Juggling parenthood and entrepreneurship is probably one of the most challenging experiences you’ll ever go through. But it’s not impossible. You can be successful and be a good parent. Try the following ten time management tips, and you may be surprised at how easy these tips will help you to build a business as a parent.
1. Live by your calendar.
“If it doesn’t exist on my calendar, it’s not real,” said Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec. More valid words have never been spoken. But, what exactly should go into your calendar?
Well, my calendar only includes date-specific appointments, my most important tasks, and blocks of time reserved for networking, learning, or relaxing. But before all of that, I schedule all of my personal obligations first, such as vacations, school functions, or doctor’s appointments.
“Plan as much as you can a year in advance and stick to it,” added Herjavec. For him, that’s booking his calendar a year in advance. That meant sitting down with his children’s school counselor and his assistant and going through “each” school holiday and event they had off.
“Because of that, I never missed a swim meet. I never missed a school play. I never missed anything,” Herjavec said. “I’d fly from L.A. back to Toronto to be with my kids for one day. That’s the great thing about having your own business — the freedom to control your schedule and to do with it what you want.”
2. Tune into your personal rhythms.
“For an efficient workday, that truly respects our human nature, the first thing to focus on are ultradian cycles,” writes Leo Widrich at Buffer.
“The basic understanding is that our human minds can focus on any given task for 90-120 minutes,” he explains. “Afterwards, a 20-30 minute break is required for us to get the renewal to achieve high performance for our next task again.” So, instead of focusing on how much you can get done in an eight-hour day, focus on what you’ll accomplish in the next 90-minute session.
Ideally, you should try to sync your personal rhythms with your family’s schedule. A family schedule can get tricky, but it is possible. For example, I’m up at 5:15 a.m. daily because I’m a morning person. Plus, the house is quiet. However, I’ve timed it to take a break at around 7 a.m. as everyone else is waking up. I’ve already worked for about 90-minutes and ready for a break. But, once my family is out the door, I’m ready to jump back into work.
3. Budget your time like you would with money.
As an entrepreneur, I’m positive that you’ve created and are sticking to a budget. If not, I don’t think your business will survive, right?
You can use the same concept to improving your time management by knowing what to spend your time on. For most of us, that would be getting organized, creating a healthy routine, setting goals, learning, recharging, and spending time with our family.
Another advantage of creating a time budget is that it allows you to see where you’re wasting your valuable time. For example, are spending countless hours each week on tedious daily tasks like bookkeeping, writing, customer service, or administrative tasks? While all important, these responsibilities aren’t the best use of your time and should be delegated.
4. Admit that you can’t be in two places at once.
Even heroes like Superman and The Flash don’t have this power. And, neither do you. The sooner you admit that, the sooner you will be able to create a more realistic schedule.
Now, I’m not saying that this will be a walk in the park. You’re going to have to make sacrifices and get comfortable saying “no.” But, if you know what your priorities are and schedule them first, you’ll have less conflict and friction in your life. Begin to understand that people who pare-down their tasks to fewer tasks, will get more done.
5. Don’t work from home.
As I’m writing this, the world is pretty much on lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. So, this advice isn’t recommended right now. But, as Mark Daoust, founder of Quiet Light Brokerage and father five, explains in a previous Entrepreneur piece, there’s an excellent reason why you should consider this.
“As I tried to focus on my work, I could hear my wife shushing the kids and telling them, ‘Daddy has to work,” he wrote. “I won’t do that again: I would feel guilty listening to family life happening just outside my door and feel that I should be involved.”
“And as if that weren’t bad enough, my brain would refuse to tell me where the ‘off’ switch was,” Mark added. “The kids would be telling me what they’d learned that day, and I would be mentally working on the business problems that had just unfolded. In short, there’d be too much to handle.”
“Instead, I’ve found that I need an outside office with a short commute,” he continued. “That short commute home helps me to turn off my work brain and enter back into family mode.”
Between the usual suspects, like coworking spaces and coffee shops, there are plenty of other free affordable options to work from. Some entrepreneurs have set up shop in parks, libraries, bars, and hotel lobbies. People like Maya Angelou even rented hotel rooms when she wanted to write without being interrupted.
If you can’t leave your property for whatever reason, there are a couple of other options. For example, I have a friend who has a car garage that’s not attached to his house. He converted it into an office so that he’s still technically at home, but has a little more privacy. I’ve also come across people who have placed tiny houses and used them as their workspace.
6. Learn how to leave work at work.
In a perfect world, you could clock out from work at a specific time and not think about it until it’s time to clock back in. Unfortunately, that’s not how we entrepreneurs believe. We’re always “on” and thinking about our business.
That’s not always a bad thing. I’ve had some of my best ideas when out in the real world and away from the office. But, you also don’t want to let work bleed into your home life — primarily work-related stress.
Again, this isn’t always the easiest of tasks. But, I’ve made it a point to quit work and be home at a specific time each day. If I do have to stay late, my family has plenty of notice in advance. Before I leave, I review my calendar for tomorrow and organize my desk. I then transition from “work” mode to “home” mode by listening to a non-work related podcast.
And, as I’ve already mentioned, I also schedule my family first in my calendar. So, if a client wants to meet with me on a Friday night and my family already has plans, then that meeting has to be rescheduled.
7. Get your family involved.
Of course, you can’t hire your family as full-time employees. But, you could have your kids lend a hand when they get home from school or when they’re home because of an in-service day. Maybe you could delegate some of the tasks to your partner when the kids aren’t around.
Besides giving you more opportunities to spend time with your family, this also teaches your children values that will make them exceptional. These include everything from responsibility to teamwork to problem-solving.
I’ve followed Sherrie Campbell, a psychologist, on raising children. Campbell has straightforward, understandable advice. Here are the seven values Sherrie suggests we can use to teach children about life to be successful. We all need actionable, doable information where children are concerned.
8. Prioritize your well-being.
As a parent, to both children and your business, how can you possibly attend to your well-being? Well, believe it or not, there are some realistic ways to achieve this.
For starters, when taking that break during an energy drop, go outside and walk. Meditate, journal, or do office exercises for a couple of minutes. All are realistic and don’t’ involve you waking-up earlier or adjusting your schedule too much.
You can also fill your office with healthy and nutritious snacks instead of eating from a vending machine. Also, you should get into the habit of preparing your meals for the entire week so that you don’t have to eat out. As an additional bonus, you can do this with your kids and also prep their meals, so you don’t have to do this throughout the week.
As for sleep? That can be impossible if you have a newborn, or children in general. But, there’s nothing wrong with taking a catnip if you feel rundown.
9. Be reliable and follow through.
When you block out time for specific tasks, then that’s where 100% of your attention should be. On the flip side, when you’re spending time with your children, then that’s what you should be focusing on.
That may sound easier said than done. But, if you’ve planned ahead and have established boundaries, it’s entirely possible. As a result, you’ll earn the reputation of being a reliable business owner and parent without spreading yourself too thin.
10. Don’t set it and forget it.
Finally, you need to reflect and adjust your schedule accordingly. For example, your children’s school schedule may be different this year because they’re in a new school. They may have dropped soccer and are not focused on playing a musical instrument — which means an entirely different calendar.
On your end, an organization that was meaningful to you a couple of years ago may now be considered a burden. So, why keep wasting your time there?
Make sure that your calendar is up-to-date and reflects what your priorities are at the moment.