Starting a business, by yourself, from scratch is hard. Add in taking care of your kids and all of the things that go along with running your home, and you’re already so overwhelmed that it’s hard to get started. And even once you finally do convince yourself that you can do #allthethings, it’s inevitable that things will come up and you’ll be frustrated that you just can’t seem to gain any momentum in your business.
Sick kids, sick spouses, doctor’s appointments, snow days, the list goes on. Even when you’re a working mom, it’s often that the primary role of caregiver falls on you. While you may share household responsibilities, it’s still usually you who is in charge of coordinating and managing it all. The good news is, it all helps prepare you for starting up your own small business. Moms know how to get things done, #allthethings.
Even if you’re the most super mom in the whole world and a total boss mom when it comes to business, balancing life and work projects can be a struggle. There will be times when you’re going to have to put your head down and work for awhile, and there are going to be times when you have to shift your focus to spending some quality time with your kids. That’s why it’s called balance; but consider yourself lucky that you have the opportunity to do both!
Increasing your personal productivity is a key factor to your success. And how does one become productive? By getting organized and prioritizing. If you start your day by asking yourself what you should get done today, your head will spin with ideas of #allthethings you need to do, want to do, and should do. Chances are you’ll have no idea where to start. Depending on your personality type, you may not even start at all. Don’t throw the covers back over your head (like your kids would let you anyway). Start each week with a plan and use some productivity techniques to help get #allthethings done.
Side note: When I say #allthethings, I’m assuming you know what I mean. You can’t really do everything, all by yourself, especially not all at once. But by learning to prioritize what you really have to get done, implementing some automation, and perhaps delegating some tasks, you’ll impress yourself with the amount of things you can get done in a week, or in a month.)
Prioritize with Time Blocking
Have you ever noticed how much harder you’ll work to fit something into your schedule if it’s something you really want to do? Chances are if you’re starting up your own business, the things you’ll tend to work on first are the fun, exciting tasks that you want to do. When it comes to the repetitive administrative tasks or projects you find boring, you’ll procrastinate doing them for as long as possible. Somehow though, it all still gets done.
The only chance we have at any semblance of work-life balance, is to decide how much time we are willing to devote to each of those things, in an ideal world, each week. Time Blocking is one of the best ways to put into perspective how much time you actually have each day to get things done. Initially, you may be surprised at how much or how little “free” time you have. You’ll begin to more closely analyze how you’re spending (or wasting) your days and figure out what should stay and what can go.
My favorite benefit of Time Blocking is that it eliminates any guilty feelings. If you tend to think, “I really should reply to that email,” or “I probably need to take a break and go play with the kids,” you’ll be freed of those pesky, interrupting thoughts. You’ll know that there is a time set aside for doing all those things, but right now, you’re working on whatever is in your current time block.
Of course there are hundreds of ways you can get started with Time Blocking. You can use an app, your digital calendar, a pencil and paper, or a simple spreadsheet. For ease, I’m going to demonstrate it in Google Sheets. If you’re interested in making your own time blocking sheet, you can snap a copy of mine here to edit for yourself in Google Sheets.
Start with Non-Negotiable Tasks
The very first thing you have to put in your time block is when you’re going to sleep. Experts keep emphasizing the importance of sleep, yet it’s usually the thing people want to add in last. In an ideal world, how many hours would you sleep each night? Plug that in!
After sleep, what are the other things you have to get done everyday without question? Do you have any recurring meetings, classes, appointments, or other regular events? Schedule those in next. We’re planning out an ideal week even if we know it’s never gonna happen. If your schedule is completely different each week, you may have a very bare template. That just means you’ll want to take a little more time to carefully fill in the blanks before the beginning of the each week to get the most out of your time available.
You may be tempted not to add in mealtimes either. I know, you can eat on the run, or grab a quick bite while you’re doing something else. Again, we’re planning an ideal week, and ideally you should be eating at some points throughout the day. You also have kids that need to eat regularly too. I put in quick meal times for eating, but that doesn’t account for most preparation and cooking. I also didn’t allot any time for cleaning it up. Are you seeing those hours quickly evaporating like I am?
You’ll also want to account for driving time when you schedule in your tasks. People often don’t realize how much time they spend commuting or running errands, simply because that’s just how long it takes to get there. When Time Blocking, you don’t have to be exact. You could break it down even smaller into fifteen minute increments, but once you start doing that, it doesn’t take much to throw off your whole day.
Schedule Everything Else
Now that you have your basic template laid out for the week with your non-negotiable tasks, you can add in the rest. And I do mean, schedule everything. If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t happen. If you have daily habits that you want to be sure get done, put them on the schedule. If you want to make sure you exercise for 30 minutes everyday, give yourself a time block for it. Do you need to get chores done around the house? There’s a block for that, too.
While I do have one child in full time school, I also still have a little one that is only in a school a few hours each week. I try to do my most dedicated work and phone calls, whenever he’s out of the house. One secret I’ve picked up over the years though is that if you do need some time to work while you’ve got helpers around, schedule a time block of your undivided attention for playing with them right before a work block. That won’t guarantee that they won’t still interrupt you, but it does make it easier to tell them that right now is work time.
You’ll also want to be sure to schedule in some fun things, too. You might not be able to indulge yourself with exciting things every week, but if you don’t leave any room in your schedule for fun, you’re going to go crazy and burn out. You also are less likely to stick with the plan or the habit of Time Blocking in the long run.
Delegate or Forget the Rest
As you’re adding in your time blocks, it’s likely that you’ll have some overlap. Some times you might be able to do both things at the same time. Others, you may have to delegate. You might need to ask your spouse to step in, you may need to arrange for additional childcare. Look for ways you can get things off your plate. Hire someone else to clean the house or get a virtual assistant to help you with some of the administrative tasks in your small business.
You may realize you’re trying to cram more work into the week than is humanly possible. It might be time to reflect on what you’re currently involved in and what you might be able to let go of. Are you volunteering in your spare time? Could you go from doing it every week to every other week or once a month? Make sure whatever it is that you are putting in your time block earns its place and is pushing you closer towards your goals. Looking at your schedule as a time block can really help you prioritize when you realize that everything you choose to put on there takes away the ability to do something else.
What are you waiting for? Time is a wastin’. Let me know if you try out the Google Sheet and what you think. Also, if you found this advice about Time Blocking helpful, I hope you’ll come back and check out more tips, tricks, and resources for prioritizing, automating, and delegating so you can do #allthethings, or at least #allthethings you want to.