If you’re new around here, then there are a few things that we should establish before you read on. I firmly believe that every situation is unique—especially when you bring motherhood into the equation. Every child is different, and to be honest, every few months with the same kiddo can be worlds apart. Regardless, there are a few things that I have found to save my sanity while I strive to juggle life as a Business Owner and a Mama.
About our situation:
BUSINESS: I’m the owner and artist behind Blushed and at the time that I am writing this blog post I am a one gal show. I expect that to change in the near future, but all of the responsibility has rested on my shoulders up until this point. My personality (a 1w2 if you like the anagram) is fairly disciplined, self motivated and stubborn.
MAMA: My only son is almost 2 years old. Up until about a month ago, he took a 3.5 hour nap every day and it was glorious. Since then, he has dropped to about 1.5/2 hour naps every day, which is less wonderful, but still helpful.
HELP: My mother comes nearly every week to help with my son in the morning for 2-3 hours. She comes, I say hello and then goodbye. They play downstairs or go for a walk while I work upstairs. My husband also makes the marjory of the dinner meals in our home. He’s a great cook and enjoys it, while the idea of cooking makes me crazy. I also have 2-3 girlfriends who are “on call” in case something crazy comes up and I need the extra help.
Okay, now that you know who I am and what my life looks like on average, let’s get into how we make it work.
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1. Block Scheduling
If you have never heard of block scheduling, I’m about to save your sanity in a single paragraph! Block scheduling is a form of problem solving or task completion that allows you to fully focus on one task at a time. Some people thrive on a daily block scheduling system, where each day is assigned a different task. For example:
Mondays are for artwork, Tuesdays are for meetings, Wednesdays are blog posts, Thursdays is social media planning and Fridays are for bookkeeping.
This system allows you to focus all of your energy into ONE task for that day. Because you’re not getting distracted by other things on your to-do list, you are WAY more efficient and productive. I tried this daily schedule for about two weeks before I gave up. However, a weekly block schedule ended up being perfect for me and my business as a wedding stationer/artist/blogger.
In a weekly blocked schedule, each week is given a specific task. So I work with a single bride on her design for a solid week. I’m all in and I’m focused. By Friday, her designs are finished and sent to print. Some things require an additional week (such as day of items, etc) and that is scheduled for the following week or at a future date. Everything that I offer is schedule in a weekly batch: custom portraits, venue illustrations, blog post writing, etc. and I stick to it. Even if it’s a smaller project, I usually don’t add anything to my plate at that time. The remaining days in the week will go towards checking up on finances or researching for future projects or misc back end stuff in my business.
Seriously, try block scheduling. You’ll be amazed by how much relief it gives you.
This is a similar idea to Block Scheduling. I am very very specific to what I listen to, read or watch in regards to business education or creative ideas. There are SO MANY offerings out there, so many voices, so.much.noise. I literally could spend all of my time researching and learning, but never move the needle in my business. So this last summer, when my head was swimming from trying to focus on everything and change over my entire business at once, I decided to simplify. I pick an area in my business that I want to focus on (usually a Q—3 months—at a time), and I search my favorite podcasts, bloggers and educators for items on that subject. I don’t binge listen to their whole line up for that month, I don’t jump around, I simply zero in and focus.
In my inbox, I unsubscribed from all but my favorite business educator and I keep that space (and my mind) clear and focused on what I’m currently working on. I don’t even read the Emails from the one “coach” that I mentioned previously—I glance at the topic, see if it applies to my current focus and delete it if it doesn’t (or save it in a specific folder if I know I’ll want to read it later).
This also saves me money because I’m not jumping onto every fad or workshop that pops up. It does mean that I miss out occasionally, but most courses or trainings come around again and I will be more prepared to take it on next time because my current focus is already taken care of.
3. Scheduled Time “Off”
Within my schedule I always set aside regular times “off”. These usually coincide with my husband’s work schedule, but since becoming a mom, I strive to have at least 1 week off every single month. There are a number of reasons for this:
A) If my son is sick for a week and I just can’t get the work done that I need to, I simply keep in contact with my client and do what I can during their actual week. Thankfully, much of my work is schedule with a little time cushion, so waiting another week isn’t a big deal! If it were to get bad, I call in the help that I mentioned earlier.
B) I need a life too! The majority of my time is very scheduled (naps, meals, work time), so it’s nice to have one week every month where I can relax a little. I’m less distracted during these weeks and can enjoy my son a little more: we’ll spend more time at the zoo, go visit family, I’ll tidy my house, take a nap when the munchkin is napping… it’s great!
C) Much of my life is unpredictable, and that cushion of time to play “catch up” if my son is sick or if something comes up really helps me to stay calm when life gets crazy. At this point, there is A LOT that I will do just for the extra peace of mind, and if that means one less week scheduled work each month and a little less cash in my pocket, then I’ll do it!
I’m actually looking to increase that number this fall to 2 weeks off each month. I’m planning ahead of time, and it fits with the lifestyle that we want to have in our family.
If you’re sensing a theme here of strategic focus, then you’re right in assuming that it applies here too! I automate everything in my life that I can do for free, and strategically select items in my life that I pay to automate. Time is not only money now—it’s memories, sanity and the overall health of my family. I don’t pay for a lot though, because I want to have that scheduled time off that I mentioned previously. And one of the easiest ways that I can keep that habit, is to keep my business costs as low as possible.
To choose my automation I started with my least favorite tasks that are also time suckers—some things are dull but quick, and I can make that work—but my bookkeeping was the first thing to go into automation! I love that I only have to think about it once in a while but I know that everything is being taken care of (I use GoDaddy, but have heard good things about Quickbooks).
Next, for me, is advertising. If I don’t have clients, then I can’t pay the bills! So I am willing to pay for some automated advertising to save me the trouble of having to “pitch” to my audience until I am blue in the face! The right choice for my business (after years of trying Instagram and Facebook for free) is definitely Pinterest, and I automate it through Tailwind—which I do pay for, but you can get a free trial if you use my link. I tried it off and on for about a year, but the second I wanted to become serious about getting the word out there, it became clear that this was ONE element of my business that I could not do without and keep everything flowing smoothly. If you want to hear more about my Pinterest/Tailwind strategy—you can find out more about that here.
This past year I also automated my overall client management process (a few of my favorite resources can be found here). I turned anything and everything that I used in my business into a template, so that I am not starting over from scratch every time I work with a new bride. Without these processes in place, giving me room to breath and actually work on the creation side of my business, I would be burnt out, which would lead to a broke business pretty quickly!
5. Accept Help
Don’t let the mom guilt fool you: you were not created to be superwoman. Balance is a lie and children are crazy little creatures that change their habits at the drop of a hat—usually right when that big order comes it! One thing that I wish I did not have to learn over and over again is that I need to accept help when it is offered, and to ask for it if I need it and it hasn’t been offered. My family is happier, my business stops being a burden, and my relationships actually thrive when I stop pretending that I can do it all on my own. Sometimes it means that my husband is stuffing and sealing envelopes with me in front of a movie before bed, or that a girlfriend watches our son so that I can get some extra work done. I try to adjust my schedule after each of these “calls for help” so that it doesn’t happen every week, but you need to be able to swallow your pride and accept the help if you are going to make work/life “balance” even an illusion.
You can do it, Mama! It’s wonderful to have this outlet and some built-in time for yourself in the midst of the best job in the world: raising our little ones, but it isn’t going to be easy! I would love to hear your brilliant tips for “making it work”—leave them in the comments below and help the rest of us out (be sure to glance down at the list and see if there is anything that can help you)