12 August 2015

Time Management for Working Parents

Time Management for Working Parents – How to Reduce Early Morning Madness 

Every working parent has been there. You’ve got a briefcase under one arm, the baby under the other, and you’re walking out the door. You’re mentally rehearsing your presentation for an 8:30 meeting which you will just make if you really put your foot down after stopping at the crèche when … the baby spits up on your tie or all over your new blouse.


Bruce reports “I mentally beat myself up every time this type of thing happens, and yet I know there is nothing I could do to prevent it – it’s just a fact of life when you have young children.”

It is a fact of life – all we can do is be as prepared as possible. Brand new panty hose will ladder. Toddlers will spill sour milk on your best suit. The drain will mysteriously overflow when you’re already running late or you’ve got visitors arriving after work. Rather than reacting to these situations when they arrive, how can we adopt a proactive approach?


Anticipate the inevitable

Try to anticipate anything that could go wrong in your morning routine, and what would save the day.


For example:

  • Men, keep an ironed shirt and a clean tie in the office, and if you use it, replace it.
  • Women, make sure you have a brand new pair of panty hose (or two!) and a couple of tampons in your desk drawer, plus a clean shirt or spare suit if there’s space to hang it.
  • Stash an old purse containing cash in a safe place in case of emergencies. (Not your lunches!)
  • Have a list of emergency numbers on your phone – babysitters, plumber, electrician, doctor, dentist, garage.


Some things we just can’t predict or plan for, but let’s minimise what we can.


Apply the 80-20 rule

80% of your results will be achieved by 20% of the effort (and in 20% of the time).


Tina says “I can get in and out of the bathroom in less than half an hour. I found that if I don’t blow-dry my hair, it looks terrible, but if I blow-dry just the front and sides, the back seems to fall into line. This takes half the time I used to spend. Also, I used to wash my hair every day, but I’ve found I can easily get away with every second day. In fact, it’s easier to style on a day I haven’t washed it.”
Also consider paring your make-up routine back. For example, you might find you look almost as good by applying only lipstick and mascara, skipping foundation, concealer, and eye make-up.


Develop a “desperation” hairstyle which you can do in 2 minutes flat and which looks neat and professional even if you’re having a “bad hair day”. Most medium to long styles look good brushed sleek and flat and held by an attractive clip at the nape of the neck. An Alice band can also be a lifesaver.



However late you’re running, however much they protest, don’t let your children skip breakfast, and don’t skip breakfast yourself. Studies show kids who skip breakfast have less energy and perform worse at school. In addition, they’ll be more tired and ratty when you get home in the evening. Also, both adults and children who skip breakfast are more inclined to over-eat later in the day and make high-fat choices of food when they are hungry.


If you’re running really late, make sure you always have some pre-packaged, nutritious food on hand for high-speed emergency exits. Fresh fruit or a muesli bar can be eaten by adult or child in the car or on a bus or train.


Next week’s article will carry on with more ideas on this topic. Feel free to add your own best tips in the comments below.

This article also appears in Robyn’s regular New Zealand Herald Online column

1 thought on “Time Management for Working Parents”

  1. Diane Levy says:

    The best tip I ever learned was to be up and dressed before starting the day with our children. Here’s the article I wrote about it in my second book “They look so lovely when they’re asleep.

    Power-dressing for mothers

    I’VE ALWAYS WONDERED HOW teachers manage. When they ask my child to sit on the mat, it never occurs to her to climb onto the kitchen bench. When they ask her to tidy up the block corner, she not only puts all the blocks away in their correct places according to size and shape, she even races to get it done quickly and then asks if there is anything else she can help with. And this from a child who, at home, can scarcely raise the motivation to put two books on her shelf without her mother resorting to dire threats.

    I have finally discovered the teacher’s secret. She gets dressed before she goes to work! By the time she greets my child, she is fully clothed, has combed her hair, cleaned her teeth, and has her eyes wide open. No wonder they take notice of her.

    Contrast this scene. I stagger out of bed in a nightie named ‘Old Faithful’. Pretending great joy at the blessings another day may have to offer, I shamble into the children’s room saying ‘Wake up, darling, time to get dressed’, and, under an illusion completely unaffected by years of experience to the contrary, imagine that my children understand this to mean ‘Get out of bed, get dressed, pack your bag and appear cheerfully for breakfast’.

    When I return ten minutes later, clad in a damp towel and a few soap-flakes, no one has moved. Clearly shouting is the answer, so I do, causing the recipient to bury deep into the protective covers.

    Mustering as much dignity as semi-nakedness allows, I noisily throw all the bedclothes on the floor. I must have done this many times, because my children are so skilled that they can get under the bedclothes before they (the blankets) hit the ground. The day goes steadily downhill from here.

    There is a solution. It is called Power Dressing.

    Get up a quarter of an hour before them. Be showered, dressed and ready. Then you can control your day – and the start of theirs. You can set the tone, be the example, be in charge.

    Every time I begin my day this way, it works. It’s just that steeling myself to do it is so hard. I think I can manage to try again next Thursday.

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