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10 tips for a healthier work-life balance for parents

Here are some of the signs that my work-life balance is not up to scratch:

1. I’m regularly hunched over my computer till late in the evenings

2. I occasionally find myself scrolling through my phone for emails while at my toddler’s playgroup (only when his back is turned, of course)

3. I sometimes have to stay at home at weekends due to imminent work deadlines while my husband takes the kids to the playground

4. I don’t get to see as much of my husband during the week as I’d like

I can’t be the only parent whose life has gone a bit skewed.

If you have children and spend time on work assignments – and I’m including in this category anyone who spends hours running projects at their child’s school/ playgroup – it’s all too easy to let the boundaries between your work and home life become blurred.

In the last few weeks, I’ve tried to improve the balance by taking a long hard look at my efficiency at home.

As well as online supermarket shopping, I’m becoming more diligent about weekly meal planning and have recently bought a slow cooker.

I spoke to some experts for their help. Here’s what they came up with:

10 tips for a better work-life balance from the experts:

lego superwoman1. Let go of being Superwoman

“Accept that you can’t complete wonderful work on time while also ironing every shirt, serving home-cooked food daily, keeping a tidy house and always turning up at the school gate,” says Hannah Martin, founder of the Talented Ladies Club, an online community helping mums realise their work and business ambitions. “Recognise which areas of your life you want to get 100 per cent right and focus on those.”

 

 

 

2. Stop multi-tasking

We may think that multitasking saves time – for example we might think we get three jobs done faster if we decide to help the kids with their homework while answering emails and making dinner at the same time. “But actually the human brain is better suited to working sequentially – or in other words, finishing one job before starting another,” says life coach Rachel Bamber.

“If you try to do too many things at once, your brain takes much longer to complete the original task. Single task focus is much more efficient.” So it’s better to concentrate on the homework for a few minutes – and of course, your child will flourish with your undivided attention too.

3. Look at the bigger picture

Do try your best to make it to your children’s shows and parent-teacher meetings. But if a work emergency means you can’t make one or two, don’t feel guilty and beat yourself up about it. “Your child won’t remember these absences in the long-run,” says life coach Carole Ann Rice, who wrote Start Your Dream Business.

“They also won’t remember half the sacrifices you make, nor the things that seemed very significant at the time, like that nativity costume you spend hours making.

“What your children do remember is a general feeling that overall, you were there to support them.”

4. Find a childcare buddy

Working from home or trying to get back to work, and don’t have enough childcare? “Find a friend for reciprocal weekly play dates,” says Hannah.

“Take it in turns to host each week. It gives each of you a couple of valuable working hours every fortnight, while your kids have fun playing together.” (You may like my blog post: 10 tips for back-to-work confidence.)

5. Divide tasks into half-hour chunks

It’s easy to let mundane chores – like housework, printing, emails and admin – take up too much time.

“But by segmenting these jobs into 30-minute chunks, you avoid letting them overwhelm you,” says Hannah.

“You’ll also work more efficiently – it’s amazing how much you can get done when you know you only have half an hour.”

6. Put your phone on silent when you’re with your kids

When you’re out of the office, and especially when you’re with your children, switch your phone to silent, advises career coach Alice Stapleton. “That way, you won’t get interrupted and you only check your phone when you have the time. It gives you much more control over outside interruptions.”

7. Estimate your workload and how long it will take to tackle it

If you’re working in the evenings, stop at the end of that period, even if you haven’t finished, says Carole Ann. She says that if you need extra time, think about setting your alarm earlier in the morning instead.

8. Factor in an hour of screen-free time before bed

It helps your brain wind down for sleep.

9. Never take work files or your laptop into your bed

“Reserve it as a place for rest and sleep,” says Carole Ann.

10. Set an alarm for 30 minutes for checking emails

“It’s too easy to fritter away an entire evening just checking emails,” says Rachel. “Setting an alarm signals you to stop after that time.”


Comments (52)

  • Avatar

    Mummy of Two

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    Some great tips. I have definitely began to relax a little and realise some days I can’t do everything and playing with the children is more important than having a tidy house!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      You’re right – the tidy house can wait!

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    Kirsty

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    I really ought to set a time to stop in the evening as I always end up spending longer than I had hoped, not having an evening and waking up tired the next day. Thanks for these great tips.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      That’s what happens to me too in the evenings. So glad the tips are helpful.

  • Avatar

    Kate Thompson

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    Some great suggestions. It’s really hard though, when keeping the plates spinning brings rewards and taking your eye off the proverbial ball has an impact. I set myself timers for computer time for this reason!

  • Avatar

    Globalmouse

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    Really useful suggestions, I definitely find it hard to switch off and am guilty of finding ‘just one more thing’ to do… Thank you for the ideas to make life a little less busy though! :)

  • Avatar

    Sam @happyhomebird

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    I always try to do too much at once and I often sit on my laptop right until bedtime and then I’m too wide awake to fall asleep.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      That sounds just like me, Sam. Since doing these interviews, I’m now trying to make sure I switch off my laptop earlier to give me a chance to wind down before bed.

  • Avatar

    Emily (@amummytoo)

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    I sooo hear you on this. I will try some of these tips too. Thank you x

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      So glad they’re helpful.

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    Helen @ Peakle Pie

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    Lovely tips… I think the biggest tip I have is learning to say ‘no’ once in a while rather than trying to do everything and please everyone. :)

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      That’s a great tip too, Helen. Saying no is really important.

  • Avatar

    Vicky

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    Wow – yes, I am completely guilty of scrolling through my phone while my attention should be elsewhere, and neglecting my other half for the laptop in the evenings. Great tips to all a little work-life balance, which is certainly what I need :-)

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Good luck with getting your work-life balance. Wd be lovely to not be glued to the laptop and to talk to my husband properly.

  • Avatar

    Liska @NewMumOnline

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    These are fab tips I particularly like the one about making the costume and giving them a feeling of wellbeing being more important xx

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      So glad it’s useful. The feeling of wellbeing overall is reassuring, isn’t it?

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Yes, you’re right – blogging can take a lot of time. But I’m going to try and be more efficient about how I do it.

  • Avatar

    Lori

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    Wow so many of these points resinate with me and have made me think about how I structure my day. My husband is always exasperated by my lack of organisation. This is the year that I get organised and on top of my day x

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      My husband gets exasperated with me too. I’m trying to be firmer with myself about focusing on one thing at a time now.

  • Avatar

    Gude @HodgePodgeCraft

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    Some great tips here! I am an advocate of online shopping, having a cleaner if you can possibly afford it and NOT ironing anything. EVER. (despite what MIL thinks)! 😉
    Far fewer arguments that way too…

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Good ideas, Hodge Podge! I especially like the not ironing anything one.

  • Avatar

    Sarah Bailey

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    Fantastic ideas – I really am just do as and when its so much nicer though when you have a plan and everything is more in order. I’m trying not to spend so long on the PC and if I am on it later in the day then it’s just catching up with friends.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Good idea, Sarah. I’m usually writing my blog in the evenings though.

  • Avatar

    anna

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    I need to take a lot of these on board!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Me too, I’ve been taking notes.

  • Avatar

    zorena laguea shanks

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    love it

  • Avatar

    Agata Pokutycka

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    Stop multitasking – I wish this was so easy… or even possible to achieve

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      It’s worth a try!

  • Avatar

    Foz

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    Some great tips here.. I was lucky in that once I left work I didn’t have to think about it until I returned the following day to the office!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      You were really lucky. But doesn’t blogging take up a lot of your time too?

  • Avatar

    Kathy Cakebread

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    great tips i would def have a cleaner if i could afford it

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      That’s a good tip too, Kathy

  • Avatar

    claire WOODS

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    Some great tips.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Thanks, Claire

  • Avatar

    Eleanor Bennett

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    great tips xoxo

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Thank you!

  • Avatar

    emma falvi

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    don’t panic if you don’t get everything done, there is always tomorrow

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      You’re right. Good advice.

  • Avatar

    Pam Francis Gregory

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    You can only do what you can – No more!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      I know, you’re right. Sigh.

  • Avatar

    Emma Wolski

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    Great tips!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Thank you, Emma. Glad you like them.

  • Avatar

    Jennifer Rhymer

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    You’re right! I always have 2 or 3 things on the go at once and I sometime forget to go back to one then get annoyed with myself later as I should have done it earlier! Love point 5 – Divide tasks into half-hour chunks – I need to do this :)

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Thanks for your comments. The half-hour chunks are a brilliant tool, you’re right. Good luck with getting on top of your to-do list!

  • Avatar

    carly marie finnerty

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    i have a very active 2 and a half year old son so these tips are great for me will definately be passing them on to my mummy friends x

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Great, thanks so much.

  • Avatar

    Matt Brasier

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    Great tips!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Thank you, Matt.

  • Avatar

    Amanda Durley

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    Definately good tips, I know I always try to do too much

  • Avatar

    Larraine

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    I like this web weblog very much so considerably good info. “It’s a poor sort of memory that only operates backward.” by Lewis Carroll.…I will be happy if you visit my blog and say something

Comments are closed