Love it or hate it, the lives of working parents can be extremely stressful. Whether you’re part time or full time, office based or home working, the struggle (and the juggle) are very real. It’s a whole new ball game. In fact, for some, work can seem like a break. A piece of normality and order in amongst the organised chaos of family life.
I know what I’m talking about. I returned to work when my son was seven months old, fitting my full time 40 hour role in to three days a week. My husband works a full forty hour week. We’re doing up a house, juggling two highly pressured jobs, working 20+ hours a week on here and trying to keep the dog alive. Oh yes, and we’re also raising our son. We’ve had to learn to adjust our lives in order to make it work but the reality is I wouldn’t have it any other way. Here’s what we’ve learnt in our new roles as working parents.
Nine Time-Saving Tips For Working Parents
1. Do Your Prep
Avoid the rush in the morning and prep the night before. Lay out clothes, pack lunches and ensure shoes, hats and coats are all in place. A little pre-prep can make all the difference to your stress levels in the morning, and the speed that you get to leave the house. You can take it one step further and prep outfits for the week – just pile them up in day order and stack them neatly making them easy to grab each morning.
2. Use Your Lunch Break Wisely
Remember that break in the middle of the day when you’d sit back with a magazine or catch up on Twitter? Forget it. By planning to do some of your jobs during the day, it removes the pressure on the evenings or weekends. If you can’t manage to cram your shopping in to a lunch break then use it to pay bills, make important calls (far easier without a child hanging off of your leg) or do general home admin. It’s amazing what you can achieve in a limited time frame.
3. Pick Your Times
If you’re fortunate enough to be able to adjust your hours, try working a couple of the less popular times. Starting work an hour before or finishing an hour later than your colleagues can give you precious quiet time in the office. I find my most productive times are the hour each morning when the rest of my office are still in bed or munching their breakfast. It’s a simple way to reduce distractions and increase your productivity, especially if you’re on reduced hours and need to fit more in to less. Both of us stagger our hours – I work 7-4.30 and my husband does 9-6. Not only do we each get an hour of quiet time in the office but we also reduce our son’s childcare time from by an hour at each end of the day.
4. Make Your House Work Whilst You Do
Just because you’re not at home, doesn’t mean you should let your appliances have the day off. Set your washing machine running when you leave in the morning and invest in a slow cooker to cook dinner whilst you work. It’s a little out there but I’ve also heard of people using robot vacuums – well, if you’ve got the funds why not?! That way, every day you get home to a magically dust-free house!
5. Just Say No
We’re all guilty of wanting to please everyone but sometimes you just need to say no. Working parents especially! Ask yourself some questions when you get asked to do something: ‘Is this something I want to do?’ ‘Is this something I need to do?’ and finally ‘Will this make me/my loved one happy?’ By weeding out the activities that you don’t want or need to do, it gives you more time to spend on things that make you happy. You know, like lying on the sofa child-free whilst watching Friends re-runs and drinking wine.
6. Meal Plan Like A Mo’Fo.
Not only can you save money significantly by meal planning, you can also save time. Plan out a week’s worth of meals and shop accordingly. If you like a little more flexibility, just pop the week’s list on the fridge and each evening pick a meal for the next day. That way you can defrost any meat and prep any vegetables in advance.
7. Multitask… But Not Too Much
Use tools like web chat to deal with any admin issues rather than sit on the phone. Set up a hands-free phone system, start your call on the driveway and have it done by the time you reach the office. With changes in technology, it’s easier than ever to multitask. Even simple things like loading the dishwasher whilst your child eats or sorting the washing whilst waiting for the kettle to boil. Be careful not to take it too far though, it’s one thing for working parents to be multi-tasking pros. It’s only a tiny step further to be running around like headless chickens.
8. Batch And Freeze
If you’re cooking a meal like chilli or a shepherds pie, think about making extra and freezing a portion. A minced beef base can easily be topped with mashed potato one evening or served over pasta the next. Portion out chicken breasts and fish prior to freezing them to make them easy to defrost. A quick Pinterest search will show you a wealth of meals which can be pre-prepped and frozen, especially if you’re cracking out the slow cooker. Finally, if you get the time, slice things like peppers and onions in bulk and freeze in bags ready for throwing in to a stir-fry or a curry. Freeze them initially spread on a baking tray before tipping them once frozen into a sandwich bag. That way they freeze individually and can be pulled out as required rather than having to defrost the entire lot!
9. Delegate And Empower
As hard as it is, you need to learn to delegate. Not only that, you also need to start empowering others, both at home and in the workplace. Start by stopping providing answers, instead, when others ask you for your opinion, ask what they think they should do. The chances are they already know the right answer, they’re just looking for reassurance. Yes, it means loosening the reins on things and letting others take control. But the key thing to remember is that you’re prioritising your time. You can’t be everywhere and do everything. Pick the important things, delegate like a pro and trust the fact that you’ve taught others well.
If you’re looking for other working parents to follow, check out Nicola from I Am Crabstix and Nicola from Mummy To Dex – two full-time working parents that somehow also find time to blog. Thanks to them for sharing their timesaving tips in this post and for being work inspirations for me!