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The Art of the Diary

For most modern women, the diary is no longer a pretty journal containing carefully noted appointments but a strict, flashing, digital task master mapping our waking minutes with whirring efficiency, intent on extracting maximum achievement from every day.

How such ruthless efficiency came to rule our lives is likely a result of generations of over-achieving women proudly raising the bar. I confess to being a co-conspirator to this, marvelling at how in one evening I can enjoy a home gel manicure, chat with my mum on Skype, unpack my online grocery delivery and have time to share some wine and dinner with my boyfriend.

And yet, I have found myself in show-down with my digital task master (the diary) and its inability to consult my feelings when scheduling a hurricane of activities. Having fallen out too many times with my diary and its ruthless efficiency, I have evolved some self-imposed rules to ensure that I never again wake up staring at an unachievable day’s plans.

Rule # 1: Your Time is Your Currency

Who doesn’t love a diary packed with exciting work projects, drinks with girlfriends, celebrations, weekends away and family time? But I am sure I’m not alone in saying that I have found myself squeezing work overtime into an evening allocated to dinner with friends, or rushing to a morning meeting after a long and unplanned conversation with the decorator. These diary burnout moments are fun for no one.

Having experienced them once too often, I resolved many years ago to treat my time like my bank account. Or, more poetically, like a single pot of gold dust, to be spent only on that which is valuable. Diligent application of this rule at work and socially means time previously flittered away on things you really need not or want not to do is reallocated to more enjoyable and productive activities, including the all-important slither of relaxation.

Rule # 2: Fall in Love with Lists

This rule really is a little dull, but one thing is for sure: behind every successful woman is a highly evolved, precision engineered list management system. Bespoke design of every list system is the key to its success of course. The creative soul will collate beautiful paper and pens, creating colour-coded lists, carefully scribed and updated. The busy mum may find the old kitchen pin board the best way to facilitate full family participation in the list system. I personally favour the digital list hosted by Wedoist, updateable and trackable from anywhere.

‘But where is the fun in all this?’, I hear you sigh. What about spontaneity? I once also felt the same about the list and what I perceived to be the life sapping straight jacket it presented. However, a trial period was thrust upon me by an exasperated housemate tired of reminding me of the overdue chores I seemed to never complete. The trial surprised me as I discovered that a list means you no longer have to remember to do things. The morning update clears my mind of a whirring task list, leaving me able to think slowly and enjoy the moment more. And more importantly, a list, if properly constructed, can be delegated. And as we all know, delegation is the holy grail of efficiency.

Rule # 3: Plan Proactively Not Reactively

With the black belt in list making obtained and the diary gold dust carefully allocated, you’re now free to ponder those tricky questions of love, career and family, and to plan your path to the top of those mountainous goals – buying your new home, getting that promotion, starting a new business, or whatever your dreams may be.

Lucy is the founder and owner of MILK Beauty, London’s mobile beauty service.

Written by:

Lucy is the founder and owner of MILK Beauty, London’s mobile beauty service. She previously spent 10 years in corporate finance and restructuring, working in London, the US and Europe.

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