Relatability and Hope for the Worn-Out WFH Mom 💛
Welcome to Part 1
If you’ve worked in an office in the past, specifically in a prototypical 9-to-5 office setting (as I have), you will be used to viewing the 9 to 5 standard North American workday as “the accepted norm” (as I have).
So it follows that when you’re starting your own online business and managing your own time, you'll probably assume it’s expected of you to be sitting at a desk (or otherwise on-call to work on your business) during that "full-time" window. Is this really true?
Being a True Entrepreneur is not all shiny cars and margaritas by the pool, like they make you think in the get-rich-quick ads. There are a few bumps in the road too.
My aim with this series of posts is to say "lookout!" where the bumps may be hiding so that you can know when to safely swerve... or at the very least, see them coming and be mentally prepared.
Here’s what you might not expect during your transition to entrepreneurship -- from another mother who works from home:
Productivity Challenges (within yourself)
Your productivity or “output” might be way lower than before (but, eventually you can do more in less time). You'll need to create systems to support you.
Your flashes of brilliance and insight don’t give a damn what time of day it is and will show up at random (often inconvenient) times. You'll need a way to capture your genius.
When you lose external accountability/obligation to some other entity (a boss, a company, a deadline, a structure) your motivation to work might take a serious hit. You'll need to stay organized and give yourself the boosts you need.
Your time spent “sitting at a desk” might not, in fact, be as productive as you’d like. (More like wasting time with online distractions aka “research” and calling it “work”). Your ideas of time management are likely due for an upgrade to match your new lifestyle.
Distraction Challenges (within your environment & relationships)
Trying to focus on work when your kids are physically present is just super difficult (unless you’re a major fan of screen-time - no judgment - you’ll need a solid plan to keep them out of your hair)
It can be really challenging to focus when there are a zillion to-do’s around your home (your self-discipline will never have worked so hard! Sometimes you really do need to be a horse with blinders on)
You might feel frustrated or resentful when non-work things pop up and demand your attention during work time (boundary work is not only useful but suddenly crucial)
Mindset Challenges (stuff lurking under the surface)
You might feel guilty, delinquent, or ashamed of yourself for any daytime hours that you don’t spend physically sitting at your desk between 9AM and 5PM (You’re a mom! You have so many jobs! You are not delinquent!)
Your mind might feed you a lot of unhelpful, garbage thoughts that can take the wind out of your sails and slow you down (“I’m not doing enough”, “I’ll never get there”, “who do I think I am, anyway?” or my personal favorite: “I’m so far behind!!” -- haha, what does that even mean?!)
Even if you tack on extra work sessions in the early morning, or late-night after the kids go to bed, or try to do catch-ups on the weekend, you might still not shake this 9-5 guilty feeling... unless you’re consciously aware that it’s there
And all of this is totally normal. If you’ve gone through or are currently going through any of the above, you’re not alone.
The reality of blending working-life-at-home with parenting is that you will encounter several obstacles to advancing your own business. Some are external, some are internal. And that’s OK.
We build resilience.
We keep going.
In fact, I’m here to tell you what I wish someone had told me ten years ago, when I started working for myself from home: you should expect your workday to look nothing like what you were used to in a more formal office setting. (If I’d just known that earlier on it would have saved me a ton of anxiety and heartache!)
I’m also here to tell you that there are some solutions, so read on! Also, bookmark this blog, and check out my Instagram, as I continue to share more solutions and insights to these exact mom-challenges.
Real-life tips I picked up after a decade working from home:
1. Capture your ideas & solutions to problems
Good ideas and flashes of inspiration for creative people and business owners do not show up on a timed schedule. They can (and will) pop up whenever. You will think that you’ll remember your great idea or expect it’ll come back to you later. It will not. Be prepared!
Your Notes and Voice-Memo phone apps are your new BFFs. Give your entries proper titles that make sense and are searchable. Go back to them often and pull your insights and/or ideas to flesh out.
Bonus points: if you’re on a Mac, the Notes app and the Voice Memos app can sync to your computer. This means you can capture your thoughts while away from your desk, and have them ready and waiting for you when you get some sit-down work time. Set time aside weekly to go through them and turn the contents into actionable tasks.
This has been a game-changer for me.
2. Develop Better Systems
I recommend you spend some time developing systems to bring in more efficiency — you can totally do more things in less time than it would take in a normal office environment that’s got lots of banter, long pointless meetings, and birthday cake in the break room!
Some examples of systems:
Templating as much as you can, so you do the work once and you keep reusing the same process on future projects (if your work lends itself to that). For example, if you work with clients you could have a welcome packet that covers everything they'll need to know. Look for any repeatable process you walk people through.
For instance, I've templated a private welcome page on my site to walk my new clients through what to expect when working together and cover lots of FAQs; I use Google Forms for a deep-dive series of questionnaires; I provide a website delivery packet that contains all the info a client could need after our project is done; a custom brand style guide; a custom marketing plan; and a number of other checklists and cheatsheets that I include if they can apply to what that person does. These are all so well appreciated by my clients (and by me)!
Make checklists for yourself so you have fewer steps to remember next time.
If you find yourself answering the same questions often by phone or email, then your website could use a better FAQ section and you can save some time by directing everyone there.
Perhaps look at streamlining your bookkeeping and invoicing -- the goal is to make it as easy as possible to get paid. And never have to chase the money you're owed.
If you book one-on-one time with clients and are annoyed by all the back-and-forth of nailing down dates and times, then an online scheduler is a system worth looking into. There are some handy free ones out there (such as You Can Book Me), but I like to get my clients set up with the Bookings app in WiX so it can all be done seamlessly on their own website.
Depending on what you do, maybe a price list is what you need so that you can waste less time with lookie-loos and, instead, invest time developing relationships with people who are a) keenly interested in what you do and b) already aware of your pricing so they don't run for the hills after you've spent an hour on the phone with them.
3. Time management for people who have no time
Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. If you say writing a blog post will take you a week, then it will. If you say writing a blog post will take you two hours, then it will.
Productivity is a whale of a topic that I address in other posts - but it helps to look at your day less like a big expanse of time and more like a series of small containers that fill up quickly.
Try this: Brainstorm short lists of pre-determined priority tasks that will help your business grow that you figure will take 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or 1 hour, and slot them into your calendar. I keep mine on cue cards on a bulletin board (I'm techy but also old-school!) -- I'm a visual person so it helps to have reminders where I can see them.
Unless a task is assigned a specific day and time when you’ll do it, it’s just a vague wish!
The idea here is that even if your day goes completely off the rails, you know that you can squeeze in something from your pre-determined priority lists. For example, even if you can only eke out 30 minutes to devote to your business on a given day, maybe it’s “send out the client invoices” or “finish the next module of my branding course” - whatever is most important to you.
Managing your calendar when you have no clue how long anything takes
I often hear, “I have no idea how much time X is going to take me” from my clients. The project probably hasn’t been broken down into small enough chunks yet, so start there.
So for example what goes into your calendar time block is not “write my course” (that's way too big), but rather smaller, ultra-specific tasks like, “get my notes typed out” and then at another time, “rearrange the order of the sections for better flow”, and so on.
You’ll never know how long things will take until you start tracking it better.
Alternatively, you can book yourself in for time to work on a project without knowing exactly how long its completion will take -- don’t let that stop you from simply starting.
For example, you could say “on Wednesday at 10:30 I will set aside 30 minutes to make progress on my new ebook” and then do exactly that. This way you’re always moving forward.
Remember: progress not perfection :)
4. Stay Organized
Do you have your home’s finances mixed in with your business paperwork? Are the kids’ school papers mingling on your desk with your work projects?
Separating all of your home/life paperwork from business paperwork is a must.
Even if your workspace is shared with family, the stuff relating to the different areas of your life should be kept apart and in order. This will make everything so much easier.
Were any of these ideas helpful for you? Please let me know below in the comments.
Continue reading in Part 2: Solving Distraction Challenges (within your environment & relationships)
Later, in part 3, we will go over some solutions to common mindset challenges. That's my favorite stuff to discuss!
See you there,