Category Archives: time management

Is having a Present Box insane?


Over the weekend I replenished my ‘Present Box’. I remember hearing about Present Boxes before I became a mum and thinking such people were completely bonkers.

And now I’m one of them.

I like to think of myself as a thoughtful shopper. I love the idea of spending hours thinking about presents for the special people in my life; their habits and personal style or something they might really need at the moment.

Given that consumer goods are so cheap these days, many more people simply buy what they want when they recognise a need, hence the popularity of ‘experience presents’ and vouchers for services like a massage. (I always think such vouchers need to come in pairs; here’s a voucher and here’s some time in your diary to have it!).

Over the last year, I have come a convert to online shopping . And now I have a Present Box.

Friends will be pleased to hear that it’s not as thoughtless as it sounds. Rather than (as I had imagined) a set of generic ‘adult female’ type presents, if I see something you might like now, I buy it immediately and have it ready for your birthday. Last Christmas was my easiest Christmas ever.

There are some more generic style presents in my Present Box, like things for newborns and new mamas, as as well as presents for Four Year Old Girls. Simply because those invitations to parties from day care can sometimes stay in the bottom of the bag until the day before!

I also really hate trying to rush in shopping malls. In fact I hate entering a shopping mall and the Present Box has helped.

Here’s my system for how it has simplified my online shopping.

1. Create a ‘shopping’ folder on your favourites on your browser. Then if you find a good site you can start browsing on sites you’ve already enjoyed previously.

2. Once you’ve found a few sites and browsed them a little, set yourself up for a session with credit card and calendar handy.  While most Australian sites I’ve used deliver within a week, I like to prepare a couple of months ahead.

3. Working through birthdays and other celebrations I simply shop online as I would in a mall, working through my priorities, leaving a tab open if I am unsure about something and moving onto my next choice.  This is a good thing to do if you’re considering several purchases from the same store.  It not only saves on delivery costs but makes receipt of packages a lot easier too.

4. I also keep all of those annoying emails that you get when you join any kind of loyalty program in one email folder.  I then scan it for ideas when I am looking for something in particular; reminded of brands and stores I have frequented in real life.

5. Once I’m finished, I then check my stocks of wrapping paper and cards to check that they cover the same time period I’ve just shopped for. Nothing like realizing you’ve left out something important at the last minute.  You could do the fancy personalized photo card if you’re really keen, but I find most people are happy with something drawn by the kids or one of those cheaper ones from places like Big W.

6. For my recent Present Box replenishment, I used My Favourite.  I’ve found on previous occasions that their delivery is very quick and the products are made of high quality materials. (Not sponsored, I just like them)

7. I’ve also started to keep a Christmas List around this time of year, mostly to keep track of what I have bought and who is left.  Last year I was pleasantly surprised to discover most people had been covered off through ‘incidental shopping’ through the year.

Do you have a Present Box?  Do you think people who keep them are thoughtless – or a little bit mad?

Me time

Did you see this story in the Sunday papers reporting that mums only get 40 minutes of “me time” a day?

Forty minutes a day – or 4.6 hours a week – sounds like a lot to me.

According to the paper, the pressure to do both jobs well, plus the growing number of extra-curricular activities children do, are stripping time from the busy mother’s schedule.

Sound familiar?

What the heck is “me time”?    Good question, and it’s probably one that most working mums ask.  It’s certainly not as though they have it in spades.

According to The Lipstick Economy, 90% of mums go online for me time.  This is a US figure, so it may not be relevant for Australian mums, but it makes sense to me.

I used the Internet for social contact a lot when I was on maternity leave.  At least, when I wasn’t breastfeeding, washing my daughter’s clothes, washing my clothes she’d thrown up on (reflux baby!) or trying to stop her crying.

I spent a lot of time doing all of those things, so checking Facebook and email was one way of keeping in touch when leaving the house was impossible.

These days me time doesn’t involve sitting in front of a computer, although I am a notorious ‘two screener’.  I text or get out the laptop while watching TV. In fact, I’m doing that right now.

I define me time as going for a morning walk, seeing a friend for coffee or getting my nails done. But I don’t get four hours a week!

Time online is still important to me.  Some weeks I spend more time with Facebook friends than my real friends.

What do mums do online?   According to The Lipstick Economy, we engage with social media and spend money. Going online fills our need for social interaction, self-sufficiency and bargain hunting.  Apparently 36% of us are getting bored with what their friends had for dinner last night (yep, that’s me) and are looking for more fulfilling news and content.

Sixty-three percent of mums read articles posted by others, 35% share what they are reading, and 35% post content that others share.

What do you do for me time? How much do you get a day?

Some weeks need a health warning

By Friday, I’m usually exhausted.  This week, I may have set a new record.  Things that have made me tired this week include:

Miss Nearly Three learning new ways to ‘push the boundaries’.  

Yes, I realise this is developmental.  I get that she’s learning how to be a person. I *know* that three year olds can be even worse than two year olds and four year olds are a Whole Other Story.  I understand she’s testing me and it’s-just-a-stage-and-she-will-get-over-it.

But, please, can her latest methods *not* involve unspeakable acts with poo??

Mums will know the kind of thing I’m talking about. Those who are not will already think I’ve overshared.

Being a single mum for three nights.                                                         I have several single mum friends and they are all awesome.  After three nights without my husband to tell me that it’s-just-a-stage-and-she-will-get-over-it and “Woah, exactly how much medicinal chocolate do you really *need* there??”, I conclude my single mum friends are even more awesome than I had originally thought.

Worrying about other people
I visited a friend in a cardio ward yesterday.  She’s the kind of friend who came to my house when I was having a single mum week with a tiny baby, cooked me roast beef, did the dishes and left really early so I could get a good night’s sleep.  Yesterday, I turned up with grapes. It didn’t really feel like enough.
Another friend lost his mum this week, and I’m off to the funeral this afternoon. Hugs are all I can think of.
Work is crazy
I realised this morning than when all my headspace is used up thinking of new strategies to overcome the latest it’s-just-a-stage-and-she-will-get-over-it period, I forget all of the work stuff I need to do.  And comes back at 4am.*
The list gets intimidatingly long, and I start making lists of “If I don’t get these three things done the world will end, and everything else can wait til next week.”  At 4am.
Things that will help this weekend include:
1. Reading Mrs Woog.  She always makes me laugh and sometimes makes me cry.
2. Some sunshine and exercise – scheduled for tomorrow morning.
3. A nice bedtime story at 7:30 which will help me forget certain unspeakable acts and remember how great being a mum can be.
4. A glass of wine, scheduled for 7:45pm.
Have a great weekend!
*This post drafted at 4am as a work avoidance technique!

If you’re working, and a mum, where can exercise fit in?

My friend Julie Delvecchio had a New Year’s resolution to start exercising.  She works in a demanding job where her mobile rings at odd hours, and her toddler son is not always understanding.  I asked her how she managed to make it work, and whether she had any tips to share.  Here’s what she said, in our first guest post.

Everyone’s heard the saying “fake it until you make it”. When it comes to exercise, nothing could be truer.

I am bad at exercise. It hurts. I hate sweating. I look bad in shorts.

But on the past few mornings, robot-like, I am getting myself out of bed to exercise.

I won’t lie to you: when the alarm goes off, it is so dark and I am so tired I honestly wonder what I am thinking. I need more sleep and lots of it.

So how do I do it? I don’t know, I just do it. I don’t think about. No excuses. And I just keep on doing it until I can’t not do it.

I also pack everything by the door the night before, everything I need to make things run smoothly in the morning. I really mean everything – shoes and socks by the door, change of clothes.

I try for daily on weekdays and if I get there, that’s a bonus. I never do, but that’s the goal. Weekends aren’t possible, too much to organise, negotiate and I figure I can’t ask hubby to take on more given I can’t really take on more myself.

While I am faking it for now – ie hating it, wishing I was asleep, I know somehow I’m creating a habit.

What works for me is;

1.      Focus on the mornings

I do some lunchtime-exercise sessions on work days but mornings are better. This works for me because the streets are deserted. I feel like I have a little part of my neighbourhood in the palm of my hand. That I am the only one enjoying it, like a dirty little secret. Also, as a constant multitasker, I can catch up on news while riding on a stationary bike.

The mornings also mean I have backup if my plans fall apart –  lunch, or if that fails, after work. I also get this weird fresh feeling – like I’m starting the day having done something good. For myself, not for the million of other people demanding attention

Cancelling, well, in the morning I don’t give myself any excuse. Bad sleep? Yep, that’s just about every night. If I didn’t go on that account, I would never exercise. Anyways, it helps give me energy.

After wearing a t shirt I bought in 1998 that was so worn out, you could almost see through to the underwear, I lashed out on some lovely gym gear. It helps. Sure I may be the most puffed-out person but my goodness I look “for real” in my gear, very convincing! I try to buy myself a treat, ie gear  as a thank you to myself every 4 or 5 months. Doesn’t have to be expensive but keeps me locked in.

2.      Making a financial commitment

The gym works for me because I can spend about $26  week at a major fitness chain without a contract and with outlets everywhere so I can go from home, first thing or at lunchtime in the cbd. Everyone’s different but for me, some financial commitment means I’m less likely to squib it.

3.      Reducing the impact on family time

Mornings work best for me, mostly because my family DOESN’T really know I’m not there. The least amount of impact means valuable time NOT negotiating with husband on when I’m going and what extra stuff he needs to do or what I will owe him in return. We are both busy so I get that.

Also, I try to go when a family member stays over so if there is extra care needed ie if little guy wakes up, hubby doesn’t have to do more, but mum does. And she is much, much easier to negotiate with. I sneak out, leave the monitor by her bed and close the door, very, very , very (did I say very?) quietly. even if he wakes up, and he does, I JUST GO. And yes, I do pretend not to hear, evil, isn’t it?

Can you find time for exercise?  What works for you?

Back to School

This time of year, every piece of junk mail in the letterbox brags about Back to School Savings.

Even though my daughter isn’t yet three, I started wondering about Back To School Costs. It must be difficult to manage –  just after Christmas, you’ve had the kids at home for weeks, those extra expenses.

I asked the two most organized working mums I know about their costs, plans and whether they had any tips. Here’s what they said.

Emma, mum to Amelia (11) and Harrison (9), works four days a week.

I buy both kids a new drink bottle, lunch box, pair of shoes, socks, school hat, stationery items (even though school supply some) and pencil case.

I would spend between $250- $300. Most of this money is on shoes. Harry needs a pair every term and Amelia only once a year.

I buy my shoes generally later in the day as people tend not to be at the shops buying school stuff then.

I start putting the kids to bed earlier about ten days before so it’s not such a shock when school goes back.

I also start them reading to me or themselves before bedtime to get started with a homework routine.

Emma is one of my oldest and dearest friends. You can see why.

Kellie, mum to Kiara (6) and Tia (4) said;

My theory is that we can never be too organised. I have always talked to my girls about our plans, what is coming up etc.

We have calendars in the pantry and toilet that have things we are doing – including going back to school/kindy/work. It should not be a night before surprise!

We are also talking about going to bed earlier to get back into learning mode

We just do what we do! No real reason other than sticking with what is working and changing what is not.

Like I said, the two most organized working mums I know.