of AED 65.00! I just leave the bag outside my door, few clicks on the app, and I get notified once the bag is picked up and dropped off. How efficient is that, you gotta love technology.
Errands: Have you ever had a situation where you needed to pick up something but were stuck at home with the kids and couldn’t get out? An extremely useful app and my go-to for document collections, cheque pick-ups, and basically anything I needed collected from point A and delivered to point B is the ViaMe app. They are an instant delivery service that guarantees pickup and delivery within 2 hours for just AED 50 within Dubai. How cool is that?
The reason I’m sharing all this is that although women can do it all, they shouldn't have to. It’s ok to get help, whether from your family members, hired help, or using technology to your advantage. These apps are made to make your life simple so use them!
Time Management at Work
Now that our house is in order, let’s get down to business.
Create a to-do list: As tech-savvy as I am, when it comes to to-do lists, I go old school with a notebook. I create a to-do list every morning and list my tasks from most important to least important. Then I go through the list and finish my tasks one by one. At the end of the day, I review my list and jot down notes on my tasks for the next day to help me create the list again in the morning. I’m very forgetful (as you may have realized by now) so I’ve found this to be very useful and at the same time helps me put my thoughts together and get prepared for the next day.
Delegate Tasks: My OCD tendencies and being a perfectionist have hindered me from letting others do the work for me. But the one important thing that I’ve learned from my husband is to delegate tasks as it increases productivity and frees up your time. Plus, if you delegate well you are training people to do tasks you no longer wish to do. My husband introduced me to an app called Slack which has made delegation simple and effective. Slack is a business communication platform that helps you manage all your tasks, and projects in one app. It brings your whole team together and you can monitor the status of each task assigned. It’s been a lifesaver for me when we started different businesses and I had various roles and teams to supervise.
Finish the dreaded tasks first: I always do the tasks I dread the most first because I’m more focused in the morning. Once these tasks are out of the way I have time to do the tasks I enjoy. So even if I’m less energetic later in the day it doesn’t bother me as much because I enjoy doing the tasks that are left.
Stay organized and declutter your workspace: Clutter adds stress to your life and takes attention away from important tasks. I like to organize my desk every weekend and clear away the clutter that piled up during the week so that I’m ready for the new week ahead.
Pay attention to your peak performance times: We all have a time during the day when we are performing at our peak. For me, it’s early in the morning, and once the kids have gone to bed. It’s at these times that I aim to get all my work done. I try to avoid working late so I only leave the tasks that have next-day deadlines until the kids have gone to bed.
Tips for Effective Time Management
Here are some tips that have helped me improve my time management over time.
Avoid multi-tasking: You must’ve heard the saying that women multitask well. Did you know that in reality, only 2.5% of people are able to multitask effectively? Instead, learn to block time and minimize distractions during this time. I work on one task at a time from my to-do list, complete it, and move on to the next. It may sound counterproductive but in fact putting your focus on one task, completing it, taking a break, and then moving on to the next task will help you achieve more.
Plan your day and divide your time: I always plan my day the night before, from what time I’ll get up to the meetings I have and how I’ll manage the meals. As Benjamin Franklin said, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." It is 100% accurate because the days that I don’t plan turn out to be chaotic and the least productive.
Now, what do I mean divide your time? Let me give you an example. I am a part of 3 different businesses, so I divide my day into 3 blocks and dedicate each block to tasks for one business. Depending on the priority of the tasks for each business, I may spend the morning completing tasks for business A, then take a break, spend the early afternoon completing tasks for business B, and then leave tasks for business C for after lunch. I mix it up every day depending on the priority of the tasks for each business. I have found this approach to be extremely effective as I focus on one business at a time rather than trying to juggle all of them at once.
Use a calendar app: When you’re juggling so many roles you are bound to forget something. I know I do. My work-related meetings are all synced with my calendar automatically. For my personal appointments, kids' play dates, birthday parties, doctor's appointments, and any other important dates I always mark it on my phone calendar with a reminder set to make sure I don’t forget.
Take breaks: Trying to get through the entire day without taking breaks is not productive. Believe it or not, you’re more productive when you take little breaks now and then. I find it very useful to take breaks in between tasks. It also helps to give my eyes a rest and for me to get up from my desk and stretch my legs a bit.
Get up earlier: I find it very peaceful and less stressful when I get up before everyone else, have my cup of tea and watch the news, respond to all my emails, and check my social media. This way I’ve got it all out of the way and am ready to tackle the day once the kids are up.
So, there you have it, all the hacks I use on a daily basis to manage my time as effectively as possible. Overwhelmed? Don’t be. It took me years to master my time management skills. Start with the hacks you can implement easily and work your way through the skills. I’ll tell you a little secret, there are days when I don’t manage my time well at all and I’m all over the place. But you know what, that’s ok. The important thing is to be able to bounce back and get on track the next day.