Thursday, January 13, 2011

Time-saving tips for busy people.

I am a huge fan of Gwenyth Paltrow. The woman is a celeb, mom, singer, actor, and head of several charities. She did a featurette in her weekly newsletter, GOOP, this last week about working women and ways to manage our busy lives. I am re-posting this interview with Juliet de Baubigny, the partner at a major venture capital firm, and mother of two is a crazy list-maker and scheduler (much like yours truly!). She is inspiring, and I am totally stealing her idea for a list/schedule binder in the kitchen - totally worth the up front time!

Busy, fun, fulfilled, happy and often manic!

As a full-time working mother, wife, mother to two children (ages 6 and 3 1/2) and, as my husband will tell you, someone who likes to "do it all," every day is a constant juggle and quest to create more time. I am a Partner at Kleiner Perkins, Caufield & Byers, a venture capital firm based in Menlo Park, California. I balance this with my work as a board member of Product (RED), the organization started by Bono and Bobby Shriver to help fight HIV/AIDs in women and children in sub-Saharan Africa. I’m also on the board of Trustees of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and actively involved in the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, California. Needless to say, I lead a busy life. Here are some things that have worked for me, which I wanted to share, in the hope that they may be helpful.

My day:

I'm an early bird—so I try to seize "Juliet time" first thing in the morning. I get up between 5:30am - 6am and quickly scan my email. Then my priority is exercise. If I can work out each day, I'm a really happy person. And let's face it, if you are getting up on a cold morning in the dark it had better be fun. I've found that having a trainer come to my house on a Monday really motivates me—she's knocking at the front door so going back to sleep is NOT an option. This way, my body clock adjusts after the weekend and I'm more inclined to commit to workouts each day during the week. I'm currently obsessed with the Tracy Anderson Method and do the Perfect Design DVD three times a week. I even take the DVD traveling! On cardio days, I use the elliptical or spin bike for 30 minutes (including lots of sprints). I bring my iPad and use the Flipboard app to curate my social media (Facebook, Twitter and categories that are important to me: business, technology, style, design, fashion). The iPad is a lifesaver for me: in 30 minutes, I have read everything that I need to start my day!

Breakfast: super important and always super-rushed with the pressure of everyone being out of the door at 7:45am. I really make a point of sitting down with my children—even if it's for 15 minutes. A great time saver is to make steel cut oatmeal, put it in a ceramic bread loaf pan and slice it each morning, add a drizzle of maple syrup, milk and 45 seconds in the microwave—healthy breakfast in seconds and I can make it last over 3 - 4 days! In the summer, I start the day with a protein smoothie, which can be made in minutes (a handful of organic berries, a large scoop of Greek yogurt, a squirt of flaxseed oil, 2 scoops of protein powder, organic pomegranate or cranberry juice and blend). If I'm really in a rush I have a Shaklee vanilla shake. I always try to take the Shaklee multivitamin strip + iron, which comes pre-packaged, to save time. This way breakfast takes a few minutes to make and I have the time to talk to my children about their day.

Hair: A great time saver is to have a weekly blow out. This means that you don't need to wash your hair each day—the time that you save with a blow out can save you minutes in the morning.

Makeup: I was given an amazing present of a makeup lesson with Wallet Lubrich. She taught me how to do my daily makeup in 5 minutes. No joke, I can dress, do my make up and be out the door in 15 minutes.
I always make a point of doing the school run in the morning. It's a really important moment in my day. This fall, my children started at the same school, which is such a time saver for me. Our 15 minute drive together is treasured time and I really feel that we all start our day on the right foot.

My Day: Is a blur from the minute that I arrive in the office but that's how I like it. I have the benefit of an amazing assistant, without whom I could not make it happen (Thank you, thank you, Diane). My day is packed back-to-back from the moment that I arrive until the moment that I leave. When I'm driving to a meeting, I bring a call list with me so that I can quickly return calls. On a Friday afternoon, I'm given the list of outstanding calls/topics/decisions that I need to make over the weekend. I carve out key moments during the weekend to do emails and return calls. During other windows, I turn my Blackberry off so that I can focus 100% on my children and my husband.

6pm - 7:30pm is family time, as many nights of the week as I can make it. Conference calls happen before or after that window, same for email. Giving 100% attention and quality time to my children is key, particularly when I've been out at work all day.

Bed: By 10:30—if I can!

Sunday nights: Always, always family dinner. It's super fun now that the children are older. We do everything together—we plan the menu, often going to the farmer's market the day before, prepare the food, set the table, cook together and clean up. It's our ritual. After the children are in bed, I print out the family calendar for the week. It has all the activities and schedule, and I put it in on the board in the kitchen so that everyone knows who is where and where they are supposed to be!

Juliet's top 10 time savers:

  1. The power of the list: My great friend, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, shared with me a great tip, when we were both on maternity leave after the birth of our first child, to create key spreadsheets to help manage your home life; for example, travel check list (clothes, toys that each family member needs to bring with them for travel. Believe me, my children are very grateful after I managed to forget their underwear on two consecutive family holidays!). I also find it invaluable when I'm packing for a business trip at midnight! Other lists include grocery staples, birthday lists, monthly household task lists. I file them all in a binder and keep in the kitchen where anyone can access them. It saves a ton of time and money. Note—do not try to give a list to your husband, the reaction is not quite so positive!
  2. Aggregate all your medical appointments: Another time saver is to try to do all your standard appointments on one day or one afternoon. For example, September is back-to-school time for us all and I plan an afternoon to take my children to the doctor, dentist, and hair. I do the same for myself in January. That way, I can get it all out of the way in one afternoon and ensure that the appointments really happen!
  3. Plan ahead for birthdays, holidays: I'm afraid that I'm one of those people that really does try to plan ahead. It saves me from too many moments of last-minute panic! I sit down in October and pull together my gift list for the holidays. I buy hostess gifts and presents for the children's teachers well ahead of time. I love One Kings Lane so much that I got Kleiner Perkins, Caulfield & Byers to invest in it. It’s my main stop for beautiful products for the home and have my wish list throughout the year that I can stockpile. Use this time as a moment to support initiatives or causes that are important to you. For me, I buy products from Product (RED) like Starbucks gift cards, Caroline Bucci bracelets, Nike laces, and Apple Nanos. My other great gift is a donation in someone's' name to Donors Choose—all the monies go to a wish list of teachers in public schools. I keep the gifts in transparent plastic tubs and then wrap in groupings, tagged with a sticky label that indicates the content of the gift. I have an accordion file that is filled with birthday cards labeled by category: child birthday, adult birthday, Valentines Day, Halloween etc. That way, I can always have a card at the ready to send.
  4. Condense your appointments: find a great salon that understands time pressure and can accommodate your schedule. I have a great salon near me that I can go to at the end of the day to have a facial, manicure and pedicure at the same time. I'm in and out in 70 minutes. Not relaxing but efficient. Same for other appointments. I have acupuncture at 9.30pm at night. It's a wonderful end of the day.
  5. Shop for clothes at key moments during the year: While some of my friends may be surprised at this, I cannot stand to shop. I don't like it, I don't have the patience for it and it's not fun. But, I love clothes and fashion so it's a problem. My solution: make a wish list at key moments in the year—mine are fall and spring. I plan my key pieces, order, and then I can forget about it for 6 months. Also, find a great alteration person. Twice a year, I meet with her, review my clothes, sort out my closet, plan key looks for travel, weekend, evenings, and holiday. That way, I can dress, pack and travel in seconds. It's worth the investment of time upfront.
  6. Curate your own web: find a list of sites that really help your life. For me, it's Net-A-Porter and Kirna Zabete for all my shopping, ideas on how to style clothes and hours of fun. Note, try to avoid shopping when your husband is looking over your shoulder—"you are not really going to check out all of those clothes in your basket, are you?"—for everything from books, beauty products, night diapers, to household products—love, love Amazon Prime! Zappos for all my childrens' shoes. Zazzle—for great t-shirts for kids' sports teams, stamps for holidays and cool customized products. Vivre for amazing gifts for friends, and my husband. GOOP, which is my digital "girlfriend," and covers all of my lifestyle needs. Indagare for travel, Chasing Fireflies for childrens' Halloween costumes, Oriental Trading Company for childrens' parties, Crew Cuts and Papo d'Anjo for my childrens' clothes.
  7. "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it.": One of my partners gave me a great tip for time management. At the end of each week, I review my calendar and look at the following categories: Work: did I spend my time in the right places, right meetings, impacting the highest upside situations? Home: did I have dinner with my children at least 3 times during the week? Did I read to them at least 5 times in a seven day period? My Husband: Did we have at least one dinner on our own or with great friends? Did we find time to take a walk/run/bike ride together? Monthly: did I see my girlfriends for dinner? Daily: having a really good laugh about something!
  8. Bring your notebook everywhere: I have a black Moleskin notebook that I bring to each meeting. At the end of the day I go through it with a highlighter and mark open action items. Some get transferred onto my outlook task list. Most I try to get done at the end of each day.
  9. Adapt to what works for you: I work full-time, so I can't attend the afterschool classes or as many moments in the classroom as I would like to, but I still want to be involved. So I organize one or two key moments during the school year to have the class over for a project—that way my children see me interacting as "Mummy" and I can connect with their friends and mothers. Things that worked for us: co-hosting a Valentine's party for the girls in my daughter's class, doing a Halloween cookie decorating party with my son's preschool class.
  10. Get your girlfriends together: I can't see my girlfriends as much as I would like and I really need that girl time. Also, your girlfriends are the ones that give you great timesaving tips, keep you grounded and make you laugh. I try to organize a girls’ night once a quarter and do something really fun together. It's also a great way to introduce amazing women. For example, my friend Olivia Chantecaille came to visit and we had a makeup party—lots of champagne, makeup lessons and laughs. I did the same for Philip Lim and had a trunk show with my friends. But often we'll just have a potluck supper and a glass of wine. Nothing fancy but super fun!

Things that make my life really amazing:

  1. Hike in the Redwoods with my family on the weekends.
  2. Find a great TV show to watch with your husband—for us, Mad Men on Sunday night
  3. Go to a concert/art exhibition regularly—went to see Sheryl Crow with a girlfriend last night—she rocked! I'm excited to see the opening of the new Impressionist show at the de Young Museum in San Francisco on September 25th.
  4. Discover and find what inspires and grounds you. For me, the work of the ONE campaign and Product (RED) has given me such an inspirational education in the work of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.
  5. Taking the time to give big, long hugs to each member of your family each day and tell them how much you love them.
  6. Getting 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night!

Note: Klipboard and are also Kleiner Perkins investments.

I can completely relate to the absolute need to have a place for everything and everything in its place. I am an organization FREAK! If you've ever seen my desk at work, you know this (maybe someday I'll post a picture of my color-coordinated, painstakingly-decorated, and perfectly-organized desk). Eric and I have a lack of storage space in our 1500 square-foot home, and consequently have to store quite a few things in the attic. We stole an idea from our friend's mother who has a 3-ring binder with a picture of everything in the attic, and an indexing system telling you exactly what labeled bin contains said item. I cannot begin to tell you how helpful it was this winter when we dug the Christmas decorations out of the attic and it was a wonderfully organized and easy.

I'm also going to start making lists for each day instead of a weekly list - I think it will help me feel like I'm getting more done. I do wish I could have a trainer come to my home, though, ans a weekly blow-out. I guess when I'm a partner in a venture capital firm I can do those things ;) Hope this was as helpful for you as it was for me! Happy Thursday!

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