Technology may have changed the way we live and given us the flexibility to work from anywhere, but the downside is that we are swamped by demands seven days a week.
Keeping track of work and home commitments requires a new way of working, and while electronic diaries have their place, the best way to juggle all the balls is with a hand-written diary, says Charmaine Mill, a Westville businesswoman, speaker, consultant and events manager.
“Electronic diaries are appointment-based,” she says, “and there is no place for all the other reminders one needs to note, like ‘buy new school socks’, ‘fetch medicine from pharmacy’ or ‘get painting quote’. People tell you to use a diary, but if you are using it incorrectly it will not help you to be effective. Using it correctly can change your work/life balance and ensure you are more organised in all aspects of your life.”
Email is a stressor and Mill advocates entering into your diary the tasks that bombard you via e-mail. She carries lists over from day to day, but says her rule is to prioritise a task on the third occasion to prevent procrastination.
The value of being organised hit home when, as a single mother of two, she worked several jobs to make ends meet. Divorced twice and retrenched from her job, she needed security for her children.
But when she applied for disease insurance cover three years ago, she was unprepared for a devastating blow.
“A routine blood test for insurance revealed I had chronic myeloid leukaemia,” she says. “I had no symptoms so I was caught off guard. I started treatment but as I had my own business, I had to keep going, no matter how bad I felt. I had to focus on the positive and not let the negative get me down.”
In the midst of her turmoil, she put into practice the principles she teaches.
“With no fixed income, seeing to my children and dealing with my illness, I had to become organised and prioritise. It became a priority to work smart not hard so that I could take time for me.”
People say they are disorganised by nature but everyone can be taught to be organised, she says; it is a discipline, after all. Being disorganised is stressful and missing deadlines creates panic and paralyses us.
Mill says that when things become overwhelming, break your day into bite-sized pieces and concentrate on coping with one piece at a time.
Every day, schedule time for admin, for making your lists, clearing your email, returning phone calls and doing your electronic filing. Then have your appointments.
“And schedule time for yourself. Everyone needs some down time and as a working mother you need to look after yourself, or your children will suffer.”