As a working mother, making the most out of 24 hours in a day is critical and keeping all the different components of my life synchronised can be difficult. There are ways to have a successful career without jeopardising your home life though. Here are my four key pieces of advice for getting more out of your day:
(1) Set your own rules
Our bodies work in cycles, and everybody’s is different – we all have times of the day that are more productive than others and likewise there are parts of our day which just are non-negotiable. It’s about understanding what works best for you, your family, your employer or employees and adjusting your day accordingly. If you are lucky enough to have a firm that champions flexible working, arrange your hours to help you balance the elements of your life successfully.
With many office jobs, a lot of what we do each day can be completed at home or in the evening so there is no necessity to be tethered to a desk early in the morning or late at night. For example, I organise my day so that I wake up with my little girl each morning, dress her, eat breakfast with her and take her to nursery before heading to the office. And, on most days, I’m back to bathe her and put her to bed. I usually work through lunch and sometimes in the evening once my daughter is in bed. It’s crucial to identify what is important to you and find ways to make your day work for you. I work five days per week but have quality time with my daughter everyday. That was my non-negotiable.
(2) Work smarter, not harder
To get the most out of your working day, find ways in which you can work smarter and more effectively. There is no substitute for efficiency. Try grouping together tasks to be more productive – for example, only checking your emails a few times a day at scheduled intervals can help to focus your mind on the important tasks at hand without getting distracted. Emails are not the only drain on your time. Lengthy conversations with colleagues, trips to the kettle or a quick visit on your social media sites sap your productivity. Keep these activities to your lunch break.
The same approach should also be employed at home. I have a master list of all household tasks to be completed everyday pinned to the fridge door. That means my husband and I both know what we need to accomplish before we can relax without racking our brains each day or missing anything important. We work together to make sure our family is fed and clothed, home is clean and the dog walked which means we maximise the time we have together in an evening.
(3) Be wise with which events you attend
As a lawyer, networking is a crucial part of the job description. There is so much value in getting out of the office and interacting with other professionals – you never know who might need your expertise in future. However, networking events, seminars or social drinks can take a lot of time out of your day and can keep you away from your family in the evening, so do be selective.
Once you have picked key events to attend, get the most out of your time there by focusing on one or two individuals you want to meet and make sure to follow up that meeting within twenty-four hours in order to cement the relationship and make sure it was worth your time in the first place.
(4) Don’t feel guilty for having a career
Don’t feel guilty for choosing to go back to work. Your child will thank you for setting them the very best example. Guilt is a wasted emotion; don’t allow it to eat into your day. Don’t feel guilty for accessing help either – whether it’s from your partner, family or someone you employ. It is impossible to do everything so don’t try, you’re setting yourself up to fail.
It is possible for women to have a top flight career and a great home life – it just takes some juggling. Choose your firm carefully, and if you’re not feeling supported at your current company, search for one where you will, that has true family values at its core.
Emma Gill is director and head of the Manchester office at leading family law firm Vardags.
There’s no shortage of discussion in the media about the potential perils of the so called “always on” culture and not least, the part played by mobile technology in muddying of the boundaries between work and life.
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