In the Spring I took a compulsory course for my degree in Finance that was centered on Work Based Learning.

For the ones who don’t know the concept, it is fairly simple. You take an area of your work that needs improvement, you review in detail what you have done, you reflect on the problem, pool and research potential resources and voila, you try something else or deepen your training.

The good side of it is that you can tailor the research to your needs and eventually to the ones of your organisation. It meant that during the course I could choose what I wanted to tackle. It was compulsory to do some time management as it is a common problem. I soon discovered that my time management has a serious downside: I didn’t have enough hours during the day to cover my schedule.  Most – if not all- of the other students had problems such as procrastinating, delaying or being put under pressure by their company. In my case, it turned out that my work was not my main problem. Not that I am so good that this particular area doesn’t require attention, but because I am constantly monitoring my efforts, progress and learnings anyway. Not having a boss, a colleague or a client, I was avoiding almost all of the pitfalls of the course. Even better, I like my job. I discovered I was a rarity.

But what is meant by work is not just your paid job. It is any kind of work you actually accomplish, such as the housechores ( up to 5 h a day in my case), studying ( 2 hours a day), doing the school runs ( 2h daily) and whatever hobby you take. To cut a long story short I was working up to 17h a day.

I was told I should tackle my Work Life Balance. It meant I either had to start being a slob or delegate tasks. I decided to delegate.

I went through the process. I made a mind map of all the activities I had to do and the ones I wanted to do. Read numerous books on the subject, including the ones of David Allen. That was interesting. In my to do list I had things such as :

-working, studying, doing the schoolrun, cleaning, washing, cooking, shopping, ironing, dusting, vacuum cleaning, gardening…

In my ” wants” list, I had this:

-writing kids books, learning to draw, dancing, knitting, doing embroidery, writing, reading, travelling, learning how to sew clothes, painting, sculpting, exercising, going to see movies.

I clearly didn’t have the time. But I was decided to apply my learning. ( It was also part of all the assessments I had to do and the final exam). So I organised a meeting with my family, exposed my problem ( they were shocked), asked for help, set up rules ( such as getting committed to the tasks, having regular meetings to evaluate process, progress, problems and performance, possibility of withdrawing at any time etc). My first surprise was that my whole family decided to do some jobs. We made a list of all the jobs, of a schedule and who was going to do which task. I expected boredom, procrastination, recriminations and other enjoyable challenges.

But my assumptions were wrong. First lesson learned: it is not because you know the folks around you that you know what they think and what they are capable of. I didn’t have any complaints. It doesn’t mean that everybody was happy. But nobody was unhappy.

Second lesson: I didn’t have to set up tasks or ask or beg. In the morning at breakfast the kids would get their directions and then that was it. I never had to ask. I never had to show them how to do anything. It turned out that they had seen me doing it for all these years- so they knew.

Third lesson: We learned from each other. They learned that I had needs too, and wants, and they thought I had the same rights as they did. I learned that I had no reason for feeling guilty of sitting down with a book and a cup of tea. I watched them work then play- and there were no particular value put in these different activities. You do what you have to do or what you want to do.

Fourth lesson: The kids started to reflect too. I talked about my work, my studies, my interests.  They listened. Then they started to help each other, swop jobs, do them even when it wasn’t their turn and showed respect for other people’s work. Now that they were doing the jobs, they didn’t like seeing them messed up. So they paid attention, to their work, to the others’.

I had a few week of peace and the effects on my job was amazing. I could sleep more, I had some free time to do my courses, I became faster and better. I earned more money during that Summer than I had done in the last 2 years.

I then looked at my list of wants and realised that it was not realistic. But I am a woman with a plan. So I started with one project- learn sewing. I kept knitting too and got some time to keep reading more regularly.

I finally went on holiday for a week in Paris- and I felt just better.

If I had made the assumption that this rosy state of affair would falter, I would have been right and wrong. My sons kept the habits they took during the summer. But as they are back to school now, I still have a lot of work on my hand- again. But I was prepared. I went part-time trading and decided I’d only do one course at the time for the year to come. My sewing lessons are a regular occurence and I am now able to do dresses. Learning to do trousers now.

So I’ve learned something. Isn’t what courses are made for?

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