work-life-balance

Busy women's little technological helpers

Sep. 18, 2012 at 8:11 AM ET

For many women, having it all is less of a choice and more of a necessity. Bills need to get paid, kids need to be mothered and dirty clothes need to be cleaned. The weak economy may have even made things even worse: Government data shows that more married women are even becoming primary breadwinners.

While women may be working more and perhaps even earning more than the men in their lives, chances are a lot of the responsibilities of home still fall on their shoulders. Forget balance; many women are simply striving for work-life survival. Luckily, in this technological age, there are many technological solutions available to help a working gal have it all without completely losing it.

Outsource it

From cleaning the house to picking up the dry cleaning, there are a lot of mundane chores that need to get done. While you’d have to be a 1 percenter to outsource all those pesky tasks, you still may be able to unload a few time-consuming chores from your plate.

But why not pretend like you’re a 1 percenter and get yourself a personal assistant, if only on an occasional basis? Websites like DoMyStuff.com, GetFriday.com and AskSunday.com might be able to get you the help you need.

DoMyStuff.com allows you to post jobs you need done, whether it’s picking up supplies for your daughter’s birthday party or finishing a project around the house. People bid on the job, you review the applicants, pick a winner and off you go. GetFriday.com and AskSunday.com are truly outsourcing -– to India. GetFriday.com offers you a virtual assistant for $15 an hour plus a $10 per month fee. AskSunday.com’s basic plan gets you 10 hours of assistance per month for $119. People have used these services for everything from planning weddings and vacations to researching work projects.

If a personal assistant from India feels too foreign for you, you can always turn to the web to find help outsourcing other tasks and jobs. Sites like SitterCity.com offer access to babysitters. Find a dog walker or housekeeper on craigslist.org.

Get organized

Those niggling chores swirling in your head often increase your stress. A simple to-do list often helps clarify what needs to get done. There is a slew of apps and websites that can help you organize everything from grocery lists to busy family calendars.

One of the most popular is cozi.com, a free website that allows family members to access and update a shared calendar. Cozi also offers to-do list and shopping list managers, which can all be accessed on your smartphone. Cozi CEO and co-founder Robbie Cape noted that families spend a lot of their time communicating logistics. If you can streamline that, family time is freed up for more meaningful conversations.

Scanning all of your important documents and organizing them on your computer can help cut down on both clutter and search time when you need it. Everything from the preschool phone tree to receipts you need for taxes can be scanned and stored electronically.

Stop wasting time updating your Rolodex and let your contacts do it for you. Victoria Ransom, co-founder and CEO of Wildfire, a social media marketing company, advises workers to join the professional networking site, LinkedIn. “Staying connected on a professional level is so important,” Ransom said.

Multi-task

Why flip through an old issue of Good Housekeeping while waiting for the doctor when you could be ordering your groceries or paying bills on your smartphone? Most banks have decent apps for accessing and managing your accounts from your phone. Sites like drugstore.com and Amazon.com allow you to order life’s little necessities and have them delivered to your door. If you take a bus or a train, just imagine all of the tasks you can check off your to-do list during your commute. 

Go virtual

Go virtual or go home. Wait, staying home is the point of going virtual. For those who can swing it, working remotely can have huge benefits. Gone are the commute times and travel costs. Money spent on lunches out and work clothes are significantly reduced, all stress savers.  Kim Burchett, senior manager of adoption services at Vidyo, has been working remotely for years. “Working from home has relieved stress. I still have a professional career and I don’t have to miss out on raising my family,” Burchett said via videoconference. As videoconference technology has improved and costs have dropped, more companies are willing to allow employees to work remotely, at least part of the time.

Videoconferencing doesn’t just allow you to stay connected to the office from home; it also allows you to connect to home when you’re away for work. Burchett recounted a time when her husband was in China for business, forcing him to miss their daughter’s swim meet. Burchett set up a videoconference on her iPad, allowing him watch the whole race in real time.

Join an online group, which can easily hook you up with helpful recommendations and resources. Yahoo! Groups have many moms and professionals groups to join, where you can ask online acquaintances for advice on everything from daycares to plumbers, saving you valuable time.

Schedule downtime

Log onto Outlook and schedule yourself a couple of 15-minute breaks every day. You’re more likely to step away and get a short, much-needed break if you get a reminder for it. Take a walk or do something to clear your head. Sometimes, stepping back for just a few minutes can help give you clarity and renewed energy.

Dana Macario is a Seattle-area writer who’s always looking for ways to make the juggle easier.

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