Mummy Corner: Time Management & More YOU Time

By Anabela Mok 2021-09-23 15:23:00

We know time management is important, it's a word stressed throughout high school to today in an office environment. But have you ever gotten so overloaded with tasks, it seems you have lost a bit of your soul? 



I thought adjusting to a full-time job with a child was hard. But life became a whole never-ending checklist of to-dos with very little time for personal things. Even with available time, there is a nagging “mom guilt” for putting my needs above my kid, examples being: gym, mani-pedi, a hair appointment and the most obvious- overtime work.


So what were my tricks?


Build Your Schedule Based on 1-Week (168 Hours)


Instead of keeping a daily task list, lessen the load by making a weekly list. This can minimize the pressure of accomplishing what you set out to achieve in a day by instead looking at what you need to do in a week. 



Weekly tasks allow for a higher focus on the bigger picture than micromanaging on the smaller projects. But also, "I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time" by Laura Vanderkam enlightened me to a new way of viewing a schedule. On her website, she explains concisely, "If you work 40 hours a week, and sleep 8 hours per night (56 per week) that leaves 72 hours for other things. This is good to know for those of us who want full lives outside of work. But beyond that, thinking “168” not “24” reminds us that things don’t have to happen daily in order to count in our lives. Three to five times a week is often plenty, and that removes a lot of pressure." Especially in the office culture here in Shanghai, there are always so many ad-hoc requests requiring same-day feedback that it made managing a weekly task easier.


Block Your Time


You block your schedule for meetings, so organize your must do’s likewise. Whether it’s blocking your time for the gym, family time or evening work calls. 



During this scheduled time, use every bit of energy to focus on what you are doing. If you do an at-home workout, make sure it’s away from the family play area, this is your time, stay focused so you can finish on time. If it's the blocked time for family, put your mobile phone away and enjoy the time with your kid. When I write, I write. When I play, I play. I even have set times where I use social media (for work) and times to go shop on Taobao or research and book holiday destinations.




Don’t feel the need to be a “supermom”.  That will only leave you overworked and exhausted. Delegate, train and set the task for Ayi if you have one, or share the workload with your partner.  We are very lucky to have assistance for our household, so use that help wisely. Even to help with meal prepping or buying groceries, assistance will go a long way in maximizing time.



For instance, I can only cook two items with confidence: pancakes and pasta. So Ayi* does the cooking and grocery shopping. And if she is not there, my husband is great in the kitchen. 


* Note: My ayi live-ins with the weekends off, but, we also had plenty of instances where she has taken a holiday during the workweek and we had to be more hands-on in our home responsibilities.


Creative Work Hours


If you are working a job that does not follow traditional office hours, discuss with your supervisor for split shifts where you finish your day earlier but perform non-colleague facing tasks at home (presentation writing, proposals) so you can get some flexible wiggle space.



Currently, my schedule is: feed breakfast and take the kiddo to the nursery drop off before 9:30 a.m. Arrive at my full-time work by 10 and work until 3 p.m. Arrive at the nursery for pick up at 4 p.m. take her to after school activities or play dates till 6 p.m. Get to my HIIT class at 7 p.m. (3-4 days a week), do after dinner play and the bedtime routine.  Once the kid is asleep by 9:30 p.m., I write/research for my work or MommyDiaries. On days where I don’t write, I research and book holidays and after school activities.  



When my daughter was younger, I had a different job that required me to be in the office from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with overtime on certain days. Our schedule back then was: Leave home at 9:30 a.m. with the kid to take her for a toddler class with ayi that starts at 10. When they finish the class they both come home to eat and nap. By the time I arrive home, I would go straight to where they were and do play activities and we would go home together. Blogging will be done only after my daughter has slept and when my work is finished, usually beginning at 10 p.m. 


Family Work Holidays


In the book “Power Moms” written by Joann S. Lublin, mothers who have jobs with lots of travel sometimes bring their children with them on the business trip. They can spend the off-work time together to explore a new city. This could imply a nanny or family member accompanying the young child on the trip.




We will give away copies of the books mentioned "Power Moms" and "I Know How She Does it: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time".

How: Please scroll down and leave your name and your WeChat ID in the comment box below (this won't be visible to the public)



Get Connected


As a writer, I live on iCloud for my files. I immediately file all attachments I receive on WeChat or email to my iCloud so if I need to find it easier, it is there. 



I also connect my iCloud to my devices so if I need to transfer a file to my colleague which I worked on with my computer at the office, it is easily accessible via my mobile phone. Same with writing. I write when I have a moment in the car, then later I edit on the computer. (This article took one week to make in between my commutes.)


Final Thoughts


Do I get jealous the ayi spends so much time with my kid that she knows my daughter sometimes better than myself? 


Initially yes. Especially for things like atmospheric temperature and food preferences, I am only thankful now to have one extra pair of eyes that can be observant enough of my little one. But we do need to also work together closely to make sure our parental wishes are carried out. 



Is keeping track of everything and schedule planning tiring? 


In the beginning it is, so I start off with what things are mandatory, such as the kid's classes and school. Then I build on my known work commitments and identify the things I want to do: gym, reading, language class.


Was delegating easy?


It took time to get used to. However, being furloughed from a job during COVID I realized I am not good at a lot of things like cooking and ironing, but I am a star at other things like play and organizing. So once I came to terms with my own limitations, delegating feels easier and I focus more on the face-to-face time and activities.



Any guilt in blocked scheduling being too rigid for a child to understand?


Of course, it is difficult, especially explaining to my child that mommy has to leave after settling her for dinner because I have to hit the gym. But if I am expecting my child to grow up responsible and being a good time manager, I need to set an example. And, it is setting the example by doing something healthy such as exercising. If I am tying up loose ends for work at home, my daughter sits on my lap so she also sees what mommy does. After all, the blocking schedule is not a way to block my life from her, it's allowing me to get more structure so I can do more things with her.