‘Supermum’ Dale Murray’s tips on balancing a successful career, a family and a busy travel schedule
Having a highly successful career that involves a hectic travel schedule, while bringing up a family – a near-impossible feat? We thought we’d take the upcoming Mother’s day as an opportunity to ask Dale Murray CBE, one of the UK’s most successful businesswomen, for tips that help her balance it all.
Amongst her achievements she counts serving on the Business Taskforce for David Cameron, being awarded British Angel Investor of the Year, founding Omega Logic, receiving a CBE from the Queen and being a mother to three children. Check out her top 8 tips below.
- Capture “to do’s” on the fly.When I’m getting ready in the morning, that’s when I seem to remember all the quick emails I need to send. To save time, and avoid forgetting what I need to do, I grab my phone and very quickly dictate a sentence that starts the email off. When I have a moment later, maybe on the train, I see all the drafts in my mail folder and can quickly finish them off and send. Dictating is so much quicker than typing. I also use the Google Keep app to keep track of all my lists and reminders - but there are loads of list-taking productivity apps out there. The trick is to digitally capture these “to do” thoughts as we remember them.
- Automate. Anything I do regularly I try to automate; for example I often have to provide my address on emails, so I’ve set up a 3-digit keyboard shortcut that enters my full address. This can be used for anything that you regularly type - names, short instructions, email address, etc. (for iOS: go to general > keyboard > text replacement). I use a secure password manager like LastPass across all my devices, so that online form filling and password management are done for me.
- Bulk buy pasta and pens. I bulk buy items we regularly need - not just groceries and cleaning products, but things for the kids like pencils, ink refills and even school socks! I was spending too much time racing out to a stationery store or doing yet another Amazon order, so now we have about two dozen glue sticks stacked neatly in a cupboard for when they need them and they help themselves!
- Scenario plan disruption for the kids. I told my children when they were very young that someone would always collect them from school, and each day we’d let them know who it would be for that day. But I also pre-planned with them that once or twice a year, things might go wrong - my train back from London might be delayed or I might be held up on a work call. I told them that this would almost certainly happen, and that they should just wait in Reception at school until I called, and everything would be OK. Of course, it has happened once or twice, and it’s never been a big deal, because I forewarned them that it was likely and we discussed what they should do. Getting your kids to think ahead takes the stress away for all of us.
- My children must contribute. They receive weekly pocket money, but they have to complete their chores first. They each have to clean their bathroom, make their beds and contribute to the kitchen chores and they’ve been doing this since about the age of 6 or 7. I figure I want them to be independent by the age of 18 - I do not want them going out in to the world not knowing how to clean up their own mess, plus it’s simply not right for me to come home to a second shift of work.
- Rigorously plan ahead. My husband and I go through our diaries together each week, and what works here is thinking through all the logistics. So if I’m out for a business dinner then how will Child 2 get home that day and what will my husband prepare for dinner that night? We have a chart blu-tacked to the back of the front door with all the daily reminders, per child (Monday/Child 3:- drumsticks and swim-kit, etc.) Then if they ask what they need, I don’t tell them, I just point them to the door.
- Have doubles of everything ready for travel. My toilet bag is always packed and ready to go, whether it’s for an overnight European flight or for a week away on the other side of the world. I keep a packing list in my luggage bag ready to tick off and I use my label maker to label things I might leave in hotel rooms so they stand out (chargers in particular!).
- After all the organising, enjoy my time alone. I love checking in to my long-hauls. For the week or so that I’m away I can be back to being fully me - a business person - and leave the parenting side of my personality for the odd FaceTime call home. I get so energised by the flip between my trips away and then working from my home office. It’s a pretty good balance.