So Much to Do – So Little Time, Women in Business

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Women in Business

time saved is money earnedAccording to a recent survey, flexible work hours (73%), the ability to work from home or remotely at times (61%) and a helpful partner who shares in responsibilities at home (65%) were important for working mothers to overcome the daily struggle of achieving balance.

Here are Ten Tips to help you get a little closer to work-life harmony throughout the year:

1. Design a plan. Not all bosses will proactively offer a flexible work schedule. If you want it, present a plan to your manager outlining how you will execute a flexible schedule. Details about how you will continue to fulfill your responsibilities, how you will report in and when you will or will not be in the office should be included in the plan. Be ready to negotiate or modify your vision based on the feedback from your employer.

2. Request flexible work hours. With the technology available today, working a 9 to 5 schedule isn’t always necessary. Today’s managers understand this. While it’s important to be in the office for face-to-face meetings and to build camaraderie, there are times when working remotely or from home should be permitted.

3. Split the work week between home and office. Recently, Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer faced a firestorm of criticism when she took away the ability for employees to work remotely. This extreme approach may not be necessary for all businesses. Working three days in the office and two days at home, or in a flexible workspace, can create an environment that will better meet the needs of both businesses and working mothers.

4. Set benchmarks with defined deadlines. While supervisors let go of their line-of-sight management style, they still need to know your work will get done in a timely manner. Maintain open lines of communications with your manager to ensure all projects are up-to-date.

5. Have a childcare plan in place. Children can get sick. Very sick. Especially when they are in daycare. Without question, there will be times when mothers need time off to care for their children. However, when you are working from home, children can be a real distraction. Having a childcare plan for when you are not available will reduce stress and give you peace of mind.

6. Reduce your commute. So much time is wasted each day on lengthy commutes to the office. This time could be better spent with your family. Instead of commuting during peak business hours, drop into a business centre near your home to get caught up on some work and be productive opposed to sitting in traffic.

7. Find a flexible workplace close to home. Working from home isn’t always the ideal option for mothers. There can be many disturbances and a home office may not be properly equipped to conduct business.

8. Limit business travel. Help your company reduce travel expenses and spend more time at home. For meetings that can be done virtually, host a video conference or use Skype. These digital meetings keep you at home while in touch with colleagues and clients.

9. Get organized. Have a master calendar on your smartphone and at home. The calendar at home lets your family know what your commitments are for the day, week and month ahead. And make your morning routine less chaotic by doing family prep work like making lunches, choosing clothes and packing up homework the night before.

10. Prioritize. Not every day is going to go as planned and you simply can’t be in multiple locations at the same time. Your partner and your children need to understand this. Don’t feel guilty about your decisions. Ultimately, things will come up at work that may prevent you from attending some school-related functions, don’t beat yourself up with guilt. You can always try to make it the next one!

BONUS

Too Little Time, BY FRANCES LEFKOWITZ

Whatever your issue — procrastination, perfectionism, lateness — here are inspired ideas and smart solutions to get time back on your side

woman-hanging-on-clock-mdnFor busy women — and who isn’t busy these days? — daily life is a constant negotiation between the things that need to be done and the time available to do them. That means we’re always on the lookout for shortcuts and time-saving strategies, but often those don’t go far enough. We wind up stressed out and disheartened, feeling as if time manages us.

“Our time habits are much more complex than we credit them for being,” says Diana DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged. “Research shows that solving problems like procrastination or chronic lateness is not just about learning some new tips; it’s about recognizing and adapting to your underlying personality characteristics.

For most of us, the ‘just do it’ mentality is just not the way to make changes.”

Time Trap #1 — Procrastination

“I tend to put things off till the last minute and then get stressed because I miss a deadline or I have to cancel things I really want to do. Just looking at my to-do list makes me tired.”

One big problem: Modern life is not only over-full, but it’s bursting with distractions — Facebook, text-messaging, myriad cable TV channels, and more — that make it tough to focus on the tasks at hand. “The temptations have never been easier to access or more virulent. Adam and Eve had an apple tempting them; nowadays our apples are caramel-coated and dipped in chocolate,” says University of Calgary professor Piers Steel, Ph.D., author of The Procrastination Equation, who has spent his career studying time-management issues.

Coming up: how to pinpoint the time traps that bog you down — it’s not uncommon to have more than one — and choose the tools that promise not just a temporary fix, but long-lasting change. The bonus: Understanding how to get time on your side will mean you’ll have more of it to spend on yourself.

Time Trap #1 — Procrastination

“I tend to put things off till the last minute and then get stressed because I miss a deadline or I have to cancel things I really want to do. Just looking at my to-do list makes me tired.”

WHY YOU’RE IN THIS FIX: The tendency to put off work is as old as work itself, says Steel, who believes that procrastination is hardwired into human nature. “We procrastinate because we are impulsive,” he explains, and our overriding impulse is toward immediate gratification. Anything that’s fun and easy and provides an instant reward — like sleeping in, watching TV, or clicking the link to play the latest funny cat video on YouTube — feeds the pleasure centers of the brain. It takes a conscious effort to turn down instant pleasure and hold out for the delayed but deeper satisfaction that comes with completing a task that feels like work. Combine your innate impulsiveness with an environment full of smartphones and designer-discount malls promising quick and cheap thrills, and you’ve got the perfect setup for procrastination.

“I procrastinate with all things not kid-related,” says Chris Denton, 39, who works in product development in Minneapolis. “I wait for the last minute to finish a lot of projects, but I also like working under pressure — and I do get everything done on time, even if I have to stay up late the night before.” Like many procrastinators — and Steel’s research shows that 95 percent of us fall into this category at least occasionally — Denton believes she performs well with a looming deadline. In fact, though motivation peaks then, few of us do our best work when we’ve put things off to the eleventh hour: Studies have shown that when people are under pressure, creativity often suffers.

SIMPLE WAYS OUT: To counter the impulse to grab the immediate pleasure, make temptations harder to satisfy. This can be as simple as hitting the off button on electronics. Unless you’re on call for work or emergencies, try turning off your cell phone for an hour or three — forcing yourself to wait for the phone to boot up lessens the appeal of firing off a text-message. Similarly, if you need to focus on a project at work, turn off your computer’s e-mail indicator. Considering that in one study it took office workers an average of 15 minutes to refocus on work after each e-mail interruption and that it’s not unusual to check your inbox 50 times a day, this one adjustment can easily boost productivity by 10% in a year, says Steel.

Once your temptations are out of sight, make your goals more attractive: doable but challenging, broken down into specific steps (with self-imposed deadlines), aligned with your values. Even chores can feel meaningful if you make them relevant — say, cleaning to prevent allergic reactions.

Since habits are easier to keep than to break, make tasks part of a routine so that doing them becomes automatic. “When something’s not regular, we need a full dose of willpower to get started,” Steel explains. But if you schedule a stretching session every morning from 6:00 to 6:20, it can become your default in as little as two weeks, behavioral research shows.

The common tactic of relying on rewards for motivation to accomplish goals can be a bit tricky, says Steel. Instead he suggests “impulse pairing,” or mixing in a bit of what you like to do with what you have to do. So give yourself some specialty coffee as you pay the bills, or plan to scour the bathroom when you can listen to a favorite radio show. Steel likes games, so when he puts the kettle on for tea, he challenges himself to see how many dishes he can wash before it begins to whistle.

“The number one reason people give for putting things off is that they’re too tired,” says Steel. “The question is, will you be even more tired and feel even worse if you delay?” If it’s 10:00 P.M. on a Monday and you’ve still got laundry to fold and bills to pay, of course you’d prefer to hit the hay. But adding two more tasks to an already jam-packed Tuesday will push something else off until Wednesday, and soon the snowball effect will have rolled right over your whole week, compounding your fatigue.

Finally, if you are convinced you do better with deadlines, simulate the eleventh-hour energy burst by setting your own — a few days ahead of the real ones — and writing them on the calendar in red.

Next: Time trap #2, perfectionism

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