There are thousands of books to choose from about what makes a successful entrepreneur, how to become a master at time management and so on, with many nuggets of wisdom to be gleaned from them. But as a work at home mum, you probably just don’t have the time to read these books, let alone put into place what you learn from them.
The fact is, working mums and mums in business are supreme jugglers, but even the most accomplished jugglers drop a ball at some point! Over almost seven years of coaching mumpreneurs to run profitable businesses without running themselves ragged, the top five complaints I hear most often from mumpreneurs with existing businesses are:
1. “I feel overwhelmed and exhausted with too much to do and too little time”
2. “I know that I need to work ON the business, but I’m so busy working IN the business”
3. “I know what I need to do to grow this business, but there is never enough time to do it all”
4. “The business is doing ok, but it feels as if I can’t quite make that leap to the next level”
5. “I feel like I’m just not planning my time effectively as I could. I’m constantly fighting fires”
It’s not hard to spot the pattern here – lack of time!
Mumpreneurs tend to berate themselves for not having completed all of their gargantuan “to do” list at the end of each day, but most of the time, they haves simply set themselves 12 hours of tasks to complete within a 6 hour day! I know this because, whilst I’m superb at getting my clients focused and helping them to set up project plans to make their own businesses more efficient, I often forget to “take my own medicine”!
Mumpreneurs are notoriously bad at setting themselves impossible targets and beating themselves up for not having achieved “The Impossible”. The following tips are nothing new and you won’t be bowled over with a magic formula for getting it all done. There is no clever solution here, just time-tested stuff that you have no doubt heard before. But whether they are old news or cutting edge to you, those who cultivate the following seven habits will find that they are more in control of their time, have less episodes of overwhelm and build sustainable businesses.
Habit No. 1 – Learn to prioritise
It is a truism that time is our most precious commodity and we just don’t have enough of it. It’s ironic that when you’re doing something that you don’t enjoy, the minutes seem to drag relentlessly. On the other hand, when we are busy, time appears to fly and unless we grasp that time management is fundamentally about managing priorities rather than time, we are likely to feel overwhelmed. Professional coaching experts will tell you that time management is rule number one, but as we all know, time cannot be managed: We each have 24 hours in the day, seven days in the week and no amount of wishing will give us that extra two hours a day! Try this exercise for a week: Evaluate all that you have to do for the week and take time to jot it all down in a list. You will need to allocate a priority to each activity and collate them into a realistic timetable. When you embark on this exercise, it can seem daunting! However, if you persevere, this can really pay dividends as you will start to grasp how you under-estimate and the importance of prioritisation.
Habit No. 2 – Don’t forget about you!
Remember to think about yourself. Without rewarding yourself and enjoying valuable “me” time you will quickly burn yourself out and be far less productive. The buck really does stop with you when you are self-employed. Most mumpreneurs are running micro-businesses where they are the chief bottle washer and cook! So make personal time a priority and understand that this is not about being selfish, but is in fact a vital investment in your business and your life.
Habit No. 3 – Make friends with a little routine in your life
Setting up a routine is one of the best habits you can practise. They say that it takes a minimum of 14 attempts at before you a habit becomes ingrained, and we all seem to work better if we adopt a routine. Whilst you might not like to be too structured, I would be surprised if you do not benefit from incorporating some routine into part of your daily business management.
Habit No. 4 – Block out time without distractions
Don’t let the myriad of communication methods become the enemy of efficiency. You have to block out time when you can turn off not only your phone, but perhaps all those time-depleting social networking sites. Twitter, facebook, MSN, LinkedIn… the list goes on and one. All of these new social media tools can be great networking and business generation tools, but more often than not, they can be great excuses for not doing the stuff that brings in the business. So make use of time blocking or “do not disturb” time to focus on larger projects. You can then allocate time to return calls once you’ve completed the tasks and projects that are essential to grow your business.
Habit No. 5 – Create sacred space to work
Habit number five is about creating your own special and protected area. Many mumpreneurs run a business from their home. If you are a work at home entrepreneur, don’t try balancing a laptop on the kitchen table and putting your file cabinet in your bedroom! Wherever it is in your home, make your workspace sacred and ideally place it in its own room, off-limits to the kids when you are working. Design this room with efficiency and ergonomics in mind and don’t use it for leisure purposes. If possible, have another computer set up elsewhere for personal use.
Habit No. 6 – Healthy body , healthy business
If you don’t look after your health, all the other habits will be difficult to maintain. Exercise and fitness must become a habit and you should plan on getting at least three exercise sessions in per week. Do whatever is easiest for you to take on as a new exercise habit. So if you don’t live near a gym, it’s unrealistic to plan to go to a gym three times a week, as you’ll find that you don’t have the time to travel to and fro. Keep it simple – walking, running, cycling or dancing in front of an exercise DVD are all examples of keeping your body moving that are easy to adopt into your life as a mum. And do what you enjoy – if you’re not a sporty person, it’s unlikely that you’ll stick to a new habit of playing tennis each week. One of my clients who hates the gym and all form of sports exercises and keeps trim with her Wii each evening. Think laterally and do what works for you! It doesn’t matter what form of exercise you choose, providing you just get your body moving!
Habit No. 7 – Build a superstar success team.
You’ve heard the expression “no man is an island” and the same applies to women! None of us can run a business alone and we all need support in various guises – mothers even more than most as we’re juggling so many commitments. Ask yourself what sort of support you need to become a highly successful mumpreneur and start to look for ways of building your “superstar success team”. Professional coaching can help you to achieve your business goals much more quickly than you would on your own and is an important part of any highly effective mumpreneur’s success team . But however you choose to build your team, don’t try to do everything on your own as there is so much to be gained from seeking the wisdom of good friends, confidants, associates and professional experts. They can be superb sounding posts and lynchpins to your business success!
Having read these seven habits, it’s likely that you will go away and forget most of them! So, rather than trying to adopt all seven at once, thus dooming yourself to failure, choose just one habit, focus on it and practise and practise it until it truly does indeed become a habit (i.e something you do without even thinking). Then, once you have adopted one habit, choose a second and so on. Easy does it – and remember to acknowledge each little achievement along the way!