If anyone knows how to make the most of her time, it’s the indefatigable Natalie Nunn; Agency Director of GIANT Management modelling agency by day, PhD researcher and mum of a boisterous toddler (also by day…and night!). Natalie’s top three tips for getting more done in less time really resonated with us. You’ll be bookmarking this one!
Welcome to the era of the supermum! An era where women can successfully raise children and maintain a sense of independent self-identity through work and personal endeavours. In the 19 months since the birth of my first child, I have experienced some of my absolute life highlights right alongside some of my career highlights. I have rushed out of meetings at the UN to breastfeed, changed nappies outside both Paris and London Fashion Weeks, walked into academic presentations only to discover paint on my neck (side note: a low side-ponytail hides a multitude of sins) and thrown on The Wiggles to take conference calls. And all the while I have somehow kept my son as my absolute priority and managed to spend a majority of each day with him, teaching him and growing alongside him.
There have been highs and lows along the way, but through it all three key things have emerged that have helped make these first two years of motherhood the best of my life. I hope they can help other mums embarking on a similar journey!
Make a schedule and stick to it
No matter what you are working on, when you love what you do it can be so easy to get absorbed and lose track of time. The amount of days I have gone into the agency ‘just for an hour’ to then get a call from my husband two hours later asking where I am are countless. So with that in mind, the best piece of advice I can give, from one passionate workaholic to another, is to make a schedule and stick to it. If you get absorbed in work, set an alarm on your phone for ten minutes before you need to leave and make sure you are out the door by the time you need to be. Why? Because an extra 20 minutes at one place is 20 minutes you need to make up somewhere, magically, throughout the rest of the day. And if you are a working mother you know that you’re only getting that 20 minutes back if you skip your evening shower or eat dinner at 11PM.
Another great scheduling technique for maximising time efficiency is called the ‘pomodoro technique’ (there are some great free apps for this too). When I have a research deadline, I use ‘pomodoros’ which means setting a 25-minute timer and go hard, uninterrupted, for 25 minutes. I often steal away from my desk at the agency to do one or two of these and as a result I get my daily writing done in as time effective a way as possible, and by taking less than an hour away from other tasks. This is also a great way to tackle the hundreds of emails in your inbox. You will be surprised by how much you can get done in 25 focused minutes!
Set clear expectations for yourself
I am the queen of overcommitting. I feel eternally guilty walking out of the office when things for my team are bubbling on. I hate missing out on the minute-to-minute happenings and helping navigate the constant array of situations that emerge when you’re dealing with dozens of models and thousands of clients, but the reality is that you can’t do everything.
Setting clear expectations for yourself is key. If you wake up expecting yourself to work a full day, be a full-time mother, see friends and keep the house in perfect order, you are setting yourself up for failure. And with failure comes guilt, and the last thing any working mother needs is more guilt! I find an important step towards being as efficient as I can be is setting clear expectations for myself. For me, this usually looks something like waking up and saying ‘today I will spend the first three hours of the day in the agency, come home once my little guy is asleep and utilise his two hour nap to do some research, then spend the four hours between his nap and bedtime enjoying quality time together’. I then always try to communicate this to my wonderful team so that they understand when in the day I am not on site and will need to be contacted by phone, and that I don’t feel like I am letting them down by not being physically present. I’ve noticed that the days I get most exhausted are the ones where I don’t have a clear structure for my time; so always set expectations!
Asking for help
As women, and especially as mothers, we tend to feel bad for asking for what we need. It is hardwired into us to prioritise everyone else’s needs above our own. But one of the main keys to being well supported and maximising your time is to clearly communicate what you need from your support networks. I know this can be harder when your support network is your family, but with plenty of notice and a lot of gratitude, your support network is your main facilitator to being successful. I am incredibly lucky to have the support of my mother and mother-in-law (who happen to be two of the kindest, best women on the planet), so when I have a big week or a deadline for my research, I let them know and they magically create chunks of time in their own hectic schedules to consensually kidnap my son and provide the additional hours needed to get through. However, this system didn’t work until I learnt to clearly ask for what I need, so put those finishing school manners aside and ask for help!
And to all mothers out there who are doing their very best to be the best mother/partner/employee/boss/student/housekeeper/chef/Wonder Woman: WELL DONE! It takes a generation of women to make a change, and our society is better for every single woman who does motherhood her own way, whether full-time mum or working mum.
Natalie Nunn is mother to a very active 19-month-old boy. She is the Agency Director of GIANT Management, (Instagram @giant_mgmt) one of Australia’s leading modelling agencies. Natalie is also a PhD researcher in international law, funded by the Australian Government to research the legal regulation of lethal fully autonomous weapons. In 2019 Natalie will be attending Cambridge University as a Visiting Scholar in the international law centre. In both her professional roles, Natalie advises a variety of businesses, government and non-government organisations.
Natalie’s real story ‘Natalie Nunn, Director of Australia’s leading modelling agency, GIANT Management, uses flex to live the dream’ can be read here