Choose or Lose? How Time Aware Mothers Can Do What They Love

Posted on September 23, 2013

I was shopping for school shoes (for the first time in my life) on Friday. My boys started school two weeks ago, and yes, I only got to the shop last week. I considered it a non-critical task as they had something that would do for the first couple of days in Reception year (for non-UK readers, its 4 to 5 year olds). Clarks offers kid’s shoe fitting service, which sounded great when I first arrived to the store that afternoon with my two boys. After 5 minutes the boys were wildly running around the store and it became painfully clear that I would never have the patience to wait until the women before me would be able to decide what shoes she’d get to her 2 year old girl. The poor girl was trying on endless number of shoes and sandals. I grabbed the feet measuring device, quickly figured out the shoe size and started fitting what ever black shoes I got my hands on to my boys myself, (much to the disapproval of the second sales assistant who did not serve kid’s department). I got the job done under 15 minutes and was out of there. I really didn’t care which model the shoes were as long as they fit. They all seemed equally ugly, were all over priced and I thought would do the job.

I kept thinking about the lady who was still fitting her little girl shoes when I left. Did she not have anything better to do? Were those shoes such a critical task on her to-do-list that she wanted to allocate possibly an hour for this? Would she be a woman who’d answer in a survey ‘Do you have enough time to do the things you love?’ negatively. Most likely.

According to a study of over 3,000 women, approximately half of all women say they don’t have enough time to do the things they love for themselves. Almost 70% say work doesn’t interfere with their free time, it’s the chores they have to do at home.

I’m not going to start the discussion on division of chores between the other fully capable adult member of the family, but I’m sure a lot could be done there. This blog post is about trying to find a more productive and more ‘time aware‘ person within ourselves to be able to do more of those things that actually create energy, fulfilment and happiness. At the end, if we don’t invest in ourselves we will soon run out of steam and won’t be able to care for those who we love.

Ellen Galinsky, president and cofounder of the Families and Work Institute says “We can’t think of [free time] as dessert. This is nutrition.”

How to find time to be who we want to be? How to allow us to be the woman who used to love so many things before having kids? We want to bring back the person who is not just a mother, she is also a woman, a lover and a thinker and doer, a professional career woman or a business person. She used to be an ass kicker, right!

1) Understand difference between critical and non-critical decisions

Time is our most valuable asset yet we keep wasting it like it was going out of fashion. There are number of studies that tell you how many days or years you spend sleeping or queuing. Someone should conduct a study for women to see how much time we spend making non-critical decisions. Let’s stay with the earlier example of buying shoes for the 2 year old. As long as the shoe fits and is pretty, what difference does it really make? If I had the luxury of one hour this lady spend in the shoe store I would have chosen to use it entirely differently. It would have been 15 minutes for the shopping and 45 minutes for reading an interesting article on Forbes and Inc.

How you’d spend that ‘freed’ 45 minutes is completely up to you, but try now to see your weekly chores in a critical light to extract 40 minutes here and 30 minutes there. Even all the wasted 5 minute bits add up. What would you do if you had an extra 4 hours to spend on yourself each week?

2) Don’t waste time pleasing non-critical people

We also waste time because we seem to be in constant competition between other women about a) how we look, b) how smart our kids are, c) how we run our household. Some women spend endless hours to look great for the school run and now the women’s glossies even have the ‘school run runway columns. Goodness! I really don’t wash my hair if I haven’t done my morning run (not school run, my personal 5k morning run), which is much more important than showing up to the school gate perfect. (And in the long run, I look great because I do go running three times a week!)

Evaluate the discussions you have with other mothers, are they all entirely useful or is a lot of  it bragging and non-sense? Try to free yourself from useless banter if it doesn’t serve a purpose or if the discussion itself isn’t high enough quality to lift your spirits and bring you joy. This may sound harsh but I don’t try to make friends with everybody or engage in long conversations about my off-spring. I have work that I’m passionate about and I want to get back to that as soon as possible. You too must start getting rid off time-wasters.

3) Don’t over-do standard work

Women waste endless hours being over critical about household tasks such as cleaning and cooking. The playroom don’t have to be tidied up every night (just close the door) and the food don’t always need to be gourmet. You must start understanding when A++ work is required and when B- is just fine. Lower your standards to raise your standards else where.

4) Delegate or outsource, if you can

The above mentioned study also found that 45% of women wouldn’t hire more household help and 69% wouldn’t hire child care even when it if they could afford it. Surely a woman who’s emotionally and physically happy is going to be a better mother than one who drives herself into martyrdom by clinging onto every single task of running a household? (I’m going to expand on ‘mother guild‘ later this week in this blog so stay tuned..)

5) Bundle your tasks

Allocate one evening per week for arranging family related chores from ordering birthday presents, arranging trips, buying school uniforms (on-line), and paying for school dinners. Don’t jump on tasks as they come up, just calmly write them down and let them wait until your next ‘admin evening’. Most tasks can wait and will take much less time when bundled up together.

6) When you have time, use it

I love this infograph by Slummy Single Mummy for mothers working from home. Actually it sums up pretty much everything. Procrastination and wasting time on non-business related social media may be the top time wasters. To avoid this, you should spend time figuring out what you are really passionate about and are you doing what you love. When you connect with who you are it’s pretty easy to know how to spend any spare time you have as you can’t wait to continue your project!

7) Let people know why you are ‘cutting corners’

It may be a new thing to the family if mother is not standing next to the dishwasher ready to fill it up at all times. So let people around you know why they need to pick up their own dirty laundry now and why husband has to find his evening meal from the freezer. It’s because you want to do something for yourself and feel more energised. (Besides, when time is allocated correctly there is more time to cook the husband a great meal too..!)

Don’t let short term pressure to ruin your long term goals! At the end of the day, you can follow as many efficiency tips as you like but to succeed, you have to change your attitude towards time and start valuing it as your best asset. Make every minute count!

For further reading we recommend:

Blog: DrivenWoman Blog, ‘Time Audit

Book: ‘4 hour work week‘, by Tim Ferris

Book: Womenomics: Work Less, Achieve More, Live Better, by Clare Shipmand and Kay Katty

Please share your ideas and stories on how you are creating more time to do what you want? Do you agree mothers are happier if they also work on their own projects?

Have a great and productive week, what ever your passion!

~ Miisa

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