I was always a very spontaneous person with not much intention for pre-planning or time management. Although I could overcome school and university pressure with my non planned nature due to lots of family support but living far away from parents and relatives in a distant foreign land for years with a child to look after, a demanding job to work upon and lots of house chores and social events to be attended I have unknowingly started depending on some effective time management skills. While juggling through the busy days these tips provide me some silent and secure moments of my own.
1. Dairy: Keeping a small diary containing all important phone numbers from, work colleagues, close friends, Doctors, School, Baby sitter, nearby takeaways and restaurants, and taxi depot and so on. This helps to contact with the baby sitter on getting late at work or to make an appointment with the doctor during emergency, saves a lot time on searching and reduces stress.
2. Strategic Scheduling: Having a wall calendar with day to day spacing where the important activities like conferences, appointment with doctors, examinations, invitations, and birthdays are filled out for the whole family in the beginning of the month. Detailed time scheduling for each day are then done on weekly basis. This allows everybody to know about each other schedules and helps all the members of the family to effectively coordinate with each other. Additionally personal dairy/Online calendar (e.g. Google Calendar) can also be used by each family member to enter all the activities.
3. ‘To do’ list: Hanging a shopping list on the wall of the kitchen and filling it up over the week saves a lot of time thinking about what grocery and other essential items we need to buy during weekend shopping. Similarly a ‘To do’ list on the office table for the whole day or before the beginning of a new project prevents lots of stress and confusion at work. Same approach can be taken for children’s daily activities chart containing small symbols (for small children) of their activities so that they can understand.
4. Selectively Procrastinate or Prioritize: Follow the rule of 80:20 (or Pareto’s principle) i.e. if thought carefully over our daily work schedule we will find that 20% of our daily work schedule is most important and can give us 80% of value , satisfaction or earnings. Over the weekdays it is not necessary to go for shopping or vacuum cleaning every day or clean the closet or to chat with the neighbor or friends on phone for long hours.
5. Separate office and home: During working hours trying to concentrate on office duties and keeping a fixed time of 30 minutes for personal mails, social networking, telephoning home or to husband provides a sense of responsibility fulfillment and same approach at home helps to wipe of the guilty of not being there for long hours.
6. Delegate: It is most difficult task but very effective for time management. At work try to delegate some works to your subordinates or colleagues instead of looking after about all the details of a given project. Ignore being perfectionist and avoid being critical for small mistakes. At home also cooking, cleaning, and dusting, when done together allows a lot of family time for sharing thoughts, jokes and laughter.
7. Cooking two meals at a time: Always try to cook little extra to use it twice or two prepare some thing else form the leftover. For example while cutting various vegetables to cook mixed vegetable curry keeping some sliced vegetable in deep freeze can be useful to make vegetable Chow mein for next days evening snacks. While preparing boneless chili chicken, a portion of marinated chicken can be kept and can be baked later as chicken nuggets by sprinkling some flour, crushed cornflakes and peanuts on them. Left over mutton kebabs can be sliced into small pieces and mixed with cucumber, tomato, onions and olives as a filling for pita bread or mutton roll.
8. Using waiting time: Keeping a magazine or interesting book of short stories in hand bag can provide real good time while sitting in the waiting room of the dentist or other doctor or while traveling in train.
9. Using weekends: Few hours of a weekend can be used for arranging the clothes needed for the whole week by all the family members. This saves a lot of time in the morning rush hours. Children above 4 will have fun in choosing their own clothes, socks and other accessories. Some extra meals can be prepared and freezed for weekly dinners. Dry snacks like nuts, biscuits or crackers can be arranged in small boxes to be used as snacks for children/parents at school/office.
10. Proper organization: Using properly named and labeled file management system for office cupboards and computer saves lots of searching time. It is necessary to take back ups of computer data in regular intervals to avoid harassment from any accident or data loss. At home also organizing and keeping specific place for all items saves lots of time in hurry. Like shoes always in shoe rack, mobile phones, keys, cards in special place. Library books/ CDs or DVDs once read, heard or seen should be kept in a special bag or place. Medicines should always be in the medicine cabinet and out of reach from children. Craft and art material needed by children can be kept in particular container and should be used only at writing/craft table. Tea and breakfast arrangements in a separate place can save a lot of time searching things in the morning.
11. Non perfectionism: Sometimes (especially after finishing a deadline or a big task or during holidays) it is essential to let go all the pressure, stress and time management strategies just to attain relaxation. It is essential to regain energy for the next schedule by spending sometime in utter laziness. It is alright if amidst of our 24/7 work schedule we don’t feel like cooking sometimes or once in a while if we don’t run after our children if they don’t brush their teeth after dinner.