I used to be that mom. I’m sure you’ve met them. The ones who try to do it all. Forget SAHM or WAHM. I wanted to be both.
When we first learned we were expecting, I planned on staying at home with the baby and building a thriving business empire. At the same time.
No one ever explained that staying at home is a full time job in itself. I had no idea that starting a business on absolutely no sleep while breastfeeding non-stop and dealing with hormone overload was probably something that was deemed impossible by some. This is why people hire nannies.
I had come to terms that my creative business would take more time to grow than other business start-ups. Mainly because I had less time to devote to building my business than people without children.
This fact never seemed to bother me. I figured I’d get there eventually.
It turns out, though, that being a mom and running a business with littles at home is more complicated than it looks. Beyond just finding the time to work on your business, you need to find creative energy to get tasks done.
But I was stubborn about it – even when my husband tried to convince me to get more help.
It took a couple of years, but eventually I learned that in order to build a thriving business as a busy mom you need to prioritize your time.
This isn’t always that easy. It’s hard not to get overwhelmed when faced with a lot of decision making.
But, finding more time to work on your business is just about prioritizing what’s important and giving up what’s not.
One thing that I noticed when I became a mom was how little time there actually is in a day. Suddenly every minute seemed important. If I was spending time away from the kids, that time needed to be used efficiently.
It turns out that time is more important than money. Having more time gives you the ability to do the things that you love, create memories with the people who are important to you and spend more time building your online business (or whatever other project you want to work on).
Put it that way and time becomes invaluable.
So how do you prioritize your time to build your online business?
If you’re really busy, which most of us are, the key is to choose every day activities that can be exchanged for more time to work on your online business (or even other activities that you think are important).
In the end, everyone has something that they can give up. It just might not seem that way at first.
When I started my stationery shop, I tried to do everything. I wanted to be the most perfect stay at home mom and grow a little empire of handcrafted goods.
About a year in I finally hit my breaking point. I was trying to do too much. Manage a home that was WAY TOO BIG for our little family, cook healthy meals each night, provide educational opportunities for my littles and grow my business. I had nothing else to give.
So, we made some changes and adjusted how we were living and my business plan. I started to prioritize time for growing my business, learned to let a few things go and then focused on spending additional time with my growing family. We found a wonderful work/life balance – which I didn’t actually think was possible.
Figure Out What You Won’t Give Up
Have you ever met the entrepreneur who will give up anything and everything to make their business succeed? I have.
I always think to myself that I love my business (most of the time) and I want to succeed too. But I also love my family and kids. They are my number one. Not my business.
My goal is to be good at both. And in this day and age, I don’t think you should have to choose.
So before figuring out what I could give up, I determined the things that I wasn’t willing to exchange for more time with my business.
For me it was bedtime routine, daily play time with the kids, healthy family dinners and sleep. The last one was most important. Without enough sleep, I didn’t have the energy to tackle my day at full force and I was no help to anyone.
Everyone’s list will look different. So, get a piece of paper and write your big priorities down. It will make figuring out how to prioritize your time a lot easier.
Decide on What You Can Give Up
Now that you know what you don’t want to give up, it’s time to figure out what you are willing to give up to find more time to work on your business.
Here are some things that I gave up to have more time to spend growing my online business.
A Long Commute
Ignore this idea if you are running your business full time from home or stay at home with your kids. But if you are working a 9 – 5 and trying to start your business at the same time (and have a family too), this might be an option for you.
Although I stopped commuting to work when I decided to work at home with my littles, my husband did not. When we experimented with living in the suburbs for a year, it was AWFUL. He went from a forty-five minute commute (which is great for Washington, DC) to an hour and a half commute. Each way. That was three hours a day he was missing time with his family. No wonder I felt like I barely saw him that year.
If you do have an extra long commute, see if you can find a way to shorten it. You might be able to leave super early and save minutes (then add in time for your business before your job starts) or even come home early so you avoid it on the tail end.
You could also find a new way to get to work to save time. Maybe carpooling with others gets you access to the HOV lanes. It’s always nice to network on the way to work and watch the other cars speed past as you go.
And remember, every couple of minutes matters. Even if you shave just 10 minutes off each way, you end up with an extra 20 minutes to your day. You can get at least a couple of 5 minutes tasks done during this time!
If shortening your commute is out of the question, you could try using your commute time more efficiently to work on your business. By taking public transportation, you could find time to write your blog post, read a motivational book or create social media content.
Even if you drive, start listening to business books and podcasts as you go. You never know what new information you will learn to grow your business.
I might get some slack about this one, but cleaning our home daily was the first thing to go when I started focusing more on my business. Now, I still vacuum, dust and keep it generally neat. But there were moments when I was giving up work time in order to clean the house every day.
When I stopped doing this and spent all of naptime getting business tasks done instead, my business started to grow. Exponentially.
So if you find yourself caught in the cleaning trap, try using that time on your business instead.
If a clean house is really important to you (or my mother in my case), consider hiring a housecleaner. It’s okay not to do it all.
I once knew a writer whose goal it was to sell one story a month. She used the money to pay the cleaning person so she could spend more of her time developing her writing craft. She grew her writing career and her house stayed pristine. A win win if you ask me.
Organization is right up there with cleaning. I LOVE when everything has a place. Clutter gets me down and makes me lose focus – especially working from home.
So instead of working on my business, I’d spend hours organizing each room in the house. I started wondering if it was because I was avoiding working on my business.
Bring on the organizing ban. During working hours, I am not allowed to organize any of the stuff in our home. I save that activity for after business hours.
I’ve also found that having less stuff keeps our family more organized. So, I have sorted, purged and thrown out lots of our extras. When we have just the right amount of stuff, my family is more likely to put it away where it belongs and keep the house neater without my constant attention.
This was a hard one for me because I hate giving up control on any parenting responsibilities. I like to pretend that I can do it all. Turns out no one can do it all.
I get up early in the morning – usually around 5 a.m. – to start my work day. This let’s me be more present for the kids during the day and gives me some quiet time to write.
Since I am usually still in my writing zone by 7 a.m., I was interrupting my efficient rhythm to get the kids up, make breakfast and pack lunches. I needed about half an hour more to finish getting my thoughts on paper.
I soon realized that giving up the breakfast routine was one solution to give me more time to write in the mornings. Since I make lunches and dinners, I decided that not preparing one meal a day was probably okay.
So, now my husband makes breakfast and I get to continue writing. It got me an extra half hour in my day and I use it quite efficiently.
If you have someone who can help you with your family’s breakfast routine, maybe that’s a place to gain some extra minutes for your business each day.
Or you could make breakfast self-serve. If your kids are old enough, teach them how to use a toaster or have cereal dispensers on the counter (like they do at a hotel). Leave out bowls, spoons and a pitcher of milk. Your kids will be all set.
Since I taught early in my career, I have been a huge advocate of family dinner time. The families that sat down for dinner more often seemed more closely bonded and their kids were conversationalists.
We make it a family goal to have dinner together every night. There are some exceptions, of course, but overall we’re pretty good about it.
This means that I am preparing dinner for the family each night. Leftovers don’t go as far as they used to.
I’ve realized that if I give up the occasional dinner prep – we have take out or my husband cooks – I can work on my business for an extra 45 minutes. This is great on nights I have deadlines or during the busy stationery seasons.
Consider giving up making dinner every once and a while (or even every day if you have someone whose better at making it…). Eventually, as my kids learn cooking skills, I look forward to them making dinner together every once and awhile.
If you don’t feel comfortable handing off meal prep, you could give up the kitchen clean up. This process can take up to a half hour and I am more than happy when someone else steps in to do it.
As many of you know, I found much more time to grow my business when we got rid of our cable television.
I originally thought that it was a temporary shut off to save money, but I’ve come to love not having cable programming. I spend more time working on my business and enjoying my family.
If you aren’t sure that cancelling the cable will make a difference, I challenge you to write down how much you watch it during the week. Make a note about every time that you have it on. At the end of the week, add up the minutes. You’ll be surprised how all of those minutes add up to hours.
You don’t have to cancel the cable television, though. You could just turn it off more often. Have specific viewing times that you watch it. Even if you cut your viewing time in half, you’ll be amazed how much more you can accomplish.
When the kids were little, I found myself inventing errands to run. I just needed to get out of the house.
Nowadays, I find myself avoiding errands at all costs. I hate spending the time going to a store unless we really need something. And even then, I will put it off as long as possible.
Since all of my errand running is in one location, I find it easiest to batch my errands. I look at everything that I need for the week and where I need to buy it. Then I see which stores are near each other so I only need to make one trip. This saves me a ton of time.
Another option is to start ordering things online. You can even schedule monthly deliveries from Amazon so things are delivered automatically straight to your home. I used this service for diapers when I had my babies. I couldn’t imagine finding time to make it to the store to buy even diapers. It felt like such a luxury.
Prioritize your Time on the Things that Grow your Business
At first, I wasn’t so convinced giving these things up would yield more time. I wrote a new batched time schedule and suddenly found pockets of time that I could work on my business without giving up family time.
In each new time pocket, I chose a task (or two) that needed my attention. I created social media content, wrote blog posts and designed new products.
Instead of chasing time each day, my schedule to do these things opened up. But only after I gave up things that I thought were more important.
Now that you have the time to work on your business, write down a list of tasks that will actually grow your creative enterprise. You can find more ideas to creating effective marketing for your small business here.
After you decide how you want to spend this extra time, write down the tasks in your time blocks and get to work.
By actually finding time to work on different areas of your business, instead of just pretending, you will soon find growth. It will be amazing how much you can get done each week, just by using these time pockets.
But, I’m not willing to Give those Things Up
I’ve been there. I wasn’t willing to give up cleaning the house daily either for the longest time. I was always worried about what my mother would think when she visited.
And then one day I was cleaning and trying to figure out why I was spending my time scrubbing the floors for my mother. I like a clean house too, but I also like a thriving business.
I stopped giving over naptime to clean the house (and other tasks that weren’t helping me make more money). Once I started making more money, I invested in people to help get those tasks done.
If cleaning the house is a non-negotiable for you, that’s wonderful. Then, find something else you can cut.
When you focus to prioritize your time to build a successful business, just remember that you can’t do everything. At some point the house or other tasks will take over.
Fight back the time eating monster by choosing tasks you can give up to make more time to work on your business. It’s the only way to grow.
Passive Income is Your Friend
Remember when I shared the best digital products to create for your business. As I mentioned above, the reality is that there’s only so many hours in the day. And many of these hours I want to spend with my family.
The only way to make more money AND spend more time with family was to stop trading money for time. I needed to earn while I was doing other things that I loved.
Bring on passive income. Now, passive income isn’t my entire business. Just one income stream that I use to grow my business. But it’s really helped me prioritize my time better to spend on growing other parts of my business.
Check out lots of passive income ideas for your business here.
Lower your Expectations
When it comes to figuring out how to prioritize your time, consider how many things you’re trying to fit into the time that you have.
It’s important to be realistic. Remember, as a mom you no longer have all the hours in the day to work on your business like some of your fellow entrepreneurs. Business tasks just take longer.
You’re better off accepting this fact than fighting it. Take a close look at your to do list.
Are you crossing off items every day? Or do the same items keep appearing for weeks and you’re never making any progress?
Consider lowering your expectations on what you can actually accomplish for the day.
Write a to do list that actually fits the time that you have. It’s okay if you don’t get as much done as you expect.
By lowering your expectations, you’ll boost your confidence and in the end be more productive. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but try it for a week. I always feel better on Friday when everything is crossed off my to do list. Not when I have a handful of things left to do.
If you have a family and are trying to build an online business, you already know that your time is limited. Some of you also have full time jobs on top of these responsibilities. So, you’re time is even more precious.
You can do it all, but you have to prioritize your time. Choose the things that you won’t give up – your non-negotiables. Then, figure out the things that you can exchange work time for.
Every person will be different and there is no right answer. Some of you care less about an organized house and others are happy to trade off some meal preparation for more work hours.
Most importantly, as I’ve told many busy moms with kids, lower your expectations and don’t worry if you feel that you can’t do it all. No matter what you get done, it will be enough. At least for now.
Right size your to do list to fit the time that you do have each week. It’s better to end your week with an item or two left on the list instead of a mountain of things to work on next week.
And remember, building a business and raising a family is hard work. There will be days when you don’t think you can do either well. Step away. Take a deep breath. You always have tomorrow.