Time is one of the most valuable commodities in the world. Yet, so many of us don’t realize its value, or how easily it’s wasted. This is not to say that every second of our time needs to be productive, but it needs to at least be enjoyed and not lost.
As a mom of two young kids who runs a small business from my home, uninterrupted time is scarce. More than any other time in my life, the seconds I have, are gold.
Before I had kids, honestly, time was easy to lose. Perspective changes when you have the type of responsibility that takes up your entire day.
It’s a question I get asked so often, how do you have time for it all? The funny thing is, I have no more time than anyone else. Every single one of us is allotted the same amount of time. It’s all about how we use.
Another part of it that I find amusing is that regardless of how much I can get done in a day, I still never feel like I have enough time. Reality of the situation, for me, is that my kids are not only demanding, but I want to spend my time with them. Every day is a constant balance of managing and maximizing my time for my work, but also making sure to remain responsive to my children and their needs, not letting my pursuits take the little time I have with them away.
I have no more time than anyone else
Still, when you are fighting to build something. When those very kids that you want to spend time with are also the very people who drive you to do better, be better and make a better future, priorities tend to shift.
My own journey figuring out how to live my days and make the most of them, has been a long one. It’s changed and shifted as my kids have grown and their needs have changed. It’s also been completely thrown out the window more than once.
This post today, is intended for those of us out there who are working from home, building businesses and needing some insight. My hope is to share what I’ve learned with you and hopefully it will provide some easy steps to figuring out how to make the most of the hours that you have in your day.
How It Started
While I was still working at Starbucks, I started online school. That step was definitely the kickstarter to building a schedule that worked for both me and my children. Because I had to.
Some of the first things I had to figure out when I was getting used to using my time to do my schoolwork were:
Getting over guilt
My very first step in the whole process of figuring out my day to day schedule was getting over my own guilt.
As I mentioned. It’s hard to give up that time with your kids. This is the time of their life that I don’t want to miss.
One thing I had to help myself understand was that I was a better mom when I took care of myself and gave myself the time for the things I needed to do.
Learning to communicate
When you begin to live a life where you are pursuing something, a degree, a career, a business, having a relationship with your partner which is open and communicative is paramount. If your lifestyle has had a certain routine for a long time, there may be certain pre-set expectations that need to be worked through and changed.
On top of that, there might be some sacrifice that happens between you and your parter. For example, where you might have spent time watching a movie together before bed in the past, you might now need to re-allot those 2 hours to some highly focused work.
I will tell you, in our family, it took years for my husband to be fully on board with how much of what used to be “our” time we’ve given up to my time for work. What we’ve learned to do is to heighten the small times we have together during the week and make the most of them in the moment. Our family days mostly happen on weekends now.
Working off of communicating how you are reorganizing your time, there may also need to be some discussion on house work. Generally, the parent at home takes the majority of the house work, since, well, they are home all day. Now, you have a business and a job and the chores need to be divided accordingly (bonus if you manage to teach your kids to help out as well).
Learning to time block
Time-blocking… you’ve heard people say it… “time management.” It’s real. What helps the most in my case, is to be able to visualize my day. So, a half-hour by half-hour break down, looking at generally what happens everyday is a good place to start.
The key here is to look at the standard events, and the time-wasters. An example of a standard event in our family, is that everyday, we drive daddy to work and bring him back. Some days we have school. So, a certain chunk of our morning will be dedicated to commuting. What do I do in response? I get up a few hours earlier to sneak in some work before the day even begins.
What time-blocking boils down to, is creating a plan. You schedule your day down to that 30 minutes you will be in the waiting room of the doctors office. Organize your tasks from short to time-consuming ones and see what parts of your day you can squeeze them in. This plan should be written down.
TIP: Spend a day keeping track of what you do all day. This is a great way to capture time wasters. Did you get the kids down for a nap and find yourself in the trap of social media for an hour? Then you can take the results and help work it into that schedule.
Fast Forward to Now
Those were some of the first things I learned as I got started on this journey of juggling more than just motherhood and kids. Everything improved with practice and a little trial and error. Still, there were more things I learned as time went on.
Learn to ask for help
Last year, even though I was managing my time and having productive days, I thought it could be better. There were chunks in my day when I would have to fill orders or when non-negotiable priorities would come up and mom-guilt would creep back up, because now my kids are playing alone or watching an extra movie to allow me the time to get things done.
I reached out to a coaching group I was in to ask them how to make more time in my day.
The response I got, was to ask for help. This was a challenge for me. I don’t like being that person to just be relying on other people for things I need. I don’t like asking my friends for anything if it can be helped.
But I needed a reality check. And hearing it from the coaching group finally gave me the freedom internally to realize, if I want to make it, if I want things to happen, I’m going to need to learn to ask for what I need.
One thing I’ve learned from starting to ask for help, is that it doesn’t have to be icky or selfish. The mom’s who help me are also working mothers who also need some time to get things done themselves. So, we exchange watching each others kids as much as we can to help each other out. There are major benefits to this:
- you get a solid chunk of time solely dedicated to work which gives you the ability to be more focused and productive.
- when I have my kids as well as my friends kids, my kids get bonus mom time because I’m focused on watching the children.
- you can always give more than you take.
Think of someone in your life that you already spent time with and have a good relationship with. You might already be setting up play dates. Consider asking them if they would like to set up a trade off. Then, when it’s their turn to watch your kids and you have that work time, be more focused than you’ve ever been in your life and get things done.
Get rid of time-wasters
One huge thing that took me a long time to learn, was to kick Netflix to the curb. It wasn’t benefitting me or my business. All of last year, I used the excuse that I was just watching it in the background while I was getting work done, sewing etc. The reality was that it was slowing me down.
This was especially true if I was watching an engaging show, or even just a new show. It was hard for me not to pause whatever task I was on and lose myself to what I was watching.
Another downside to having a Netflix habit, was that I would find myself staying up later after I was done working still watching it. I would lose sleep and not be in any sort of productive mode.
Getting myself to a point where I understood the issue enough to make a change was tough. It was hard for me to get into podcasts, I’m not an audible learner. I enjoyed having a way to binge my favorite shows while “still getting things done.” But I had to face facts.
Kicking Netflix to the curb was the best thing I ever did. My productivity has doubled since. That is just the truth because of how much time I would take to get a task done with Netflix on in the background.
Another thing I realized, was that I would rather use that time to learn, to pour into myself and allow myself to grow. Finding good podcasts and good books was a life-changer. Now, not only are my tasks getting done in good time, but I’m doubling up and growing my brain.
Here’s the truth. It is so easy to burn out as an entrepreneur. We have endless goals, vision, todo lists… and we have the stamina to just keep going. It is so easy for us to forget to stop and take a break. But it is so imperative.
I’ll make avoiding burnout really simple:
- learn to read your body’s signs
- when it shows signs of exhaustion… LISTEN
- time block a break. Make time for what matters in your life. That includes you as well as your family. Do you need to have a date once a week? Family time on the weekends?
- have a finish time. If you don’t, you will just keep working until you feel too tired to keep going. It’s better to stay ahead of exhaustion.
The final idea that I wanted to cover is the reality that none of what you create will stay exactly how you plan it. This is especially true if you are like me and you have small children.
Gaining the ability to know your top goals for your day and remain flexible with the rest is key. Every morning, go over what is the highest priority. Do what you can of those things before the day even begins.
There have been endless times where my schedule was thrown out the window, or I’ve been interrupted, or simply, my kids were not in the mood to give me the time that I needed.
One huge thing I’ve learned with this, is to read my kids signals as well as my own. When they are showing signs of needing my full attention, I have to keep myself open so that I can leave my work and give them the love they need from me.
In the End
None of this is easy. Running a business from home is not easy. If you have kids dividing your attention from your work at the same time, it’s even harder. But I believe in you. If you are an entrepreneur, you have grit, you have a good attitude and a heart that is always ready to grow and learn.
It might not feel like it now, but you can do this. One step at a time. Slowly implement each part of the process and step into a more productive day.
I did do a live on this topic where I briefly covered some of the top and most important points to remember when trying to make the most of your time in the day.