Being a female entrepreneur + a parent + working from home all bring about their own challenges. If you're struggling right now, read on to restore a bit of hope and get real-life tips from a Mom who's been working from home for a decade 💛
This post is Part 3 in a series about what nobody tells Moms about running a business from home.
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In part 1, we went over some ways to tackle productivity issues, and a few tricks you can start using today. You can read part 1 here.
In part 2, we went over how to tackle some common distractions. And though you can't completely eliminate all distractions (except perhaps by moving solo to a seaside cabin - sigh wouldn't be so nice?) you can certainly be proactive about removing a lot of unnecessary distractions from your life. You can read part 2 here.
In this post, part 3, we're talking about some mindset challenges. This is stuff that might be slowing you down that you're not consciously aware of.
Common 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!). Let's look at what 9-5 even is, and reframe what it means for us.
Your mind might feed you a lot of unhelpful, garbage thoughts that can take the wind out of your sails and kill your momentum (“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?!) This has a name, and it's called Impostor Syndrome.
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. This is where we need to look at our boundaries.
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!
What is the point of 9-5 anyway?
Why is it important to talk about this? Why do we blindly assume we need to be available to others during these times? Why do we act as if we need to be accessible to anyone who wants something from us at any given moment? This thinking has led to a lot of poor boundaries and self-defeating people-pleasing behaviors for too long.
First things first: let’s remember that the 9-5 working model originated at the Ford Motor Company in the 1920s to prevent factory workers from being exploited, and then became law in the 1930s.
And here's the clincher that I want you to take away from this:
It was designed with the idea that someone else would be looking after the child-rearing, housekeeping, meal-making and all the rest!
So please, please take heart when you feel overwhelmed by all the things. You were never meant to do all the things.
Here’s another interesting tidbit I learned: in the 1950s, the idea of trading time-for-dollars originated in the legal profession when lawyers began charging "billable hours" for every minute they worked on a client’s case rather than charging a fixed fee for a service.
Law firms quickly realized they could make a lot more money by making their lawyers work longer, so they set monthly quotas (which have continued to increase over time, hence making late nights another “norm” in certain fields).
Meanwhile, the concept of setting a 'minimum number of hours being spent in the office' spread to many other fields and still holds today. (source)
"There for the Right Reasons"
Most people on an annual salary don’t make extra money for staying later -- it’s become part of our culture to arrive early or stay late just to show bosses how devoted we are (or to borrow a phrase from The Bachelor -- “we’re there for the right reasons” ;-)
We hope it will be recognized and rewarded later, but we don’t make any extra money.
The point is that as an entrepreneur, you are not clocking in and clocking out to meet some archaic or inapplicable quota. In contrast to our corporate work culture, where most people are paid based on the old custom of spending a full day in the office -- as opposed to the actual amount of work they produce in that time -- as an entrepreneur... that just won’t cut it.
The hours you put in are simply not as important as the results you produce. Not to your financial bottom line, nor to your sense of accomplishment.
On the bright side, it may not take you a full day to produce your desired results, especially if you’ve been doing something for a long time and have amassed a lot of skills.
Note that when you get paid for a result, not an amount of time, it can feel a bit counterintuitive or even a bit weird at first. This can come up when it comes time to charge for something that feels “quick and easy” to you.
Think of it this way: if it takes a professional designer 35 minutes to do something advanced that would take a beginner 14 hours to do, does that make the end result any less valuable? No.
People are paying you for the expertise and knowledge you’ve amassed, which typically culminates in some kind of "result", no matter what you do.
Another upside is that nobody’s breathing down your neck to come in early or stay late.
So you see, it’s not the number of hours that makes you a True Entrepreneur. We all hear stories of entrepreneurs who put in 100 hours a week for a few years so they can buy themselves time freedom for the rest of their lives -- but that just doesn't jive with motherhood.
It’s what you do with the time that you have that counts.
The only person who should care about your output is you.
Think about it: you probably left the corporate world seeking more time freedom, and the greatest obstacle in taking advantage of this newfound freedom is your own mind!
Perhaps your workdays will look nothing like you thought they would.
Maybe you work better in the wee hours of the morning, getting the bulk of your work done between 5-8AM.
Or maybe you’re a night owl and you hit your stride at 7PM, and you want to homeschool your kids during the day.
Maybe your ideal clients are only available on the weekend.
Maybe you need to set limited office hours during which people can pre-book time with you, as I have and you can see here, which are not “open” 8 hours per day.
You have the freedom to decide what works for you... and then keep tweaking to adapt it as your needs change. (And isn't that a huge reason why we left the workforce?)
Time management is but one piece of the puzzle. A bigger challenge is what’s going on in your mind about all this.
Working On Your Mindset Is An Ongoing Commitment
It’s the negative stories you create (and start to believe) about your worth as a person, in relation to your ability to output quantifiable progress, within a limited time frame... And understanding that they are just stories.
It's about the guilt you feel when you get little done during those hours... And learning the gentle art of self-compassion.
It's about the things you say to yourself when you consistently fail to meet your own expectations... And knowing how to counter those destructive thought patterns.
It's about wanting to give up completely when you're pushed to the brink... And finding the resolve to get up tomorrow and try again.
Here are a few places to get started:
Having Better Boundaries On Your Time
There exists a sweet spot that takes a while to figure out, between vigilantly guarding your time, and remaining flexible enough to adapt to the unexpected.
If you’re too strict it can cause friction, conflict, and more stress. Alternately, too much flexibility can lead to resentment and not getting much of anything done. This feeds into a low sense of accomplishment - in other words, you feel like crap.
To avoid feeling pulled in all directions, the first thing to do is DRASTICALLY reduce the distractions you willingly allow into your life. Tech is the easiest place to start. For example:
Run a test for a week and see if you can live without any notifications whatsoever from socials, nor pings from new emails. You can temporarily mute some group chats. Go in your app notification settings and turn everything off. (Spoiler alert: our habit of checking our apps is so deeply engrained -- I promise you won't forget to go look when you have some downtime!) And yes, it's OK to leave your phone ringer on in case of emergencies.
Bonus points for putting your phone on airplane mode when you need to deep-focus
Close extraneous browser tabs on your computer (if you keep tons of them opened to remind yourself of things to do (like I do!) then transfer those to-do's to another list/notebook and then close those tabs!
Set short windows of time to check your inbox and then (gasp!) close it again.
If you're feeling really bold (and really addicted to an app in particular) try deleting it from your phone and see how you fare after a few days.
Go ahead and turn those off now, it will just take you a minute. I'll be here when you're done!
Saying Yes Less
A sense of never quite being satisfied with your output can quickly wear you down, trash your motivation, and slow your momentum.
It’s important to look at areas where you can improve your ability to say no:
Are there a few problem clients hogging up your time?
Is there simply too much on your plate? (Hint: you said yes too much!)
Do you say yes when you really should say no, and bump your own priorities off your calendar?
Are you accepting draining, time-suck jobs just for the money?
This is helpful for me: I try to remember that each time we say YES to something we don't want, we're saying NO to something we do want. Conversely, each time we say NO to something we don't want, we're making time, space, bandwidth, resources, attention etc available for what we do want. In other words, our true yesses.
For your own sanity (and success as a business owner) you will need to learn to say no --quickly and professionally.
Perfection Is The Enemy Of Progress
At the same time, it would be good to look at your standards. Are they just too high across the board? If you’re a perfectionist, this is likely an area you struggle with.
Are you stuck at the starting line unable to move forward until your plan is carefully mapped out all the way to the end? (Spoiler alert: it won't go the way you think anyway. This is a classic stalling tactic. Just start!)
Are your goals spread across too many different areas? One analogy that helps me refocus, as a multi-passionate with lots of plans, is imagining that I'm a train. I will visit many stations in my lifetime, but can only go to one station at a time. All I need to focus on is getting to the next station.
Remember the mantra: progress, not perfection. I’d add some precision and say “measurable progress”.
How do you measure your progress?
Figure out which of your projects could benefit from a simple progress bar that you can color in as you go.
Or, you might need a project management system (analog or digital) where you can visually see your project tasks moving forward. (If you want to get started right now with supplies you probably have lying around, just Google the term "basic scrum board" and look at pictures.)
Are you breaking down your big projects into smaller manageable chunks?
Do you have clear deliverables you're setting out to accomplish within the next quarter?
Are all the things you feel like you "have to do" actually working toward a larger long-term goal? (It's possible that a good chunk of the tasks clogging up your to-do lists aren't actually priorities.)
Please take heart: all this is normal. It takes time to figure this out. You’re in it for the long haul.
Keep going!! And if you need some help, just reach out to me.
I hope this series of posts has been relatable to you, and has made you feel a little bit less alone if you’ve faced some struggles working from home.
You might have a very supportive partner and extraordinarily cooperative kids (you lucky duck!), but either way you slice it, building a business AND parenting AND running a household is a lot.
And that’s okay.
As the uplifting Glennon Doyle taught us, we can do hard things.
If you relate to anything covered above, please share your experiences below -- and specifically how you found a solution that worked for you. Your insights could really help someone else who's struggling with something you've solved for yourself, so please share!