I have always been one with a tendency to cram as much as humanly possible into a 24-hr period. Before I had children I routinely logged 14 hour days, first in corporate America, then as an entrepreneur…and I ran marathons, loved entertaining, and, and, and…
What can I say, I like being busy!
But having kids changed everything.
Well, not everything. My desire to do a lot remained in tact.
Sadly though, the number of hours in the day did not magically expand to accommodate the new additions to my family. As I headed back to work, I struggled to maintain my previous level of productivity given the entirely new reality of having to start later and finish earlier.
I made a lot of mistakes.
At first, I threw all “me” nurturing activities right out the window (after all, I’d say to myself, “isn’t work really ‘me’ time?”). Then I crashed & burned. My husband literally begged me to find a creative or physical outlet.
I time-shifted a lot of thinking work to the quiet evening hours after the kids went to bed. But then my husband and I slowly started to grow apart…
I did work after everyone in the house was asleep. That lasted until my body got down on its knees and begged for more sleep via a bout with pneumonia.
It took me awhile, but I eventually got my sea legs. One thing I learned along the way: there are five big time traps that working women should avoid at all costs.
The Five Time Traps
- Responding to everything immediately For some reason women tend to feel obligated to reply to someone or pick up a phone right away, when it’s really not necessary. Maybe it’s because you don’t want to be rude. Maybe it’s because it feels urgent. Stop. A study by HP showed a 10-point drop off in IQ when someone is distracted by an incoming call or email. That’s more than twice the impact smoking pot has on your IQ! If you have a pavlovian response to alerts, turn them off when you are doing something and make standing ‘appointments’ to check messages and emails.
- Procrastinating online Be honest, how much time are you spending surfing the internet during the day? Sadly, 61 percent of employees admit that they spend at least some time surfing non work-related websites during the work day. According to AOL and Salary.com, 44.7% of workers said surfing the Web was the biggest distraction in their workplace. The same survey found that, on average, employees waste over two hours a day online. The problem is, we tend to surf in 15-20 minute increments of time, saying to ourselves “well, I don’t have enough time do really focus on and do x, y, z – so I’ll just see what’s happening on Facebook.” It’s a slippery slope. Wear a rubber band around your wrist and every time you find yourself mindlessly surfing at work, snap it against your wrist. Awareness is the first step to recovering that lost time.
- Skipping the menu planning Not only will a lack of a plan cause your stress to skyrocket every day around 4:30pm, but without one you waste time at the grocery store, waste money (the average American family throws out almost $600 worth of meat, produce and grains that have gone bad each year), and waste precious moments with your family because you’re dinner plans aren’t buttoned up. There are so many great tools for overcoming your meal planning avoidance: online menu-planning services, like The Six O’Clock Scramble, free printables, and great blogs, like 5DollarDinners.
- Skipping exercise When you’re feeling time-crunched, it’s often the first thing to go. But studies show workday workouts improve your time management skills by 28%, your ability to concentrate by 26%, and your overall productivity by 25%. Your boss will benefit, you will benefit, the people you love will benefit. Stop shortchanging yourself and everybody else in the name of saving time.
- Keeping a work-only to-do list How you keep your lists isn’t important. That you keep a list – and include all areas of your life on it – is. Life with children is complex, if you insist on carrying around all of those personal to-do’s in your head, you (a) waste time and energy trying to remember what’s on that list and feeling insecure you don’t, and (b) will perceive that you have more on your plate than you actually do. Reduce the noise in your head and see the big picture with a comprehensive list.
I suppose I will continue to go through, cycles of readjustment as my boys grow up. But for now, I make a real effort to steer clear of these traps.
What about you, do you fall prey to any bad time sucks? Was your re-entry to work as bumpy as mine?