There’s no doubt about it, searching for a job takes time. Especially if you are a return-to-work mum! Researching available roles, resume writing, applications, interviews, updating your skills, preparing LinkedIn profiles…there’s a lot to do. And one thing many CareerSmart Mums worry about is how they will find the time to get started on their new career pathway.

The term ‘busy mum’ seems so overused, but there’s no denying that it’s not just a cliché! The endless number of jobs that mums take on can make life whizz past in a blur, and it’s easy to put your own life aspirations on the backburner. But have you ever really looked at what’s filling up your calendar? It’s worth stopping the clock for just a minute to take a reality check on how you spend your time.

Is it small things that may seem essential, but actually, when you think about it, the world would still turn around on its axis if you didn’t do it? Often, perfectionism creeps up on us, and we end up spending our time on making things ‘just right’ rather than ‘just done’.  Identify areas where you could lower your standards a little, or take shortcuts. You’ll be amazed at how the time-savings add up.

Perhaps you are doing too much at home. It can be great for your children to take on more responsibility, and can also free up your schedule. Spend some initial time teaching them how to do things, and watch them thrive with newfound independence. Often our families aren’t even aware of all the things we do to keep the household running. Our handy CareerSmart Mums’ Household Task Audit can really help as a conversation starter to get the whole family sharing the load. It’s also great practise for when you get back into the paid workforce!

Or you may find that others lean on you for support – taking care of family members, supporting friends, or volunteering. Giving is great in so many ways, and I would encourage everyone to be generous to those around us. But if you aren’t able to put as much energy into your own self-care as you do for others, then perhaps you need to reassess. Saying ‘no’ can be hard, so pretend you are reserving time for a friend in need – you! Cut back on your contributions to school or other groups for now – it’s only temporary. Or switch your volunteering efforts to an area that will help you reach your career goals.

If your to-do list has you running around in circles instead of towards your career goals, it’s time to make a change. Here are my top strategies for clearing your calendar so you can invest time in your own success:

  • Treat your job search as your job. What you put into it is what you will get out of it, so it requires 100% effort.
  • Block out time each week and fiercely guard it. So often I see mums giving up their ‘me’ time when someone else appears to need them. Your dreams will not just happen if you don’t prioritise them.
  • Set yourself up for success. Recognise that you will probably be too tired to start working in the evenings after the children have gone to bed, so schedule time when you are likely to productive.
  • Establish some targets: deadlines for finishing your resume, or establishing your LinkedIn profile. Set a weekly number for the people in your network you will reach out to, or applications you will send off to target companies. Make your goals achievable but productive.
  • Look at different options for child-care. Do a babysitting swap with a friend. Arrange for your partner to take the children on an outing on the weekend. Ask family members for help. It’s hard to focus on your job search if there are constant distractions.
  • Get out of the house (and away from the laundry basket) to do the work. Your local library is an excellent option.
  • Enjoy the progress towards your goal. Investing this time is part of your personal growth, so be proud of your achievements.

When you are not paid for your time, it can seem like it is not important. But your time is precious, and it is ok to prioritise your needs over others’. Investing time in you is always worth it!

Donna Thistlethwaite is a professional career coach who provides career help for mums. Donna helps clients develop the practical skills and motivation they need to pursue a career they love. You can sign up to the CareerSmart Mums monthly newsletter for information, resources and inspiration at