How I Found An Extra 2 Hours A Day To Start A New Career
Published: On This Beautiful Day, July 17 2017
When my first child was born, I gave up my job at a law firm to stay home and raise him. Two more babies followed and between caring for the three of them and looking after the home pretty much all of my time was taken up.
But I reached a point where I felt that I wanted to do something constructive again, as well as needing to earn some money. I knew I didn’t want to go back into law with all that entailed – a lengthy commute, endless meetings and a minimum of nine hours a day in an office. I also wanted to be around for the children, to be the one who took them to activities and played with them at the park.
At first it didn’t seem possible that I would be able to find the time to start a new career. Every hour of the day was taken up with something. My routines had expanded to fill all of the available time. But given a choice between trying to fit in a job at home or leaving before sunrise to commute for an hour and not returning until after dark, I knew I had to try and make it work.
I took the plunge and enrolled on a writing course, the first step in a new career as a freelance writer. And I just hoped that somehow I could find the time.
At first it was difficult. The children were still quite young and pretty demanding. The eldest didn’t nap any more and all three boys were incredibly active. But by trial and error I gradually managed to find ways of fitting in small chunks of study and later, paid writing.
Over the years I’ve amassed plenty of tips and tricks for finding and using little pockets of time. I’ve worked out what works and what doesn’t. And I’m sharing it here in the hope that it will help you, and maybe even inspire you to follow a dream. There usually is spare time in the day; wouldn’t it be great to utilize it and achieve something amazing?
A Note About What I Didn’t Do
I often hear time saving suggestions that just don’t work for me. Right from the start, I was determined not to sit the children in front of screens to get some peace and quiet. I wanted them to engage in the real world, to be active and interested, and for me that meant little or no television and no computer games.
I also wanted to keep preparing proper meals for us all. No junk, no ready meals or takeaways. Good food is a passion of mine, even to the extent that I grow as much of it as I can myself. So I knew that I wouldn’t be cutting corners when it came to meals. I don’t make elaborate food, just simple, seasonal recipes. It doesn’t take me hours every day and I honestly believe it’s worth it.
I’m slightly obsessive and I know that I wouldn’t be happy or able to concentrate if the house was a complete mess. Having said that, it’s not immaculate. I just don’t let it slide too far. That means regular housework, but I’ve found that keeping on top of things helps me feel organized and in control. It also means that I don’t ever have to stop everything and devote a whole day to restoring order.
Finally, I’ve never asked anyone else to look after the children. Not everyone has relatives to help out; I didn’t, and it seemed counterproductive to me to send them to a childminder so that I could earn money, which would then be used to pay the childminder.
I’m here to tell you that even so, it’s still perfectly possible to find spare hours in the day. They’re there, you just have to look.
My Top Tips For Finding Free Time
Make use of short periods of time
If you have young children, then you will probably have to accept that any free time you manage to carve out for yourself is unlikely to come in nice, useful, two-hour blocks. Or even in one-hour blocks. The first lesson I learned, and probably the most important one, was how to utilize short moments.
If you find the children occupying themselves quietly without needing you every ten seconds, put down the vacuum and get straight down to business. It won’t last long, but if you get in the habit of using every quiet moment to the full you’ll be surprised how it adds up.
Work out when you’re most productive
I’m a morning person and if I happen to be up before everyone else I use that quiet time to the max. This is when I tackle bigger tasks and things that need more concentration.
After lunch I have a complete slump and even if I was at my laptop, chances are I wouldn’t be achieving much. So that’s when I do the housework. My energy and focus return later in the day, so if there’s a spare twenty minutes then I can write instead of doing other chores.
Ask yourself, can I make things simpler?
This has become something of a mantra for me. I’m constantly asking myself, is there an easier way? For example, a grocery shop can take a couple of hours by the time I’ve driven to the store, worked my way around finding everything I need, paid and driven back home. Online, it takes a fraction of the time.
This works with other shopping too. I buy almost everything I can online when I’m busy, including clothes and shoes for the children. Many stores have a free returns policy, and even if they don’t, I don’t mind a few dollars to avoid the chaos at the mall.
Instead of agonizing over the perfect gift for friends and relatives, I give gift certificates. Not only do I save time, but I know they’ll be able to buy exactly what they want.
Batch it up
A really great time-saver, and one that banks time for another day. This applies to pretty much anything you can do beforehand and save for when it’s needed. The classic example is cooking. Make double, treble, even quadruple portions and freeze them. On a rushed day, all you need to do is defrost, reheat and maybe add some rice or pasta.
Alternatively, find recipes that will last for more than one meal. For example, a roast or veggie roast can be served with vegetables on the day you make it, with salad and bread later on in the week and again with beans and sautéed potatoes another day.
When it comes to buying birthday gifts for younger children, pick up several suitable presents and cards and stash them until they’re needed. I lost count of the times I had to make a last minute trip to the store to pick something up for a party until I worked this one out.
If you do have to go out on a big shopping trip, combine as much as you can into that excursion. Keep a running list of what you need, and if possible don’t go until you have a full half day’s worth on it.
It’s a good feeling to be organized and be able to get through busy days with minimum effort because some of the work has already been done.
And on the subject of lists…
A good list is indispensable. In fact I have more than one. Find out what works best for you, but believe me when I say, if you write down everything you need to do and think about when you’re going to do it you’ll end up being far more organized than if you rely on your memory.
If things occur to you during the day, jot them down. I was forever forgetting the various online family stuff I had to do and it would result in me sitting in front of the laptop staring into space trying desperately to remember what exactly it was I was supposed to be doing.
I look at my to-do list every night and schedule everything I want to do the next day. If I’m going through a busy period I see if there’s anything I can simply cross off. The grass won’t mind if it doesn’t get cut this week and the bake sale can go ahead without a contribution from me just this once. If you’re really struggling to make the time, be absolutely ruthless here and where necessary let others take up the slack.
Take your work out with you
When we go out and the children are occupied, for example at their swimming lesson, I whip out a notebook and do a few quick checks. Short periods of time away from home are great for writing lists, thinking over problems and coming up with ideas. Once the children are past the age of needing you hovering behind them on the steps of the slide, time at the park is good for catching up.
Or at least realistic. If you want to make extra hours in the day, you may need to drop some activities.
Would your children be that bothered if they didn’t ever go to toddler yoga or kiddie gymnastics ever again? Have some activities become a bit of a millstone? If you’d feel relief if you didn’t have to go again it might be time to drop them.
Keep socializing under control
You do need friends and a break from routine sometimes but you don’t need to go to absolutely everything, or stay to the end of the morning/night. You’re a business person now. Explain to your friends that you’re building a new career for yourself and you just need a little more time.
Quite often it’s the mom without a regular office-hours job who ends up taking on odd jobs for other people. After all, she’s not doing anything much is she? Tell your family, friends, school PTA etc. that you are working and simply can’t do as much as before.
Put down that phone
Be completely honest here. How long do you spend checking social media and reading articles with titles like “The One Problem With All Women” or “An Amazing Body In Just 20 Seconds A Day”. Stop. Just stop. You don’t have time for that any more. Allow yourself a set time for the platform of your choice and stick to it. You’ll be amazed how fast that half hour speeds by, but be strict. You really won’t be missing out on anything.
I found this to be a vital step in establishing my new career. Once I had a routine in place and was working on building my writing business I checked at the end of every month to make sure that I was actually using my time productively and that everything was moving in the right direction.
If you are particularly busy juggling home, children and work, then it can be easy to carry on along a path that isn’t leading exactly where you want to go. Check that you are heading towards your goals and if not, work out what needs to change.
I regularly work in the evenings once the children are in bed. I get right down to it as quickly as I can and focus hard. But I do need a reward otherwise I’d probably be a bit slower to sit down and concentrate. I stop an hour or so before bed and read or watch tv or have whatever treat I fancy that day.
Finding time in an already packed schedule is hard work to start with, but I promise you, it does get easier as you find a routine that works for you.
You will need a certain amount of discipline, but again, I’ve found that the more I do, the more I want to do. The biggest effort is needed right at the start, but as you get going things will start to flow.
If you have a day when you achieve absolutely nothing, don’t be despondent. It happens. Put it behind you, remind yourself why you’re doing it all and carry on.
If you have a dream, don’t be afraid to follow it. Right now. After all, the time will pass anyway. If you give it a go, then five years from now you could have achieved something amazing.