I am an event planner, author, speaker and coach; AND I am the mother to 10 children age 3 to 17 years old. Eight of them are in school and two of them (the 3 & 4 year old’s) are still home with me. While I do have a studio, most of my time is spent at my home office. As you can imagine, time management skills are crucial to my day and frankly, my sanity (what’s left of it.)
When you are trying to start or run a business from home and you have kids, life is much like a circus: your day runs in several different acts. Sometimes you are wrangling a tiger, then you move onto juggling, and if you have to go out at all (at least for my family) it is like getting out of a clown car. It can be comical at best and overwhelming and down-right hard at worst. But when you figure out how to make the performance run smoothly, you know you have hit the sweet spot.
Over the years, I have crafted a system that works pretty well for us. While I still have days where I feel I got absolutely nothing done, and I totally understand why some animals in the wild eat their young; for the most part, these tricks work well enough for me to run a successful business while still raising (and loving) 10 minions.
1. Create a prioritized To Do list the night before. If you are a creative person like me, I have ideas, responsibilities, and solutions swirling around in my brain. It helps at the end of the work day to write down the “To Do” list for the next day. Prioritize the most important items. This can be as detailed as you like. Sometimes I have it typed out and placed nicely on my desk. Other days, I only have time to scribble it out on an envelope and star the crucial things. The most important thing is that you get it out of your head and onto paper. It is my Muggle version of Dumbledore’s Pensieve in Harry Potter where he uses his wand to pull out all of his memories for safe keeping. Until I can buy that thing on Amazon, my To Do list will have to suffice.
2. Time Block. Once I learned how to block my time, my productivity exploded! Time blocking is where you break your day down into manageable chunks and you assign a task to them. For example: 8:00 am I am helping the elementary kids get ready for the bus, feeding to two younger ones and straightening up. At 8:30 I get the kids out the door and go into my office to check email while the little ones play. 9:00 I sit and play a game, read or just snuggle the kids. They know at 9:30 they get to choose a movie. During that wonderful 90 minutes, I follow up on phone calls, work on events and do a little social media. You get the idea.
Later in the afternoon during nap-time is when I have slated to write and create new product. Even though sometimes I’m in the “Groove” and I don’t want to stop doing whatever it is I am working on; I still make myself because it is time for the next thing. I want to be an involved mom and not just park them in front of the TV. In order to do this I have to be very organized.
For some reason, the kids always complain how much I work, however, my husband, who is an engineer, works 7 days a week and far more than I do. I get that distinction because my kids see me doing it. They don’t understand that it is the same thing. That does not make my job any easier and any working at home parent I am sure will agree.
3. Have Boundaries. Make a workspace or office just for you. If you are spread out all over the house, the kids won’t have any idea how to separate work time & home time. When I first started I was working out of a closet! The kids knew that was my area and it was out of boundaries for them. It also helps to be fully present in what you are doing. There was a time where I was typing a blog post and one of my kiddos was talking to me. I realized after she left, I had no idea what she said to me. I just nodded and pretended to listen. We need to be totally in the now with our clients and especially our kids. This could have been why I sent the kids all dressed up for Halloween on the wrong day, but I’m not ready to concede that just yet.
4. Have rules and stick to them! Just outside of my office door is a framed document called Mom’s Office Rules. This pertains to my older kids (the ones who can read), and are very helpful in laying down boundaries. As you can imagine, the moment they all get home from school is a flurry of papers to sign, homework to start and every so often, there is a friendship crisis to avert. I have learned that I need to schedule in my day to step away from the computer and engage with the kids because I know it is going to happen and either I won’t get anything done or the kids will feel slighted – or both. I haven’t figured out who is scarier; an emotional Bride or my 7th grade daughter. It’s a toss up really.
5. Learn to Surrender. I don’t like to be interrupted when I am on a creative binge and I certainly don’t want to stop for anything. However, over the past year, I have learned how very important it is to step away. If you are outgoing, passionate and go after everything you want with a ruthless determination; then “stopping” goes against every fiber of your being. There will be times I feel I am moving so fast that I am going to stumble, all out of a need to be doing SOMETHING to drive me forward. Stopping feels unnatural, reckless and scary. I just had to take 5 minutes away from writing this post so my 3 year old daughter could ask me what the letters were on my sweatshirt. It happens. You need to let go of the thought that you can do everything. It just isn’t possible and this “Supermom Syndrome” is literally killing us. When my older kids tease me about how much they “suffer,” I just remind them that since my parents refused to pay my therapy bills, I won’t be paying theirs.
Am I mom of the year? No. In fact, there are so many stories I could tell you…. but in order to protect the guilty (me), I won’t. But I will tell you that it IS possible to work from home successfully with short people all around you. My kids know that I am committed to them as well as to my business. I want them to have a good understanding of independence, responsibility and respect. I feel honored that I get the chance to teach them all of that while at the same time getting to snuggle, tickle and play.
Now, I am off to play hide and seek. Yup, life as a mompreneur is pretty awesome.