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Managing a Portfolio Career – top tips from Slummy Single Mummy

12 June 2010 One Comment

There are some days at work, (by which of course I mean ‘in my spare room’), when I just can’t focus. I open outlook, read a couple of emails, switch to twitter, open a blank word document… nothing seems to hold my attention for more than two minutes and I end up in a frenzy of inactivity – a dozen windows open on the laptop but getting absolutely nothing done.

There has been a huge surge in popularity over recent years, for parents particularly, in ‘portfolio careers’ – basically an exciting sounding phrase meaning ‘do even more work than someone with just one job’. There are of course benefits – you get to use different skills, explore your creative side, meet different people – variety is, after all, the spice of life.

But there are also downsides, particularly if you are self-employed and working from home. The main problem is boundaries. When you have so many plates spinning at once, just how to you decide which to focus on, which to let spin, so that they don’t all end up a pile of broken crockery at your feet? As a seasoned portfolio career woman, and a single mum of two, I’ve had plenty of chance to hone my circus skills, and have come up with the following essentials:

Be organised: We all know filing is boring, but it is a necessary evil when it comes to being self-employed and managing multiple projects. You don’t want to be searching through bags of knitting needles for your memory stick, or getting icing from your bespoke cup cake business all over an important business plan. Each job is separate, so keep it physically separate too. If nothing else, this is a great excuse to take a trip to Staples for some lovely new files and coloured sticky labels.

Plan your time: When you have so many things on the go, it can be hard to know where your priorities lie, so plan, plan and plan some more. Planning needs to be both long and short term. Map out the next month or two, blocking out time for large projects, to make sure you don’t end up taking on more work than you can handle. On a daily and weekly basis, look at shorter term priorities, but keep long term deadlines in mind.

Focus on one job at a time: It sounds simple, so why do I find it so hard? Choose which hat you’re going to be wearing for the next hour/day/week and keep it on. Don’t try putting on more hats at the same time, you’ll just look stupid and they’ll probably fall off.

Take breaks: Tea and biscuits are an essential ingredient of home working. It’s hard to switch from one task straight into something completely different, so take the opportunity to switch off, have a coffee, put on some washing, and clear your mind ready for the next job. You could also experiment with cakes and/or crisps.

So there you have it! Follow my top tips to success and in a few months you’ll become calmer, more efficient and at least half a stone heavier. What are your tips for juggling?

One Comment »

  • admin said:

    This is great although I am somewhat biased as I have just written a book on portfolio careers, “And What Do You Do?: 10 Steps to Creating a Portfolio Career”, A&C Black. What my co-author, Katie Ledger and I have found from interviewing a large selection of portfolio workers is that hardly any would even consider returning to what I call a single track career. They actually report feeling more secure in a recession as they are not reliant on only one job. Attitudes towards this growing phenomenon amongst employers are proving fascinating. Even the CBI in a recent report say that our concepts of work and employment are going to have to change with organisations relying more on a small core workforce supplemented by an army of temporary or project workers. Portfolio workers typically are self motivated, self starters and reliable. They have to be as they will not survive unless they are excellent time managers and organisers. They will be increasingly attractive as employees. We are just beginning a programme of interviewing a wide range of employers to check out their attitudes to this growing group of workers. We reckon that there are already over a million of us. Yes – we are portfolio workers too! Follow our project on http://www.portfoliocareers.net

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