I started writing this article very optimistically, some weeks ago. And then I got sidetracked because apparently I DON'T KNOW SQUAT ABOUT TIME MANAGEMENT! Read at your own risk.
- A Routine. If you don't know what time your work day begins, your time will slip away in between the dish washing and the school drops and the grocery trips. Pick your work hours, and commit to them. Many parents find early mornings productive, before the rest of the family is up. If you have kids that insist on waking in the pre-dawn hours, your productive time may be late in the evening. School hours are a boon, but nap times are fiendishly unreliable (tired toddlers KNOW when you have a deadline). Most kids are happiest to entertain themselves with toys earlier in the day rather than later, so remember that you can work with them nearby.
- Flexibility (The opposite of Routine). It's all very well announcing that you will check your emails in the peaceful hour between 6 and 7 a.m, but if you have kids you know they will pick that time to prune your indoor ficus with the craft scissors. Be ready to drop everything if you hear clattering in the kitchen. Be flexible with space too - Many great businesses started out at the kitchen table. I have found the long waits in ER quite convenient for deleting messages on my phone, editing my calendar and tidying out my handbag.
- Collaborators. You need to join groups with similar interests, whether you meet up in real life or just exchange ideas online. I cannot stress enough the value of a cup of tea with a like-minded grownup. It makes sense to hire help, too, whether it is housekeeping help, editing services or an occasional babysitter.
- A Sense of Reality. You may think that you can get that article written or those curtains sewn up in two weeks, but give yourself some leeway, so that when little Jamie comes home from school with the vomity bug, and gives it to the rest of the family, and then you get it, you still have (counts on fingers) two and a half days to finish the job. It is more professional to deliver early than to call your client and say, "I am terribly sorry Mister Smith, I will deliver your job a week late due to GAH, DON'T STEP IN THAT!"
- A Time Machine. You may occasionally find you have twenty minutes of un-allocated, child free time. You are a parent. You KNOW you can fit an hour's work into twenty minutes. Do it!
- A Sense of Humour. A positive attitude is productive! Take the time to stop, laugh, and see the beauty and joy in the chaos. Before you know it, the kids will grow into teenagers. You will get home and say "I'm back!" and they'll grunt, "Oh, you were out? Did you bring pizza?" If nothing else, your maniacal laughter will worry them and they might pick their socks up off the floor.