Effective Time Management Techniques for Moms & Busy Professionals
For a lot of women this lockdown period seems to be making life ever more hectic than usual, especially those with young kids. Even if you are not female, or yet to have kids, the very prospect of being forced to stay home in isolation seems to zap our motivation and plummet our efficiency to its lowest.
As someone who works remote on a regular basis, here are some effective time management techniques that have worked very well for me.
Why listen to me?
For folks who do not know me, here are some stats about what I achieved in the last year (2019) and why should you listen to me! Plus, I repeat this advice to all my mentees at work and outside. These techniques work!
(1) Published a non-fiction book on DataScience jobs, which hit the Amazon bestseller charts for almost 2 months! (2) Grew my technical blog from 5,000 views per month to 20,000 views as compared to last year. (3) Won an all-expenses paid Diversity scholarship to KubeCon San Diego, a prestigious tech conference in North America with 8,000+ attendees. (4) Completed my MBA Finance with a 3.4 GPA, while holding a full-time job. (5) Read 25+ books over in 2019!
I credit effective time management as the fundamental reason for my success. Here are the Top 11 methods that I have found to work best. These methods do not require any fancy props, too much willpower and are quite easy to implement! You may not find all of them useful, but you should find a couple that work for your unique circumstances.
 Add to Calendar
keep your top 3 goals on the Calendar and allocate dedicated time for those. This does mean you need to have a fair idea of what you do over the week. If it is not on the calendar, you don’t consider it a priority and it will Never get done, drowned by other “firefighting” priorities. Yes we all have a million conflicts in our life and if you feel you can’t find time, delete something else.
I usually dedicate an hour a day to my personal projects, getting up early to complete them. If you have 2–3 projects, dedicate specific days of the week for each. I also add meetings for myself to my Outlook work calendar, so that I do not get pulled into too many meetings per day and can focus on high priority items that my manager and Director care about!
If you feel you have zero time to spare, go check item  on this list and then come back.
 Use Waiting Time wisely.
We all have these “wasted” moments, 10 minutes at the doctor’s clinics, 30+ minutes at airports, 5–10 mins waiting for a kids class to get over or just a serpentine queue at the grocery stores. Most people use it to check social media, or browse clickbait articles or the never-ending stream of office emails. I use it to read books or jot down rough drafts for blog posts. I have to admit this is harder, and takes willpower. Sometimes its hard to remember, too. I normally go “offline” and force myself to read. TRY IT, you will be surprised how much “work” can be integrated into these invisible pockets of time.
Instead of listening to the radio or taking office calls, commit half of your commute (or more) to audiobooks. Hubby and I have committed 25% of all long-drives and road trips to audiobooks. I hated the thought at first, but he picked some truly interesting titles like “Freakonomics” and “12 rules of life” and now I am hooked!
 Schedule minimum 20 minutes in the morning.
The first chore in your day should be your personal goal. Yes, there are a 1001 chores pending, fidgety kids and spouse and 250 emails from work that need your attention. But here is a secret. They will wait another 20 minutes, too! But spending that first time slot on your personal development and expanding your mind (or just down time) will make you smarter, increase your motivation, joy and creativity far more than you know. If you prefer, do it way early in the morning before others wake up.
I was scheduling 45 minutes way early in the morning for my MBA assignments, when everyone was asleep. Now that the degree is over, I’ve replaced it with reading, exercise, prayers and other personal priorities. It was hard, it was annoying, even brutal to leave my warm blanketed bed in the snowy winter months but after the first month the efforts and motivation started to compound.
You can start with 20 mins and increase as you feel more comfortable.
 20 minutes “offline” time before bed.
Seriously, all the “blue light” from electronics devices is not good for health. This is an indirect productivity tip since it promotes better sleep, reduces anxiety and improves overall good health. Read physical books, pray, cut vegetables for the next day or substitute any other method which does not require any electronic gadgets.
 No monkey behavior.
Focus. Multitasking is a myth.
Unless you are combining one physical and one mental task like listening to audiobooks while exercising on a bike.
While at work, do not jump from 1 task to to another. It only zaps your energy and you end up doing both tasks half-halfheartedly at low efficiency. The results are never worth the effort, so learn to focus. Stop looking at emails, go offline and wear noise cancelling headphones to block out other distractions.
 Listen to Audiobooks at 1.5x or 2x speed.
Seriously, this one tip (from my MBA phase) has made me so much more efficient. You will need to work your way up to such high-speeds, but I’ve found the increased speed forces me to focus more. Downside — now I can rarely listen at 1x speeds, even for YouTube videos!
Most office videos and webinar recordings can also be consumed in this way. You can also use a laptop screen narrator to read out word documents and pdf in this fashion, for faster assimilation. Once the lockdown ends, you can also use your commute time to consume books and audio that help you achieve your annual goals.
 Make chores interesting.
Who likes making the bed, or doing dishes or folding clothes? I don’t; so I grab my lovely Bose headphones and make them interesting by listening and escaping to the world of audiobooks!
 Use your lunch hour.
This was advice from an amazing mentor, who emphasized the importance of using the lunch hour for networking or reading. If I am in office, I force myself to get out of my cube and chat with 1 new person everyday. But since I work remote a lot, I go offline and spend 20 mins on lunch while reading a good book. It’s amazing how this “clean” 20 minutes break from work helps me relax better, complete more pages on my goal, and improves my efficiency when I resume work.
 Leverage your smart phones for some good
Use productivity apps to send daily notifications to remind you work on your goals, timer apps for Pomodoro sprints, Evernote for note taking when you are in transit/waiting rooms, etc.
 Keep a time log.
Phantom slots keep slipping away. Don’t schedule every minute, but at least be aware of where your time-sucks are. Chances are, some of these can be used to slip in pet projects or better still, you realize how many unwanted tasks you have taken up over time.
The world does NOT hand out Nobel Prizes to super-moms or super-dads. So get off your invisible hamster wheels, and spend time on yourself, in self-development goals and reading time!
 Pomodoro Technique.
This is a popular productivity technique that my mentor taught me, where you set a timer and focus continuously on a single work item for 45 mins or so. No stopping or getting distracted until the timer goes off.
In today’s age of social media, 45 mins is spectacularly difficult. When I started, I found myself checking repeatedly to see if the clock had stopped! Over time, I’ve found this to be an amazing technique for all aspects of my life, coding writing included. Specific for writing, I use either one of two methods: (a) 5–45–10 marathons, (b) 20–5–20–5 sprints. Details in this article, under section 
Hope you found this article useful. Is there any other custom hack you prefer? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.
Until next time, Adieu!