We all have the same 24 hours in a day or so the saying goes. When growing up, my dad always tried campaigning to add 24 more hours. I don’t think he realized how unproductive he would become.
So, I decided at a young age that 24 hours is best. Recently, I made the connection that since we all have the same 24 hours, we all have the same amount of time to focus on our priorities.
The thing is that it isn’t about how many hours you have, but how you use them. Running a successful business and home is all about choosing the right priorities to focus on. It can get pretty overwhelming when I try to accomplish everything.
I find as a mom, time can easily disappear if I’m not careful. Between housework and cleaning (my most loathed chores), kids to take care of, meals to cook and laundry to do, these very important tasks of motherhood could take all day if I let them.
This isn’t an option when you work from home. By learning how to focus on your priorities, your able to make time for the things that are really important to you.
My husband and I recently had a discussion on my inability to take on more of the household budget. I reminded him that when we had naptime (really, the only quiet time of the day), I chose to work on my business instead of completing the household minutiae.
The result was a business that grew. If I had decided to focus my priorities on yet another household task who knows where my business would be today.
Another mom who owns a work from home business shared with me about how she started streamlining her priorities and only focusing on the things that mattered. The process worked like this – figure out your top three priorities and work towards them daily. Let everything else go.
Determining the top three items to me isn’t really the problem.
My most important priorities are the kids, my husband and my creative business – not always in that particular order.
The problem is letting everything else go. Housework, laundry, errand running, school volunteering.
If I let go of everything else, am I still being successful as a mom?
Didn’t I start this business so I can have a work/life balance?
So, I tried it for a week. I focused solely on the kids, my husband and business.
The kids got mommy time when I should have been cleaning. I cooked simpler meals to allow for more family time (if I gave up cooking altogether, I would have ended up in a financial nightmare – plus I love to cook, so it was kind of self-care).
When everyone was busy and there was a quiet moment, I worked on my next business task (this is why I keep a running business to do list).
The results are in. I have a very messy house. Happy kids. Happy husband. And a business that’s growing again.
Maybe it was all worth the very messy house.
If I could just stop connecting the clean house with a successful parenting experience.
I was reading about the early story of My Wife Quit Her Job. He went through their family schedule when they had small children. It was amazing how streamlined their priorities were at the time – family, wife’s business, blog and day job. It was those four things that filled their day from early morning to late at night. Now they own two million dollar businesses.
By figuring out what their priorities were and figuring out how to focus only on them, they were able to grow and build not just one, but TWO successful businesses.
I am leaving one thing out, though. The difference between my method of focusing on specific priorities and other recommendations is that you are not supposed to let the other priorities completely go – just not do them yourself.
You should hire them out. Pay someone to clean your house (I am kind of a fan of this one), cook meals for your family (not so much since I like to cook) and even do your laundry (I can’t imagine anyone else washing my clothes – but I have heard engaging local teenagers on this one is a plus).
Although I think some of these ideas are a bit extreme for our little family, I do think that there are ways to focus on your priorities without letting everything else around you go.
Write them Down
You might think about your true priorities every day, but seeing them visually will be a good reminder when you are scheduling tasks.
If the kids are most important, but you are standing over a sink of soapy water washing dishes (true story), are the kids really the priority? Housework will always be there (believe me, I can attest to this), the kids won’t always be little. A visual list of what is important serves as a great reminder.
Schedule Time Blocks
It’s one thing to have a list of priorities, but another to actually work towards each of them every day. Schedule time blocks for each priority and stick to it. This way each priority gets some attention on a daily basis.
I have focused more on scheduling work time. If tasks don’t fit into the allocated block, then I come back to the project later.
Find a Replacement
If it isn’t a priority, it is probably not worth your time. That being said, having a messy house or hungry kids isn’t always a good idea either.
If you can’t clean the house, cook meals or do laundry for the week, find a replacement you. It might even be cheaper to pay someone to do these tasks instead of you. (Compare your hourly rate if you worked instead of completing the task to how long the task would take.) There are plenty of teenagers looking for easy work in the neighborhood – believe me.
Decide if it is Worth your Time
Some tasks are necessary for the operation of a happy, healthy home, but some are just not worth your time. I realized this recently with our neighborhood yard sale. The number of hours it took to organize, price and run the sale compared with how much money I made… it would have been better to donate our extra stuff.
Before embarking on a task that doesn’t fit under your priority categories, see if it is worth your time to complete. You might find that it is a big time waster and you didn’t even know it.
Who are You Trying to Impress?
When caught up in life, the focus on our priorities can become muddled. I will be deep cleaning my house when I should be spending time with the kids and realize that I am trying to make my mother happy. I love her dearly, but I shouldn’t clean my house for her.
If you find yourself completing tasks that don’t fit into your priorities, think about why are you doing this.
Are you trying to make other family members, friends, neighbors, etc happy?
Are you attempting to live the perfect Instagram lifestyle?
If others (including social media) have anything to do with it, then it’s time to reset your focus back on your priorities. Those other tasks aren’t that important.
Downsize and Purge
I find a messy home and office can make it hard to focus on creative tasks. My mind feels cluttered and I worry about cleaning instead of being creative.
If you find that your space is taking you too long to organize and clean, consider downsizing or purging. Since we chose a home that is “just right” in size, we try to make sure we have “just the right” amount of things.
I hate spending my time on decluttering, so we have a freeze on shopping this year. By not having items constantly coming into our home, I haven’t spent as much time sorting, organizing or moving out old stuff to make room for the new. It is a process that can really help keep the focus on one’s priorities.
Small Steps Matter
Sticking to priorities isn’t always easy, but taking small steps every day towards your goals matter. If you are trying to teach the kids a new skill, working towards completing a business project (or even getting up and running) or spending more time with your husband, each little step taken daily towards the bigger end goal matters.
Try to see the forest through the trees. It will keep you focused on what is important.
Just Say No
If you are battling a busy social calendar or have too many work commitments, start saying no and focusing on who/what is important. By slimming down the social engagements, you will find you have more time for your priorities.
Focusing on your priorities doesn’t just happen – you have to make an effort to put them first. You must make time or they will always slide to the bottom of the “important” list.
So what happens when you focus on your priorities instead of running around frazzled?
I found that we are happier as a family and my business feels more in control. There’s an understanding of workand play time. I also feel freer and understand what’s important.
Focusing on our priorities makes it easier to make scheduling decisions – it either fits or it doesn’t.
Unfortunately, there’s still cleaning the house. But I’ll figure out that puzzle eventually.