Time Management Techniques for the Modern Woman
Have our lives gotten busier, or does it just overwhelmingly feel that way? An in-depth look at how the modern woman (that's you) thinks about time—and strategies to slow it down.
When Carol Greider got the phone call at 5:30 A.M. on Monday, October 5, 2009, informing her that she had won a Nobel Prize, the Johns Hopkins University researcher was wide awake—and sorting laundry. "I was already up, and all these clothes were just staring at me," said Greider.
Who knew that I had so much in common with a Nobel Prize–winning professor of molecular biology and genetics? The last science class I took was in ninth grade, but I, too, have things in my house that get in my face and demand to be dealt with during my so-called downtime: dishes, garbage, mail, unmade beds, dogs, and, oh yes, small children. (Last night, when one of those small children called downstairs to ask why I hadn't come up to put on one of the Curious George tattoos from a birthday-party goody bag, I said, "Mommy's relaxing for five minutes." She replied, "Why do you want to do that?")
There's a reason why so many women say they're short on time—and why even the words we use to talk about that phenomenon (like stretched and crunched) are freighted with connotations of pain and deprivation. Life is busy: We have pressures weighing us down, both big (work, family) and small (writing thank-you notes, getting the dog's teeth cleaned). Is it any surprise that the time-frazzled woman has become a common archetype, courtesy of literature and Hollywood—ranging from Kate Reddy in I Don't Know How She Does It to Claire Dunphy on Modern Family?
In the Real Simple/Families and Work Institute (FWI) survey "Women and Time: Setting a New Agenda," we found that 49 percent of women say they don't have enough free time (defined as "time that you spend on yourself, where you can choose to do things that you enjoy"). While nearly half of women manage to find 1½ or more hours of free time a day, 25 percent have less than 45 minutes a day, and 4 percent say they have zero hours of free time. (Please, someone send those ladies a spa gift certificate.)
But we also learned about the various tasks that rob women of their leisure time. Surprisingly, work is not among the culprits (see Have Women Found Work/Life Balance?). So what is? Housework, errands, and, for those with young children, the helicopter-mom phenomenon (see Do Women Spend Too Much Time With Their Kids?).
"For a while now, we have had a 'running the marathon' definition of time, where we think we have to keep going-going-going at work and at home because there is just too much to do, instead of a weight-lifting approach, in which you have a period of rest and recovery before you lift a heavy weight again," says Ellen Galinsky, the president and a cofounder of FWI. As a result, women are losing the opportunity to use their free time to reenergize and bring real benefit to their lives.