Life as a working mom is a series of carnival acts. Whether you’re jumping through hoops, juggling too many balls or teetering on the high wire, every hour of every day has been claimed by some item on your to do list, often simultaneously. The show must always go on, we smile and keep on, keepin’ on until we find ourselves tired, burnt out performers that are spread so thin, we can’t even remember the last time we caught a shower, much less sat down to put a coherent thought together. Whether you work by choice, by necessity or both, life as a working mom brings the challenges of parenthood, sanity and a fulfilled life to a whole new level. Here are 10 survival tips for the working mom to help you conquer the madness and develop balance between your personal and professional lives.
1. Start Your Day Off Right. The best way to make life as a working mom more manageable is to make a determined effort to start each day off right. The way you choose to wake up in the morning dictates how the rest of your busy day will play out. The decision to have a good day is a choice. You must deliberately put aside the bad and choose to focus on the good. Starting your day off right with some morning motivation can set your intention of moving through the day with focus, empowerment and order. Whether you start with a quiet prayer, sunrise salutations or this morning motivation planner worksheet, make the choice to attack the day with fierce joy. You can do this!
2. Develop a Support System. As working moms, we often find ourselves so caught up in the busy of our daily routines that we forget to connect with others around us for support, encouragement or even just a simple hug. We’re not designed to be loners and we don’t need to be everything to everybody all the time. The only person placing that expectation on us is ourselves. Make a diligent effort to connect with like-minded folks to create a support system that holds you accountable and provides encouragement and creativity to your life as a working mom. Find other working moms that can offer guidance and remind you to not take up a burden that isn’t yours to carry. Have you joined Working Moms United?
3. Ask for Help. You need to know when it’s time to ask for help. Whether it’s a friend watching the kids for a few hours so you can grab groceries or just go for a mind-clearing run, know your limits. You have to be able to identify when you’ve taken on too much. Most of us have a whole community of friends and family that would help at a moment’s notice, but we never ask them. Don’t let your pride push you over the edge of your limits. Those people in your life that love you most desperately want to help you however they can. Let them.
4. Be Honest. This all begins with learning when and how to say no. We’re so quick to say yes and take on additional work or projects, knowing that we’re already stretched thin, because somehow we’re convinced everyone will be disappointed if we decline. The reality is that disappointment comes most often when we’re not at our best because we’re overcommitted. Our work suffers, our friends and family suffer, and ultimately, our professional quality erodes. You have to be honest with your employers, board members, anyone in your life that has set some sort of task in front of you. Be open about your expectations, your limitations and your priorities. Honesty is truly always the best policy.
5. Set Boundaries. Setting boundaries has a lot to do with being honest when it comes to those people in your life that require some service and attention from you. But even more importantly, you must set boundaries for yourself. As a driven working parent, you need to create and adhere to appropriate boundaries that will keep the quality of your life and the life of your family a priority. The best way to do this is to picture the life that you want for yourself. Any project that comes your way, ask yourself, “Is this taking me one step closer to the life that I want or one step farther away?”
6. Identify S.M.A.R.T. Goals. If you’re unfamiliar with S.M.A.R.T. goals, you can catch up HERE. This is especially important for those working moms who own their own small business (or even bloggers). The to-do list can feel especially overwhelming as a small business owner, and your drive to grow into a more profitable entity can be hampered by the paralysis that comes with poorly defined goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound are the markers for a successful marketing strategy. Define exactly where you want to head with your professional endeavors and then outline exactly how you plan to get there and how you’ll measure your progress.
7. Delegate/Outsource. Are you seeing a common theme here? You are not an island or a one-man band! Take a few moments to consider which parts of your to do list could be accomplished by someone other than you. This can be anything from hiring a cleaning lady to asking your assistant to schedule your appointments for you. Perhaps there is an available tool or technology that could automate parts of your day and professional workflow. Use your resources and hand off everything but the absolute necessities. It will be worth every penny when you find yourself with more available time for those most important people in your life.
8. Give Grace Generously. This one is just for you. Forgive yourself. You are a work in progress! There will be days that you tackle this working mom thing with fortitude, courage and focus. Then there will be day where tempers flare, nerves are shot and nobody’s happy. It’s ok. Extend yourself some grace and commit to starting fresh. A favorite quote from Maya Angelou – “I did the best I could at the time and when I knew better, I did better.”
9. Celebrate. Enjoy the small moments. Take time to dance with your kids, make silly faces in the mirror and read one more story before bed. Cuddle, snuggle, hug, love on your family in every free moment. When quantity isn’t where you’d like it to be, make sure quality always is. Embrace life and those flashing moments as a parent where your child does something so simple and endearing, so every day and trivial, yet it stamps a memory on your heart with a date and time that you’ll cherish always. Celebrate. Laugh. Love.
10. Make it Count. If you’re going to be away from your family for any length of time, make it count. Make sure you love what you do and that every moment spent in the working world is worth being apart from those you love most. Use your time wisely, use the above tips to maximize your work day and productivity. Make sure those precious moments with family have your full attention and purpose. Every decision you make should be taking you one step closer to that life that you’ve imagined for you and your family.
How You Can Use Scrum to Get Organized
I know what you’re thinking. What the heck is Scrum? Stick with me here – I promise it will be worth it. Scrum is a management and control process that software developers use to break complex projects into incremental pieces, driving focus and productivity with more effective, higher quality results. I came across it in the corporate world and quite frankly, didn’t give it much thought. Since Scrum was designed for software developers, which I most certainly am not, I figured it didn’t apply to me.
Then Somer and I ran into a problem with our brand management. As you know, we have The Studio Hampton Roads, Modern Femme Movement and the Hampton Roads Creative (plus this blog!). Sometimes our to do list is so long, it can feel incredibly overwhelming and even harder to prioritize. We do our best to Think Big, Focus Small, but sometimes the sheer volume of work has us wide-eyed and frozen.
It occurred to me that we needed some process management. Something definitive that detailed our workflow and developed our priorities and set our intentions. Something like…Scrum. Scrum works with these ideas, called sprints, where you focus the team’s energy on selected projects and selected projects ONLY. That’s the key. Software developers have to get to the end goal, but all of the code necessary to reach the end goal can leave developers overwhelmed, and hopping from one project to the next and back again, producing stress and lower quality work.
Once a sprint has been defined, the team must stay on the specified work for the duration of the sprint. They cannot be pulled to other projects, redirected or given more work. They are “in sprint” and any additional projects or adjustments are to be assigned to future sprints.
BINGO. Well, I guess SCRUM is better here.
We reviewed our projects lists for each brand and broke them up into sprints. Once we assigned the sprints, we were off and running. While we were in one sprint, we were 100% focused on the work assigned to that particular sprint. We couldn’t veer off course, swap to another brand, or take on new work. Before we knew it, more was being accomplished with less stress and less mistakes.
For the software development world, sprints are usually two weeks in length due to the complexity of their work. For us, a week long sprint worked best. In a pinch, we’d break into three day sprints. You can choose what length of time works best for you. The important piece is to stay focused on what is in the sprint and embrace the peace of mind that comes with knowing other work that must (and will) be accomplished is assigned to future sprint.
This can apply to small business, blogging, school work, just about anything! Focus your energy, organize your workload, and accomplish a larger volume of higher quality work. Don’t get lost in the busy of bouncing back and forth between everything you have to get done, accomplishing nothing well or maybe not even at all. Scrum can be your key to focused professional energy and long-term small business (or life!) success.
Social Media Scheduling 101: The Basics
Why is social media scheduling important?
Today’s culture, both personally and professionally, is driven by real time transparency. There are any of a million ways that we can interact with the world and share our life journeys, which has been the doorway to maintaining friendships, keeping family from afar close and celebrating life with like-minded individuals. But on the other hand, every time that phone blips that a new message has popped up, we’re driven by madness to look. It’s exhausting!!!! And ultimately incredibly time consuming. As a small business owner, the drive to build a following can be intoxicating and the pressure to be available to your clients 24/7 is crippling. How do you actually “do” your business if you’re always distracted by social media? Social media scheduling is the very best way to continue to curate and share content with your audience, while allowing yourself to focus on higher priorities in your personal and professional life.
If I schedule social media am I lying to my followers by “pretending” to be online when I’m not?
Any way that you can automate your workflow to save time and develop a routine, you are being true to yourself, your clients and most importantly, your family. The key is to appear to be accessible during high traffic times, but not actually be sitting there glued to your phone or computer hanging on every word uttered to the social media gods. Social media scheduling allows us to cater to multiple audiences at their individual peek times, gives us the opportunity to stay active and engaged while on the go and makes sure we have time to focus on what really counts.
Where do I start?
I have two go-to programs that can work for even the most basic new learners (and have lots of advanced features for those in the know). And bonus…they’re FREE! What we’re moving towards is organized strategy. Social media scheduling allows you to develop a marketing strategy for your business and then execute it. You simple couldn’t do that properly on the fly and would get lost in the weeds. These next two tools can help put you on the path to a social media presence that translates to growth and long-term sustainability.
If you’re just digging into the social media behemoth, let’s put a simple tool to work for you while you get your bearings. Similar to how Instagram can cross post to Twitter and Facebook, Friends + Me can take your Google Plus posts and push them to several other platforms. I personally post to Google + and it carries over to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. One action = 4 social media networks.
I’ll admit, this tool can be visually tricky and take a little getting used to if you’re heavy handed with links and tags. Once you get comfortable with how your posts will appear in the different feeds, you’ll tailor your original content to work across the board. It’s a fantastic way to save time by not having to manually cross-pollinate your content to each and every platform individually. It’s a great way for new learners to “phone it in” while you up your social media knowledge and a stellar way for a seasoned social media vet to knock out a task list for simple content shares.
Hootsuite is the other tool I rely heavily on. In short, it’s a one-stop shop for me to manage all of my profiles on the various platforms that I use. In its most basic form, I schedule all Twitter activity (content sharing) in here or via their Hootlet (content curating). I can tell you it’s really the Hootlet that is life changing. This little plugin is ridiculously awesome. It allows me to wrap up items of interest in a nice little box with a beautiful little bow instantly and schedule directly from my point of interest. I can open it up from any source and schedule a tweet/share from any of my accounts instantaneously without having to copy/paste links or images into Hootsuite itself. That save of a few clicks is amazing!!!
– Google Plus (2 business profiles)
So. How does this ultimately save time? Have I just traded time spent manually posting for time spent scheduling automation? The key here is to carve out time and stick to it. Don’t be scheduling all day! It defeats the purpose. Here are some quick rules to keep in mind:
- Set a specific day each week (or even an hour each morning/night if that’s better for you) that is devoted to scheduling the next weeks’/days’ tweets/posts/etc. Make that a calendar time in your routine. Stick to it! I do all of my scheduling first thing in the morning. That way my social media profiles are working in the background while I am completing my normal business day and any activity can just be responsive.
- Commit to a time each evening that the phone/computer gets put away. For example, clients at The Studio now know that our business booking hours are Monday – Friday from 8AM – 5PM. If they email us during that time, they expect a response. But if they email outside of that time, they know they’ll hear from us during the next business day. We’ve educated them and we’re training ourselves. Now, when that email dings with a new inquiry, I don’t look at it if it’s after hours. They know, and I know it will be there tomorrow.
- Give yourself a break! Cut yourself some slack! It’s ok to take a break from time to time on social media. It’s ok to not post every meal, every night out, every stylish outfit. Let go of the pressure to perform. Focus on enjoying the interactions with people and sharing your heart. You’ll find it not only comes more naturally, but more purposefully. Be IN your life.
Pin this to your Small Business Tips & Tricks Board or your Blogging Resources Board! Don’t have one? Follow me!
Did you like this post? Check out How to Create Hyper-Linked Email Signatures in Gmail!
How to Store and Prepare Your Used Items for Resale
Using Your Resources: How to Resell Your Used Items and Buy Second Hand was the first post in this “series,” and hopefully, by now you’ve had an opportunity to read through that and determine where you want to attempt to sell your used items.
The next logical step is how in the world to keep yourself organized so that you have a steady flow of items ready for sale and can keep product “moving through the pipeline” without sucking hours from your already jam-packed schedule. The key here is ambitious preparation and forethought. A little “do it now!” vs. a “I’ll do it later!” can make staying organized a breeze.
Here are some things that I do to stay organized with my sale items. Note: These particular steps make the most sense for consignment sales, yard sales and/or mommy swaps. Consignment stores are a bit different, but you can glean some useful tips for how to store for those too!
1. NEARBY STORAGE: I have available storage bins at the ready for new additions that no longer fit the boys in their bedroom. The most recent size(s) or season are stored under their train table so that if they try something on and it doesn’t fit, it immediately goes into the boxes. This keeps our drawers full of clothes that fit and prevents me from having to do massive sorts constantly. I try not to mix sizes and keep like items together, especially pajama sets or coordinating sets, so no hunting for missing pieces later and I know with a glance what size/season is in each box.
2. BE THE OVERACHIEVER: Yup, I am that person that starts prepping for the next consignment sale the day after the most recent consignment sale is over. As soon as the hosting group’s ticketing system is cleared out and released for the next event, I start entering my items for the next sale. I print and apply tags and even hang items on hangers if required. If things need to be zip-tied or put in plastic bags and taped closed, I do it right when I am moving items from the nearby storage in #1 to the long-term storage I’m going to describe here shortly. By the time those items hit the long-term storage bin, they are prepped and ready for sale and I don’t need to see them again until I drop them off to be sold. Similar can be done for yard sales too. As you are going through items to sell, stick a price tag on them and box them up. When your next yard sale comes around, you get out the box and you’re good to go! This prevents the brutal all-nighters trying to price items or get them entered into a consignment system before the deadline. (BONUS TIP: If you are selling items online, a great time saver is to list all of your available items on a spreadsheet with their price tag and where you posted them so that you can track what is sold and what is still available. This also helps you compare which online sources are producing the best results for you!)
3. LONG-TERM STORAGE: I have a gigantic bin in my garage that stores all of my “ready to sell” items. It’s easily moved from the garage to the car (by the husband) and easily stored out of the way until the next event. Anything that is in that bin has been itemized, tagged, priced, etc. etc. and is literally ready to come out of the box and onto the sales floor, wherever and whatever that may be. In that box I keep everything I need to get items sale ready. I have safety pins, ticket paper, plastic bags, zip ties and hangers (which you can get free usually at your local dry cleaners or keep an eye out for the super cheap ones when they go on sale!), pens and markers. And tape! I don’t have to hunt for anything. Super efficient and super fast. A great tip for those items getting shipped would be to have packing envelopes in there too! If I have items in there that cross seasons (this can be tricky with consignments sales), I keep the furthest away season on the bottom and layer a trash bag on top to separate from the next upcoming sale items. That way I know when I deliver my items, I empty the bin until I hit the trash bag and the know those items underneath are for the next, next sale. (See!! Crazy overachiever!)
4. CAR QUICK STORAGE: If I’ve posted an item online that I am sure is going to sell quickly locally, I pop it in my car so I have it with me in case someone contacts me to buy while I’m at work. That gives me the instant opportunity to meet at a public place during my lunch hour or right after I finish up for the day, rather than having to schedule a time/location later in the week. Get it gone!