I originally wrote this blog a couple of years ago. My youngest was only 2 years old, he’s about to turn 5 now. Honestly, I thought things would have calmed down by now, but they only seem to need you more as they get older. What with running them across town to their various activities, dealing with friendship dramas, playdates, birthday parties, homework and meltdowns, it’s a LOT!
Pic of my kids when I first wrote this blog, versus today, when I’m updating it
So, full disclosure, this blog was inspired by Amy Porterfield’s podcast, episode 258. Achieve More While Doing Less with Michael Hyatt.
I was driving back from dropping my kids to daycare listening to this podcast and thinking how great the concepts were. Who doesn’t want the freedom to do nothing!! (Listen to the podcast and you’ll know what I’m talking about) but then I started wondering, how do you find the time for ANYTHING (!) when you’re a mum of two little kids and trying to run your own business?? Many of us are also working full time or studying on top of that!
A lot of the concepts seemed too far off for me. Like, I can’t afford to outsource my copywriting? I can barely afford to pay my accountant to do my quarterly BAS! How do you find the time when you’re juggling business and motherhood?
Here are a few of the strategies I have been trying to implement. I’ll be honest, I certainly haven’t got the art form down to the point I have the “Freedom to do Nothing” but I’m definitely working towards it…
Set clear boundaries between working and parenting
This is a big one. When you’re a SAHM (my kids are in daycare 2 days a week but otherwise they’re with me), trying to not let work and mothering overlap is near impossible. But one thing the last few years have taught me is that when I try and do both at the same time, no one gets the best of me. My work suffers, my client’s notice and things start to slip. My kids DEFINITELY notice, and their attitudes and ability to cope with life as a young person rapidly deteriorate.
It’s a lose, lose situation.
So I have started to try and create a system where the two don’t overlap. It’s hard, I know! But I encourage you to literally block off time in your calendar for each and don’t let them impinge on each other.
This will mean different things to different people. How do you find the time? We’re all different and have different situations with partners or other outside help, but think about when you’re most productive and when you can get help with the kids from other people and work around that.
For me, I work solidly on the two days the kids are at daycare as well as in 2-3 hour blocks on the weekends when my husband can take the kids. I also try and get a solid hour done in the middle of every day when my youngest naps and my oldest watches a show or rests.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still jumping on my computer here and there throughout the rest of the week, but I find the important stuff, the creation of new designs and the necessary admin I need to do to keep my business running, can be done in the time I have set aside, which means I’m not feeling too frantic when I’m with my kids down at the park on a Friday morning.
This follows on nicely from the previous point about setting aside time for your business and time for your family. Once you have set the time aside for your business, you don’t want to then spend that time moving from task to task and not really achieving anything. I’ve been listening to loads of podcasts recently (I am absolutely loving Goal Digger and her episode on batch working is a must-listen to for anyone feeling swamped by their To-Do list – episode 207. How to Batch Work (and Save Yourself Hours), and I realised how ineffective my usual working strategy has been!
I mean I jump on my computer and start with my inbox which inevitably takes me down a whole series of rabbit holes, responding to clients, checking out offers I’ve received from email lists I’m subscribed to, researching new design ideas etc etc. I end up getting to the end of the day, and maybe all I’ve achieved is clearing my inbox! I haven’t actually done anything to add to the profitability of my business.
So now, after I drop my kids at daycare, I sit in my car and literally segment the day into two-hour blocks and give myself tasks for each block. It might be something like 2 hours on clearing my inbox and responding to clients who need artwork updates, a quote, etc etc, then two hours on content creation where I might write a blog post and create 4 social media posts to upload over the next few days, then 2 hours on starting a new job from scratch, setting the job up, sketching out ideas etc and then finally 2 hours on general business admin, sending out invoices, following up overdue ones, and paying bills or recording expenses.
When I’m doing one of those tasks I try and do ONLY that task for those two hours. I ignore phone calls (unless I know they’re a client I really need to speak to), I quit out of my email and I do ONLY that thing for those two hours.
The other thing about batch working is you can actually apply it to your home life as well as your business! I’m serious!
For instance, when I bath my kids, I bath them together, or when you’re making toast for breakfast, also make the kids sandwiches for lunch. Or when you’re cooking dinner, make double quantities and freeze for another night. Make sure you’re helping the kids brush their teeth, at the same time, read them books together, basically anything where you can get more done in less time, I try to do this.
Set your top 3 goals for your family and your business every day.
This also relates to batch work. When you’re planning out your day and deciding what time you’re going to give to what task, it’s important to make sure whatever you’re achieving is actually going to add value to either your family or your business. This is easier to quantify when it comes to your business, I mean I can easily see if I complete a design brief and send the final artwork off for print, or make the website live that it instantly allows me to invoice and add profit to my business. But how do we translate that to home life?
Well, I guess that’s different for everybody. For me, my goals might be something like;
1) Meal plan for the next 3 days;
2) Go to the supermarket and buy all the food on my list
3) Spend an hour at the park with the kids.
Why does achieving these things add value to my family? Well, the first two are obvious, if I can find the time to meal plan and buy all the food for the next three days, not only will it definitely save us money (instead of last-minute dashes to DJ’s food hall by hubby on the way home) but it also saves us time from having to worry about it again for the next 3 days.
Spending time at the park with the kids adds value for me, because I know after a good play with me at the playground, they will feel they have gotten the best of me that day. They will have worn themselves out and be happier that night going to bed. This gives me and my husband more time to relax together in the evening. So it’s a win-win. But every family is different so work out what would add value for you.
I know, I know, I said at the beginning of this blog, who has the resources to outsource! And I stand by that! But I’m not just talking about in your business. Yes, it will be great when I’ve got my business to a point where I can hire a bookkeeper to take over ALL that admin that I hate, maybe get a VA and take on a junior designer, but that day ain’t here yet, so in the meantime, my business is basically all me.
But at home, I can outsource. Have a frank and open discussion with your partner about what each person’s role in the household is. As working mums, we often try to do it all, but we need to let go of that control and let someone else take over some things for us. Allow your hubby to cook dinner a few nights a week and if that means you’re eating beans on toast then so be it. It you don’t ask others for help, and then let them do it to the best of their ability, then you’re going to get burnt out.
If you’re a single mum (hats off, you guys blow my mind!) then you still need to be willing to put it out there and take any help offered. Whether that comes from your parents, your ex, or just your mumma tribe banding together to help each other. Outsourcing aspects of your home life is essential when you’re a working mum.
As mums, we get pretty good at saying ‘No’ to our kids, but when it comes to business, it seems we have a lots to learn. Or at least I do! I have been saying yes to every client request for years and I’ve got to say, it’s exhausting! But learning to say ‘No’ and more importantly, when to say it, is hard!
So my new rule when I receive a new request to really think about whether it will add value to my business. Will me saying yes to this request mean at the end of it, my business has benefited? If the answer is ‘No’, then my answer is ‘No’.
And by adding value, I don’t just mean profit. In the last few months I was trying to build up my Squarespace website portfolio and so I said ‘Yes’ to creating free Squarespace websites for a number of businesses. I said ‘Yes’ to the ones that I felt would be a great fit for me to work on, ones that I knew I could add value to and that ultimately would become beautiful portfolio pieces for me to use to promote my services.
Along the way, I also said ’No’ to a few people. I said ‘No’ to people who I didn’t think I’d have an easy time working with, who I didn’t think we’re committed to providing me with the content I would need in order to complete their site in a timely manner, which would mean I wouldn’t have a site to launch for them or to use in my portfolio.
Saying ‘No’ is hard, but if you can really consider whether it’s going to add value to your business before you say ‘Yes’ then you might find yourself saying ‘No’ more often.
Finally, Me Time
I couldn’t write this article without mentioning ‘Me time’. Everyone tells us we need it, but seriously, I don’t have time to go to the toilet on my own, let alone spend the time and money involved in doing something like booking a spa day!
But ‘Me Time’ doesn’t have to involve a lot of money or a lot of time. For me, it’s walking the dog around the block on my own (seriously, walking the dog with Mr Almost 2 and Miss Almost 5 is a painful experience!), getting my toenails painted after I do the grocery shopping on a Saturday afternoon, or listening to a podcast in the car when I’m driving somewhere on my own.
When I really want to spoil myself I whack on one of those peel-off charcoal masks and pour a large glass of red wine after the kids have gone to bed. But remember, if you do this too, drink fast, those masks set quick and make guzzling wine almost impossible!