When we make the decision to run a business alongside raising a family, we are most likely aware of the juggling act we are about to undertake. Mixing Skype meetings with hungry toddlers, proposals flaunting decorative crayon hieroglyphics and heel-clad school drop-offs with snot on your shoulder. We’ve all been there.
But we do it anyway, because we are passionate, because we are driven and because we are ambitious. But most of all, because we know, that as Mums in business, we will thrive and blossom and perhaps even make a difference and regain our independence and self-worth.
In my time as a Mum and a business owner, I’ve managed to accumulate some small but effective life hacks that help me manage– slight changes or preparations that enable me to keep so many different balls in the air. Like you, there have been days when my role changes, when I have to remain flexible and patient, when my hard and fast plans turn to sticky oatmeal mess and all I can do is laugh (and then work in to the wee hours of the morning to make up for lost time!) But today I want to share with you the simple changes in attitude, routine and logistics I have made that I truly feel are worth giving a go if you too are wearing the schizophrenic hat emblazoned with MOTHER/BUSINESS OWNER boldly across the front.
If you think a task will take two hours, firmly allocate four hours to the project.
This may not seem like a time saver, but it may turn out to be your sanity saver. No matter the task at hand, you can bet your bottom dollar you are going to be stalled, interrupted or pulled away from your desk for an immeasurable number of reasons. Wet knickers, rumbling tummies, spontaneous combustion, it really doesn’t matter. The point is, be realistic. Allow yourself plenty of time to avoid over-committing, never ‘overbook’ yourself and you will avoid running too close to the deadline or driving yourself crazy with an impossible to achieve to-do list. You’ll thank yourself for doing this, I promise.
Preparation, preparation, preparation!
You may not be able to prepare ahead for work, especially if the majority of your projects need to be addressed during working hours, but you can certainly prepare the kids and yourself. Pack snack and lunch boxes the night before so you can swiftly produce one at urgent moments and buy yourself some time. Rotate toys so that you can magically produce an old favourite when your ‘three-nagers’ mood swings become uncontrollable. Sort your work wear, bag and files the night before. Allocate time either before or after your working day to spend one on one with your child/spouse. Fill the freezer with bulk-made dinners. Have occasional care on speed dial. Build friendships for sit swaps. Consider the following day, the day before right down to the order you will do things and apply point 1 at all times! Utilise your knowledge of what works for you and your family and organise the hell out of your working week!
Make use of your gym/library membership
Not only will you be able to keep your little ones entertained with scheduled story times, crèches and community activities, you’ll also be able to take advantage of the free WIFI that most libraries/gyms offer nowadays and of course fit in some essential exercise. Even if you simply spend these hours answering emails and clearing out your inbox, you’ll have attributed some valuable time to both your business and your kids. Multitasking WIN!
Book walking meetings
Need a skype or phone interview with a team member? Book in a walking meeting where you can tick so many things off your to-do list – you’ll be paying attention to your business, getting your little one out to the local park or bike track, and getting in a little daily cardio.
If time is getting away from you, and your budget allows it, outsource what you can to a Virtual Assistant. VA’s can be surprisingly affordable, and will lighten the load of projects that really aren’t your forte. If you are a whizz in the kitchen but terrible at remaining current on social media – outsource it. If you can transform someone’s interior design but struggle with Excel spreadsheets and invoicing – outsource it. Even if you can perform brain surgery with your eyes closed but can’t PDF a Word document – outsource it. By freeing up the time you’d waste struggling to close simple projects because they aren’t your strength, you are able to re-allocate said time to doing what you do best which is likely the enjoyable part! Not only will your mindset be in a much more positive space, you’ll feel far less snowed under and have much needed time to focus on your business.
Join a forum.
Online. Community. Commercial. It doesn’t really matter. Simply by joining a forum of likeminded business-savvy mums can pay dividends in the long run. Working collaboratively with other mums in the same business-boat as you, sharing ideas and success stories, learning from others’ mistakes – it will all save you time and money, one way or another.
Set your hours.
If you can’t work past school pick up time, then don’t. Be firm with your schedule and don’t overcommit. If you perform best early in the morning, then set your alarm and use the time wisely. If you are a night owl, work the kid’s bedtime into your routine and be sure to have time available at the end of the day to crack on with your tasks. Being realistic and knowing when you should and shouldn’t work means you’ll be performing at your peak and have clearly allocated time slots to share between the business and your family – you can eliminate the stress and panic of falling behind. Ps. A good note on this one – leave your phone on silent or at your desk if you are really struggling to pull away from your to do list once work time is over.
And most importantly –
Save yourself the ‘perfect person’ headache.
We may be pretty amazing women, but we certainly aren’t super-humans. There often just aren’t enough hours in the day. Wherever and whenever you can save time, do it. Whatever works for you, whatever corners you need to cut or whenever you need to let your standards slide, you need to allow this to happen. You can’t be everything to everyone, but you do need to make your business and your family a priority. Kids fed and bathed but the kitchen a mess? Fine. Business clients super happy but having Vegemite toast at 11am in your PJs? Fine. Figure out where you can afford to let the ball drop so that when you need to, you can save yourself the punishment and do so guilt free.
Being a mum and a business owner can often present itself as an impossible task. Given we are all here for the same reason, to successfully juggle both roles, it’s suffice to say that with the right determination, willpower and arsenal of practical life hacks, the possibilities of success really are limitless for us.