Returning to work after having a child was a shock in many ways, but possibly the greatest was how it upended all my thoughts on 'time management'. I was suddenly constrained by set working hours and a hard deadline for nursery pick-up. I permanently felt that I was running to catch up with myself, and I speak to many coaching clients who feel the same way.
Juggling two jobs - professional and personal - isn’t easy, and the risk of burnout and overwhelm is real.
With that in mind, here are my three top tips...
1) Manage your energy, not your time
Different tasks require different levels and types of energy from us. At the same time, we draw our energy from different places. Building an understanding of your own energy levels is the key to managing them effectively.
Take some time to map your attention or energy levels throughout the day for a period of a week or so, to see where it ebbs and flows, and use this to plan how and when you manage different types of work.
For example, if you feel clear headed and focused in the mornings, block off an hour or two before you do anything else for core projects. If you start slowly, try booking in an early catch up with a colleague to get you into the swing of things. If you find working with big groups exhausting, try to make sure you schedule in a quieter few hours afterwards to recover.
We can’t always control the shape of our day, but if you try and organise your schedule in line with your natural preferences wherever possible, it can help you feel less overwhelmed.
2) Focus on where you’re adding the most value
If you are working fewer hours, or simply need to leave on time, then it’s very unlikely you will be able to do everything that you’re asked to. This is where the ability to prioritise is essential.
The first question will probably be: what are the core things that my role needs to deliver? This can help you focus on the tasks that will have the most impact. But the other important question to ask is: where do I personally add the most value?
This is about recognising your own strengths – the things you do better than others around you. It might be that you are great at getting other people on board with a project, so you want to focus your time on that rather than on updating the Gantt chart. Maybe you’re great at coming up with creative ideas, but are better off delegating the logistics.
Focusing on where you personally have the most impact will help you feel more confident and effective.
3) Recharge regularly
You’re probably familiar with all the usual wellbeing advice – take breaks, eat well, move regularly, sleep. It can feel hard to manage all of this on top of working and parenting, but it really does make a difference.
Schedule in some regular time to rest – by which I mean taking some time to do something entirely for yourself and that you enjoy, whether that be sitting on the sofa and doing nothing or going for a walk in the nearest park. Recharging your batteries regularly, before they run out, will mean you’re able to keep going for longer.
I hope these tips are helpful – I’d love to know what you think and hear about anything you’d add.
This article was written by Ruth Richards, one of our partner coaches. Ruth is an executive coach, working with senior and developing leaders to help them feel calm, confident and in control. You can find out more in her coach profile: www.careeringintomotherhood.com/ruth-richards.