This time of year can make many of us feel under pressure to get more things done than seems possible.

I read an article recently that talked about two types of women, one who is super organised and has all their Christmas shopping done in November, and one who leaves everything to the last minute. Now granted, this may be a tiny generalisation of all women… but I’d definitely be in the second camp when it comes to Christmas shopping!

Next year I will be more organised… Next year I will start my shopping in November… Next year I will not be on my tablet till midnight desperately trying to find a present before the postage deadline…

So roll on January when I can start afresh with all my New Year’s Resolutions and good intentions. I’ll be taking Gillian’s advice below and hopefully this time next year I’ll be stress free and enjoying the festivities…

Best of luck with your preparations, whichever camp you fall into!


Elaine Lawless
The Working Mother

Surviving the Busiest Time of the Year!

( it and the Art of Prioritising)

What is it about this time of year? It can be a complete frenzy!

“There’s just not enough hours in the day!” I’m hearing it everywhere at the moment. I suppose on top of the ‘everyday chaos’, we are immersed in the demands of the silly season such as finding time to buy gifts, organise family get-togethers,  plan holidays,  Christmas parties, and so on.

I’m a lover of lists and a self confessed multi-tasker but as I’m also discovering, much to my dismay, it can be an incredibly inefficient way to function!

I’ve decided to do a bit of research on how to optimise time. I’m learning that a universal pitfall is underestimating how long a particular activity will take! Things ALWAYS take longer than we think and the reason for this, is that our emotions can blow reason off course! We persuade ourselves that we want a particular task done within a certain time-frame (does Christmas shopping spring to mind?) so that we can move on to doing things we might prefer to spend our time doing like enjoying with the festivities!

So, what can we learn from this… and quickly, as reading this blog is taking up time!

I was speaking to a good friend recently and she said something that resonated with me, “… It seems like everything is a priority…”. It reminded me of one of the key messages in Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” where he  distinguishes tasks in terms of what’s urgent and what’s important. He encourages us to stop thinking in terms of importance and start thinking in terms of energy for example, match your tasks with the energy levels required!

Based on this- what practical pointers can we take, to help us optimise our time while prioritising what needs to be done? When it come to “time” as the old adage goes – Use it or Lose it!!!

Think S.L.U.M.

S – Simplify – ask yourself, what matters most? Focus on your “High Pay Off Activities”, in other words, those tasks that incur consequences if not completed such as collecting the children from school on time versus grocery shopping.

L – Learn to give realistic estimates. Add 25% to your timelines, schedule recovery time and be honest about trade-offs! How often are we asked to reprioritise by our managers? Ensure that the impact of this is communicated and understood.

U – Use your time! It’s true that our time is not always ‘our own’ but where it is, are we taking responsibility to use it as best as we can? Use unexpected moments to walk or stretch (instead of reaching for our smartphones!) Slow down to achieve more! (See my previous blog  on visiting your mid-year mind spa.

M – MultiTask a little better – focus on two instead of ten items! Take an aerial view, consider the activities for the month ahead as this will prevent us from over planning and scheduling when we are already overwhelmed, resulting in the aforementioned pitfall!

The result? OK, you may not be fitting everything in but if you drop a ball, it more than likely won’t be a critical one! Of course these tips are not just specific to December but I’m sure we can all relate to being particularly busy as we ponder the few weeks ahead.

So, go on! Harness the power of momentum, make your day count and replace the ‘to do’ with ‘will do’!!

Gillian McGrath is a Cork based Life and Business Coach and Master Trainer. For more information, you can contact her on