Claire Sparksman, 46, from London has three children Siena and Raffy, two and Angelina, 11. She is an ex TV advertising executive, who currently works as a play leader and is also doing the Digital Mums course. If anyone knows about time management it’s her. She is proof that toddlers and retraining can mix!
Claire shares her top tips for doing the work/family/studying juggle.
1/ Find the best time of day for you to work
I’m fresher in the morning when luckily the twins sometimes have pre-school. I always try to dedicate this time to studying. I make sure I always do trickier tasks that require more thinking. Of course I accept there are some days I might still be scheduling at midnight!
2/ Work in ‘chunks’
Some of the other Digital Mums are great at doing 30 minutes and then getting on with something else but this doesn’t work for me. Instead I plan my studying sessions to be about 90 minutes long. I generally never do longer as I find my work rate really goes down.
3/ Stick to one task at a time
I plan in advance what I’m doing in a particular session and I then work much more effectively. It’s easy to start researching online and then before you know it 90 minutes has gone and you haven’t actually achieved anything! Sticking to one task (so for example scheduling, looking for content, analytics) means something is always ticked off the never-ending To Do list.
4/ Take a moment
When I start to feel overwhelmed, I take a few minutes to breathe deeply. I then focus on how I’m feeling in that present moment and try to accept those thoughts and relax with them. I’ve found it’s much better than batting away negative feelings.
5/ Don’t sweat the small stuff
I’ve realised there is no point over stressing about things like household chores. If they don’t get done then what’s the worse that can happen?! Ultimately these things are just not a priority. There will always be something else to plan or organise so I try not to worry.
6/ Look after yourself
When I’m rushing around dealing with the twins, trying to get Angelina to activities and squeezing studying in there is a tendency to forget about my own wellbeing. But I find the days where I drink enough water and eat proper healthy meals I’m able to cope with the demands of life so much more. Admittedly I don’t get any ‘me time’ but hopefully I will one day!
7/ The course is not a full time job
My priority is to do the best job that I can and run a fantastic social media campaign. But it’s important to remember that this is not a full time job! Digital Mums suggest the course should take 10-15 hours a week. Sometimes, to do the absolute perfect job, you feel you want to do more. But I try to stick to the recommended amount. We will most likely be charging by the hour when we graduate so it's important to be strict with yourself.
8/ There are no hard and fast rules
The course has taught me there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to studying/working/family life. We all do the juggle in different ways. Some weeks I feel I am hanging on by a thread but other times I’m really on top of it. The absolute best thing about Digital Mums is the incredibly supportive community of Mums that I can turn to for advice.
9/ Accept that things will get easier
I was so desperate to find #workthatworks and a rewarding job that would genuinely fit around family life. I realise that I will probably never be as busy as I am now for the rest of my life! The course is 20 weeks and it is 100 percent worth the amount of time and effort for the fantastic work-life balance at the end. Nothing really interesting and challenging is ever easy; but that’s what makes it so good.