Tuesday, 3 November 2015

How successful women make the most of their time

"So, how are you?" When people ask me how I am, how things are going, I often catch myself replying: “Busy, as usual.” Do you find yourself doing this, too?

In her latest book I Know How She Does It, Laura Vanderkam describes, and draws conclusions from, the strategies that working women employ to create space for their priorities. It contains numerous examples of how women with full lives structure their days to have it all. “Having it all” is defined by Laura as a life involving professional success as well as enough time for personal pursuits.

Combining professional success and personal pursuits

The book obviously is again set in an American context. The women who recorded their time for one week as part of Laura’s "Mosaic Project" had to fulfil the following criteria: a) They had to have an annual income of more than USD 100,000; and b) they had to have at least one child under the age of 18 living at home.

Laura has been criticised for the controlling rigidness of her approach to time management. I, too, had felt slightly put off by her tenet that "a life is lived in hours" and that we should plan carefully how to spend the 168 hours that are available to us each week. With her new book, Laura demonstrates there is indeed nothing rigid about a disciplined and thought-through approach to her time management strategies.

The book sets out not just Laura’s favourite time management strategies, but also offers fantastic ideas on how to seize quality time, how to always hunt for the positive, and generally how to maintain a relaxed approach to life. They are practical ideas that are instantly applicable to everyday life – amidst all its craziness – and in particular when you combine work with raising children.

Just how much life really can get away from you when you’re juggling work and young children became clear to me a couple of years ago when at a get-together with former work colleagues from Bristol’s tourist office, I was told – to my absolute amazement – that Jessica Raine, who had previously worked with us, had, in the meantime, become a national film star.

I hadn’t been aware of this at all as I’d been so busy with work and my young children that I hadn’t met friends or colleagues, let alone found the time to switch on the telly over a prolonged period. I have since, of course, caught up on watching (most of) the “Call the Midwife” episodes. It felt surreal to see Jess on the TV screen! I am so pleased for her, as this is the career Jess had dreamed of!

I know I tend to have trouble carving out time for leisure or to decompress, so I found I Know How She Does It insightful and refreshing. I have drawn a lot of inspiration from it. Next time I’m asked how I am and how thing are going, hopefully my answer will be a bit different: "Busy – but less busy than usual."