Being an entrepreneur and a mom makes things a bit unpredictable at times. I have four young kids, and they have four very different schedules and needs. It's not like I get any days off.
So, how do you manage the competing demands of a busy household and a business that has huge demands on your time? Being an entrepreneur can be very demanding, and you have to emerge alive on the other side, so taking care to manage your work-life balance is critical.
Here are my top 7 tips for maintaining balance:
1. Outsource what you can in your business. I'm always amazed at my friends who spend countless hours managing the bookkeeping for their business, and agonizing over Quickbooks, to the extent that they don't have time to do activities that are critical to their businesses. You may be surprised at how inexpensive it can be to hire out certain job functions, so don't assume that they are unaffordable before you even ask. I have found for many of my businesses that bookkeeping can run about $100-$200 per month, which is a bargain compared to the number of hours it would take to perform the same tasks. You may also want to consider outsourcing social media management and newsletter creation.
2. Outsource tasks in your personal life. That may mean hiring someone to do the lawn. In my region of the country, I can get yard service for about $120/month, which covers mowing, edging, and blowing every week, as needed.
3. Find and use tools that will make your life simpler. For keeping track of notes in your business, Evernote is a great tool. I use a social media scheduler called Edgar to manage social media posts. I also use Social Quant to help me manage my Twitter posts. Each one of these tools saves me hours each month, which are hours that I can put back into the business.
4. Keep everyone's calendars in sync. Google Calendar works well for this. Each of my children has a calendar that they share with my husband and me. We can see who has which activities, and when those activities are. Using a calendar to manage time, drivers and activities is one of my most important tips. One of the women I respect highly in the entrepreneurship circles, Rebecca T. Dickson, has said that if you show her your calendar, she can tell you how much you're making. I believe that to be true.
5. Schedule time to take care of yourself. If you don't take care of yourself, there will be no business. It's just that simple. If you need a certain number of hours of sleep per night, then make sure you're getting those hours. Schedule time to exercise, meditate and do the other things that you need to do to ensure that you are taking care of yourself. If you are in a relationship, then you should schedule time to spend with your partner, or your relationship will suffer. I have found that spending time together regularly is a requirement.
6. Learn to see time a bit differently. What I've learned is that my daytime hours are largely spent selling or meeting with clients. My evening hours are spent with my family. My late evening hours are when I get much of my writing done. This is also a good time for me to do work that requires a fair amount of concentration that I can't get done when I'm getting constantly interrupted. I've had to learn what works for me, for my body and my timelines. By being aware of the hours of the day that I'm most productive for writing and paying attention to certain tasks, I find that I'm better able to get things done.
7. Be fully present in whatever you're doing, whenever you're doing it. There have been plenty of studies that show what our brains look like when we're multitasking. It's not pretty; if you're not focusing on one thing at a time, and are actively trying to do three things at once, you will be less effective. So, focus on one thing at a time, and be fully present in whatever it is that you're doing. Turn off your cell phone, ignore the beeping and buzzing, in favor of the task and people in front of you. Many people I work with are still surprised that, despite the fact that I have an insanely busy schedule, I generally do not check my phone when I'm with a potential client. Emails and texts are not a form of communication that require your immediate attention. Just because your phone rings, it doesn't mean you have to answer it every time. If it is important, they will leave you a message, or they'll call you back. Of course, if it's your children's school, you may decide to take the call, but otherwise, those calls can wait.
There aren't any magic bullets that will make time management foolproof when you are an entrepreneur, but every small step you take is a necessary piece of the time management puzzle. The more of these tips that you can integrate, and the more little steps of your own that you can find, the easier your work-life balance will be.