Being efficient leaves more time and room for the things that truly matter. We as women need to endeavour to go about our lives in an efficient and effective manner as we often have long to-do lists, which we never get through.
In an office scenario, too often do people stay behind after their contracted hours to “show face” and keep their chairs warm, and not because they actually have any work to do. Let me state here that I appreciate that there are some jobs that require working late into the night, if this is the case then so be it. However, I have a friend who used to work for a top American investment bank and she confided in me several times that on some occasions, during the day, they do absolutely nothing, either because they have no work to do, or there is work but it has not been filtered down by their bosses, (who eventually pass the work to them at ungodly hours sometimes). However, even when they have nothing to do and it is time to leave for the day, it becomes a game of I don’t want to be seen as the first person to leave or as the unambitious one. This to me makes no sense as if I were their bosses I would rather let them leave on time when they have nothing to do, go home, unwind have fun, so that when they truly have to work into the night, their creative juices would flow better as they are relatively well rested, refreshed and even more motivated.
I am first to put my hand up to say, if there is an urgent piece of work that truly requires me to stay behind and put in the hours, I would. The last couple of weeks have been really stressful for me because I am working on a huge project that closes next week. This means all hands on deck to make sure all the ‘i’s’ are dotted and the ‘t’s’ crossed. Thankfully, such late days are not frequent in my line of work, and so for me it is manageable. I know I would not thrive in an environment that requires me to stay late everyday, regardless of how much they offer me in compensation. However, if you are a kind of person that thrives in such an environment, you will have to study your work pattern and find it how you can make being a mum in such an environment work.
When I started at my new department about a year ago, it was daunting change for me because I was moving from a regional office to our head office and this simply was not a common occurrence when you have only recently started a family. I was asked by a couple of my regional office colleagues (mostly mums) whether I was sure I wanted to do this especially as I planned to come back to work full-time. They mentioned that the London office probably worked longer hours. In as much as I am not afraid of hard work, I knew I was leaving the flexibility I most likely would have had access to in the regional office as I had worked there for just over four years and had built rapport with management and a reasonable reputation as well. However, my long-term goals meant it was the right time for me to move on and so I did, with a lot of faith and prayers.
My reasoning for going back to work full-time was this, I figured that the chances of me going back to work fulltime after a second child was slimmer (I haven’t completely ruled this out though). Although it has been a challenge, I am more likely to give my career a boost with one child, before the second arrives. I keep telling myself that, once the second child arrives, I won’t have as much time to worry about my career and in as much I have chosen this path to work and raise my family at the same time, I am not silly enough to think I can have it all. My aim was therefore to work as hard as possible in a short space of time (say two years) enough to get promoted and settle into my new role so that when I leave for my next maternity leave and come back, I will be coming back into a higher position and people will remember who I am! This of course equates to getting more income during my maternity leave if you get promoted before you leave.
To help me get off to a good start, I negotiated new working hours with the head office prior to resuming, which means I am contracted to resume at 8:30am and finish at 4:30pm. This has been helpful as when I have nothing urgent to do or absolutely need to leave for childcare reasons, I leave at 4:30pm but if I have a deadline or urgent work to do, I stay a bit longer. I have to confess that the firm I work for do their best to accommodate flexible working. This has helped a great deal with me combining my career and raising my family.
To this end, I leave you with another list of 6 things you can try to become more effective and make efficient use of your time as career mums.
- Analyse your current working arrangement. Do you see yourself doing the same job effectively once a baby comes around? Is it feasible to change jobs before you start trying for a baby to an organisation that is more baby friendly? Will it be relatively easier to start looking for a new job after you have had your baby? The truth is there is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions as each person is different and work in different industries. Just keep these at the back of your mind if you are planning for a baby and intend to continue working.
- Work hard and be efficient.As a lady without a child, you work hard, but as mums, we should work even harder. Unfortunately, society is not quite yet at a place where they trust working mum’s fully to be as effective in their jobs as others. Until we get to that place, we must work harder to prove our worth. See this as a challenge to find an effective revision method like we did years ago when we were studying for exams. Only this time, the exam is to aim to do as much work effectively in as little time as possible. This requires a lot of wisdom to prioritize your work properly.
- Do your homework. Don’t expect to be automatically good at your job. As Malcom Gladwell mentioned in his book, Outliers, the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours. I remember mentioning to my husband a few months after I went back to work that I was struggling to keep up with all the tax legislations, especially as there were a number of changes during my leave and even more in the year I came back to work. He told me in not too many words to invest some extra time over the weekend going over them and with time I will be more comfortable. I didn’t take his advice completely, because weekends for me is for my family and getting ready for the week. Instead, when I felt like I needed to do some more reading, I either planned to get to work earlier or I did the reading on my commute to or from work. I can vouch that it has made some difference.
- Be your own motivational speaker. There will be times when you will feel discouraged or demotivated. There will also be times when you will wonder what the purpose of all the stress is, especially if you happen to be critiqued at work when you know you have compromised at home to deliver what you thought was your best work! Endeavour to cultivate the habit of giving yourself a pep talk and looking at things from an objective perspective. The more you longer on negative comments, the longer it will take you to snap out of it and move on. When I started to motivate myself, I felt silly talking to myself, however, within months, I got used to it and it helped me a great deal. Don’t wait on anyone to make you feel better, encourage yourself, you will find that you often know the right things to say to give you the kick you need. Try it!
- Network as much as possible. As working mums, we are often in a rush to get home for bed time, or to do the school runs. This often means that anytime we see the invite for after work drinks or work social, we immediately rank this last in terms of priority. However, networking with our colleagues helps us to build rapport with them, find out more about their interests, what they are working and share ideas and experiences where relevant. I would like to encourage you to attempt to attend some of these events where feasible, it could even be after work drinks, dinner or even a lunchtime catch up. It gives you an opportunity to get to know your colleagues and they in turn get the impression that you are making an effort. It also helps you practice on how to network outside of the office which could be useful if you are trying to move jobs. I attend after work drinks, which are not very frequent, with my colleagues when I can, and when I do, I only stay for an hour or two. But in those couple of hours I try to talk to as many people as possible. For me to be able to attend such even tell, I need ample notice to ensure I have the necessary childcare arrangements in place or liaise with my husband to make sure he is contactable while I am networking so I can spend a couple of hours with my colleagues.I will share in another post how networking lead to me obtaining the job I am currently at.
- Take stock! Evaluate yourself. Please don’t wait until your appraisal to analyse how well you have done on a project, a piece of work, or over a certain period of time. Evaluate yourself frequently so that you can pick up areas where development is required quickly. This helps you make amendments in a timely manner. In addition, when you eventually have your appraisal you can show your performance manager the areas of development you have highlighted and what you have done about this. You come across as proactive, which is always a good attribute to have.
I hope these come in handy.