I’m trying to build a home business while raising three small children. For the unenlightened, this situation is like a running a level 5 obstacle course. I spend a lot of time leaping from interruption to interruption like an American Ninja Warrior.
I don’t always realize l when I slip back and forth between Home Business Owner and Mom, but my kids can tell the difference between my two personalities in a split second.
As a toddler, my son used to react very strongly to my Business Voice. If I had an unexpected phone call, I’d do my best to appear relaxed. But under the surface, I’d be paddling like a duck, trying not to worry that I was upsetting my child.
I still have difficulty dividing my energies. When I’m working, it’s hard to detach from my family. And when I’m parenting, it’s hard not to let work creep in. Though it’s taken me a long time, I’m finally finding my groove with home business. Here’s what works for our family.
1. Organize your physical work space
If you have babies or preschoolers at home, you won’t spend a lot of time sitting at a desk while they’re awake. Organize your desk anyway.
Get a big box of file folders and file those piles of unsorted papers. Make space for your computer, your phone and your notebook. This will be your sacred space when the kids are asleep. You will make money at your desk. Treat it with professional respect.
2. Set a daily routine and a weekly schedule for your home business
The only way to be successful with a home business and small children is to use routines. Here are some tips for your business scheduling.
- Check in with your goals daily. Darren Hardy suggests that when you wake up, think of three things you want to accomplish. Then when you go to bed, check if you accomplished them. It helps to get up before the kids do, if you can manage this without falling over.
- Schedule blocks of kid-free time for phone calls and business presentations. Owning a home business gives you great flexibility. But it’s still work. To be successful, you have to accept the reality that you need some working time without the kids on a regular schedule. Employ your spouse, local preschool, or occasional sitter. Put these blocks of time in your calendar, and stick to them.
- Plan your work in lots of small bursts. If you have kids, you might only get ten uninterrupted minutes at a time. Good news: a proven time management technique called the Pomodoro method breaks down big tasks into short segments. So if you have an hour’s worth of work, split it into six 10-minute segments. Then do ten minutes at a time, in between interruptions.
3. Dream big dreams and set small goals for your home business
Anita Campbell wrote “dream big dreams, set small goals.”
Keep one eye on the big picture. Your biggest goals will keep you going when you’re stuck. But you also need to create small, measurable goals to measure your progress and grant you little wins along the way.
4. Create business systems and USE them
Business systems will be your saving grace when you are juggling dinner, laundry, bedtime, and follow-up calls.
- Use simple, duplicable and strategic scripts provided by your company or trainer. Use scripts for prospecting, inviting, follow up, and closing.
- Follow your company’s system. Listen to your upline and keep it simple!
- Use tools for presentations and to answer questions. Don’t spend time talking if a tool can talk for you.
- Choose simplicity. The simplest systems to track contacts and correspondence are best.
After two years of fussing with fancy contact managers, one of my team members taught me to use a 99-cent recipe box to track contacts on index cards. It’s worked wonders for me. Overcomplicated systems will fail when you’ve been up all night with a cranky baby and you have to think straight before noon.
5. Find your tribe
Goodness knows you can use adult conversation in your day.
I check in with my mentors and my team members often. In the past, I’ve scheduled working days alongside other moms on my team, and we take turns watching kids. Sometimes, we’d invite groups of moms over for a home business presentation, and one of us would babysit all the kids in the playroom or backyard for an hour.
Get like-minded people on board with you and find a way together to make it work.
6. Balance your mental space and your physical space
When I was pregnant with my second child, a sage friend told me, “Remember that your baby needs your physical space, and your toddler needs your mental space.”
Having a home business is a lot like having another kid who needs your attention. If you try to work when your kids need you, you’ll feel like you’re failing at both jobs.
It’s a horrible feeling when you start to sense your home business is distracting you from parenting. Stop, breathe, and make sure your kids are getting enough of your physical and your mental space. Your business can have what’s left over. You may only be able to give your home business your full attention when they are away or asleep.
The solution here is to make a list of (a) business tasks you can do around your kids (think: tidying up, stuffing envelopes); (b) things you can involve them in (like sticking labels); and (c) things that require focused kid-free time.
Forgive yourself if you are mentally thinking about business when you’re physically playing with your kids, or if your physical space turns to chaos when you have a busy business cycle. Having a home business requires a degree of sacrifice; there’s no way you will achieve 100% focus in either realm all of the time. Something is going to get dropped, so be gentle with yourself when it happens.
7. Schedule family time and stick to it
This might seem too basic to even mention. But your calendar owns you now.
Since you need to live by your calendar, make sure to schedule some work-free family time every week. Think: fun activities with the kids in the mornings; dedicated family time on Saturdays.
Whatever it looks like for you, family time should be inviolate. It doesn’t have to be a ton of time. But if it’s on the calendar, it’s as important as a dentist appointment.
Your team will understand. Schedule quality time with your family first, so that you can detach and focus on work without guilt later.
8. Understand your family members’ love languages
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a book that transformed my relationships with my family.
Gary Chapman’s theory is that we each have one primary “love language” – the way we prefer to express and receive love. These love languages include using words, providing acts of service, giving gifts, spending quality time, and physical touch.
To give you an example, I’m a quality time kinda girl. My husband, on the other hand, expresses love through acts of service. So now, when he does the dishes for me, I know he’s telling me he loves me.
I won’t get into details here but you can read them for yourself at www.5lovelanguages.com. They apply to kids as well as adults.
Get to know each family member’s primary love language. Then when you’re busy, you can more easily and meaningfully remind them that they’re still your top priority.
9. Plan family meals, chores and activities ahead of time
As it turns out, family systems are just as important as business systems.
Meal planning is essential. Instead of going to the grocery store daily for things you’ve forgotten, plan specific meals in advance and try to get it down to a single shop per week.
Schedule laundry nights. Negotiate chores with your spouse. Cut down on TV viewing. Reduce kids’ extracurriculars so you aren’t playing Taxi Parent every night of the week. Every way you save time can add to your available work hours.
10. Communicate with your partner
I’ve watched a lot of couples on my home business team. Here is what I now know: couples that don’t communicate well face a much rougher ride than others.
If you’re in a parenting relationship with a partner or even a grandparent—take some time and communicate clearly with them about your home business priorities, shared parenting, chores, and your work schedule.
If your partner is also your home business partner, decide how to split up your business activities. My husband and I realized we were both doing a lot of the same work. It wasted tons of time. Once we split up our to-do list, our business moved forward.
Above all else, communicate gratitude. If you share gratitude with your partner, more things will come into your life to be grateful for. And that’s a beautiful thing!
Your homework: take a look at this list and pick two good ideas to implement now as you work from home, or as you prepare to start your home business. Share your story! I’d love to hear your best success stories on our Facebook page. What useful tips do you have for other Work-at-Home Parents?