By Sue Burns, Three

Extra time in a busy world — all it takes is innovative use of the technology available to everyone in the most effective way. And, since time is so precious, let’s make sure we use that time well to help achieve the perfect work-life balance.

Research commissioned by mobile internet provider Three* focusing on British mums found it’s possible to claw back the equivalent of over five days a year by using smartphones and mobile broadband to achieve on-the-go internet access.

Using notoriously time-poor British mums as a test group, the research quantified how technology and the mobile internet can stretch the boundaries of multi-tasking. By making it possible to fit internet-based tasks alongside and around other activities, it frees up time that can be devoted to other areas of life or reinvested into work.

Unsurprisingly, the research revealed that British mums work incredibly hard to juggle all aspects of their lives: childcare, running the household, maintaining a relationship and undertaking paid work. The reality of modern motherhood sees mums working over 70 hours a week on family activities (longer than a junior doctor’s working week) and, if they were paid for their time, they’d earn approximately £37,000 a year.

With mums exceeding the traditional 48 hour working week by 23 hours, the majority of mums (83%) are now left with less than an hour of ‘me time’ a day and a third (33%) now get less than six hours sleep a night. Only 16% claim to be happy with their current lifestyle and over a third would like just one extra hour of ‘me time’ a day to make them happier.

But despite being constantly busy, the average mum spends an hour and a half on the internet each day but over a third (39%) find it hard to get time to sit down at their computer.

So here’s where straightforward technology can help. The research shows that, if you can get online whenever you need to, and you work your online access hard, you can win back a precious 135 hours each year.

‘Making’ this time involves a two-pronged approach: exploring exactly how the technology out there can help you in your day-to-day life; and exploiting every opportunity it provides to condense what you need to do.

Access to the mobile internet assists with organisation and time efficiencies, providing immediate access to maps, internet search, emails, synced calendars, as well as useful and entertaining apps. Common activities that our test group of mums would do on the move include online banking (27%), keeping up-to-date with emails (63%) and shopping online (27%), but there’s so much more: Facebook and Twitter, keeping up with the latest headlines, smarter scheduling, joining discussion forums, providing homework help, using apps to entertain children — without even considering the work benefits.

The mobile internet has fantastic potential for busy business people too, both as a way of staying on top of work requests — if you want to — and as a means to access a vast range of great apps designed to help the busy, e.g. invoice creation, booking and monitoring travel arrangements, and remote CCTV monitoring. As with our test group, working technology and the mobile internet hard can help create ‘free’ time, that you can use as you want.

An ‘extra’ five days a year combined with the resources of the internet at your fingertips could be enough to spark a business idea that will see another entrepreneur on their way. After all, over 30% of all new businesses are started by women; that’s over 130,000 every year, with three quarters of those started by women aged between 25 and 44, the ‘busy mum’ years.

What could you do with five ‘extra’ days?

*Research was carried out by OnePoll in March 2011 for Three. The research was carried out amongst 3,000 mums with children under 16 years old in the UK.

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