Time management not your forte?  Always chasing your tail?  Mum, business owner and time management guru, Sarah Sadler of Organised Mum, shares her tips and advice on how to make the most of your day.

Unfortunately for those of us who work and have a family there’s no getting round the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day!  As a working mother it can be a struggle to fit in work and family commitments and feel that we are devoting enough time and attention to each area of our lives.

However, by taking a proactive approach to what needs to be done and applying some simply time management techniques, working mothers can regain control and achieve a balance between their work and family lives.

Here are some tips for effective time management:

• Consciously planning your time is the best way to get the most your of your day.  To do this effectively you need to work out your long-term and short-term key goals for work and family and what you need to do to achieve them.  The next step is to prioritise your workload.  Most people make a daily to do list, but having monthly and weekly to do lists will enable you to benefit from forward planning.

• It’s important to be honest when prioritising your workload, as it can be easy to put off boring or unpleasant jobs.  Listing jobs under the following four headings may help you to which jobs need attention first:
o Urgent and important
o Important but not urgent
o Urgent but not important
o Neither urgent nor important

• Invest in a good diary and calendar that has enough space to write down your work and family commitments.  The Organised Mum Family Life Book is perfect for this as it has a gridded layout which can be divided into columns for work and family.   Whilst it is important not to put urgent jobs off, it’s equally important to be flexible and reassess which jobs need priority on a daily and weekly basis as circumstances change.  Writing in your diary in pencil rather than a pen helps you to mentally be aware that you can change appointments if you need to.

• When looking at long-term time management, creating a timeline is another time management tool that might help (you can get specific computer programs to help you with this, or you can use an Excel spreadsheet or Word table format).  To do this, put dates across the top and activities down the side.  Break each task down into its various components.  It can also be a good idea to include any family commitments, such as holidays, birthday parties, sport’s days, etc so you don’t forget that you are unavailable for work on those days.  Put in any deadlines and work backwards, so you allow yourself plenty of time.

• If you can, try and build in some contingency time when working out how long a task is likely to take.

• Make the most of the time you have.  Some jobs are easier than others to do if you have a little one sitting on your knee, so if you still have the luxury of a mid-afternoon nap (the child, not you!) or maybe your child is now at school, use the time they are out of the picture to make phone calls or read that tricky contract that needs your full concentration.

• Know when you are at your best.  If you are most alert in the mornings, don’t leave important jobs until the evening and vice versa.

• Choose the best way to communicate.  Meetings are great and are a necessary element to running any business but they are time-consuming, make sure you not spending more time than you need by assessing whether you could have achieved the same result with a phone call or an email.

• It’s important not to burn out, so don’t forget to schedule in some down time.

Time management can be a great tool in helping you to achieve your business goals and still have time for your family.  However, there will inevitably be times when work or family seem to overtake us.  At these times, it’s important to remember that we are all only human and can only do what we can do and that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness!

Organised Mum specialises in creating high quality calendars, diaries and school & family organisers to help organise the busiest people, homes and families.  Diaries and calendars run from September for 16 months to incorporate the school year and have clever tools that will help you to stay organised. 2011 Range now available from www.organisedmum.co.uk