If there’s food shopping to buy, kids to collect, the washing machine to empty, dinner to cook, emails to answer, that charity bag to fill and your nails need redoing, you’re busy. If that’s just the first half of your list and you still need to find time to decorate the spare room before your guests arrive on Saturday, then you’re very busy indeed, and congratulations for even attempting it. There’s no doubt that most of us cram as much as we can into our lives; a job, friends, family and hobbies, while still feeling duty-bound to keep up with current affairs, knock out healthy organic culinary treats, stay fit and give the cat his worming tablet!
So, how can you fit it all in?
1-Get up earlier. Obvious perhaps, but although you’ll groan when the alarm goes off, the early hours can be very productive. It’s amazing what you can do by nine with no interruptions.
2-Go to sleep later, unless you’re an insomniac – in which case, avoid anything too stimulating before bed. But for others, the hour before you doze off can be an excellent chance to settle into the pillows with a project; whether it’s knitting that scarf, reading the classics or writing in your diary.
3-Multitask. If you clamp on earphones and put an iPod in your pocket, you can creosote the back fence as well as learn a language, listen to a radio play or practice your karaoke…
4-Buy the man in your life membership to the golf club, a day’s carpentry course or cookery lessons. You’ll get much
more done if he’s not in the house all day. (Note: If he does start cooking, praise every effort, even if it’s inedible. He’ll get better eventually and every day he makes dinner, you can be writing birthday cards or going for a facial.)
5-Do internet shopping. Yes, our high streets need preserving, but if you get the supermarket to deliver the boring stuff that doesn’t need hand-picking – bleach, loo rolls, ketchup – you’ll save hours and have time to support your local shops instead.
6-Put the important stuff first. Any life coach worth their salt will talk about priorities. If what you really want to do is weed the flower beds, do it now. If you ‘just tidy up first’, it’s suddenly gone lunchtime and started to rain.
7-Turn the TV off and only switch it on when you have something specific to watch. If the set’s on in the background, it’s too easy to be distracted by ancient reruns of Columbo.
8-Don’t obsess about the housework. Clean the bits that matter, like the kitchen and bathroom. If you vacuum throughout, plump up the cushions and put the magazines in a pile, no one will notice a bit of dust until you have time for it.
9-Throw a party. Put on a coffee morning and entertain lots of friends at once – asking them to bring a cake or some sausage rolls to save you time in the kitchen. Then invite yourself back. That’s a meal or two you won’t have to make yourself.
10-If the doorbell rings, answer it with a jacket over your arm or the car keys dangling from your fingers. Then you can brightly tell the friend who just ‘pops in’ with her coffee face on (and the latest installment of her life story) that, unfortunately, you’re just about to go out… What a shame!
11-Employ the kids. Involve your children (or grandchildren) with jobs that need doing. Small people like to help in the garden – especially if you don’t mind how muddy they get – while older ones might like to bake, bath the dog or paint a wall…
12-Get a slow cooker. Brilliant for warming winter stews and casseroles. Bung all the ingredients in first thing, and you don’t need to think about dinner until you eat it (see page 38!). Freeze leftovers to serve on a baked potato for an easy supper another time.
13-Keep your hair low maintenance. If sorting your tresses takes half the morning, have your hair cut into an easy-to-manage style. Straightening hair keeps it looking good longer than a mere wash and shake, so saves time, and modern straighteners are quick and a joy to use. Dry shampoo is a fast fix too.
14-Swap skills. If you’re rubbish at sewing, let your friend put a zip in quicker than you could, while you prune her roses.
15-Meet over-talkative friends in cafes. You can walk there (exercising while socializing kills two birds at once) and if you’ve lots to do, you can be strict about when you leave. If they come to you, you’ll be boiling the kettle all afternoon AND feel obliged to put on supper.
16-Farm out keeping-intouch jobs. Insist that other members of your family do some of the social phone calls – like to your mother-in-law!
17-Limit social media.Facebook and emails will eat up a morning. Allow half an hour for a catch up and stick to that. Set an alarm and when it goes off, that’s it.
18-Put it in the recycling bin! When you open your mail, immediately bin it, file it or take the necessary action, rather than moving the pile from place to place or keeping it, just in case. You really won’t use that offer on ski-wear or the discount voucher for having your teapots steam-cleaned.
19-Make lists. Putting down on paper what needs to be done can save on faffjng, and ticking things off is very satisfying. If you haven’t done an item after a week, cross it off, as it can’t be that pressing – unless it’s your credit-card bill or tax return.
20- Declare a holiday day, where you behave as though it’s Christmas (without the roast dinner). Build in leisure time by putting this as a date in your diary. Sit on the sofa, watch a film, read a book, eat chocolate and put your feet up. Remember, life is short, stress is bad for you, loved ones come first and, sometimes, the to-do list can just wait.