As a mom who works from home, it can be easy to blur the lines between work and family. But overlapping these two corners of our world can easily cause either work or family to suffer; many times both work and family suffer by blending these lines and failing to set healthy boundaries.
How can you prevent these areas of your life from suffering? Set business rules and stick to them. Every successful business in the world is successful because it has a set of rules that it adheres to. Process management, policy and routine aren’t just for the corporate arena. Build your own set of rules, and stick to them no matter what.
Create a Mission Statement
Mission statements are a critical part of any successful business. They outline the reasons why the business exists, and exactly what it plans to accomplish. Creating a mission statement for your professional venture shows that you mean business! You plan to accomplish specific goals for a special purpose, and drafting a mission statement allows you to solidify those goals with a purpose, effectively communicate them to your team and your market.
Your mission statement should not only reflect your business goals, but also your personal goals. As a mother, you may want to consider including a clause in your mission statement regarding family. Putting family first should be your first objective. Your kids need your presence, love, and devotion more than they need material items that your business can provide. Make it a priority to put family first, business second. Consider creating a family mission statement that everyone participates in and hold each other accountable when the crazy of life begins to chip away at your focus and routine.
Successful businesses also have business hours. When the shop closes, business is done for the day, and does not continue until the next business day. Set your own hours and adhere to them. If you need to, set alerts in your Google Calendar that your work day is starting, and when it is ending.
For example, you could start your work day at 9:00AM and quit at 3:00PM. This gives you 6 solid hours of work per day, and still allows you to set aside time for family responsibilities. For many moms, the kids are at school between these hours. Focusing on your work while the kiddos are otherwise occupied will help to increase your productivity. Because let’s face it, your kids are too awesome to spend time working when you could be playing with them instead.
Do not let work-at-home guilt get in the way. Small business owners often feel pressured to be always available to justify their departure from the corporate arena. Don’t! Set your healthy boundaries by communicating routine hours of operation. Stick to it! Use your spouse, your business partner, your bestie Google Calendar, your kids to help you keep your schedule.
It’s Not A Hobby
Your business is not something to keep you busy while you are bored. Your business is a legitimate source of income and resources for your family. I’m sure we all know this in our hearts, but it’s easy to forget. Always treat it as such. Deliberate steps like creating a mission statement, setting business hours, and adhering to specific business rules is so important to your success as a working mom and sets the expectation that this is your job.
By implementing these rules and procedures into your current business model, you’ll start to see a greater differentiation between work and family. This will help you to keep the two concepts separate, and allow both work and family to thrive.
How Do I Know?
I left my routine corporate job about a month ago now (I still contract out with them, I just don’t have a 9-5 office routine). At first, I was overwhelmed and excited by all the “free time” I’d have to pour myself into my business. I very rapidly discovered that it only took a few days for all of that new “free” time to get filled with phone calls, meetings, to dos and more. Within just two weeks, I was incredibly burnt out and working 16 hours days. All day while the kids were in school, sometimes even when they were home and stuck watching TV while I frantically tried to keep up, and then late into the night after they were in bed.
I think a big part of me was trying to justify why I left my office job. I felt guilty and pressured to prove to everyone that I was so busy I had to leave just to keep up. That was absolutely true! I did have enough work to satisfy a full time commitment. But I took it one step further and took on even more, pushing myself to my limit in order to feel like I had made the right decision. It took a direct conversation with someone I hold dear to realize I had stopped saying “no” to the wrong things and started saying “yes” to all things.
So I made a change. I wrote down a daily schedule. From the second I get up, to the second I go to bed, I mapped out my day. Breakfast, devotionals, writing time, breaks, gym time, kids to school, client care…it all made the list. Then I wrote down a weekly schedule. I picked two days (Tuesday/Thursday) that I approved for client meetings, conference calls, on site visits, etc. The rest of the week I reserved for in home/in office work. Focused energy with no interruptions. I declared Sunday to be a day of rest – absolutely no work allowed. I decided Saturday could be a catch up day if my kids were with their Dad, but would also be a no work day if they were with me.
I wrote this schedule down on my giant chalk board with my special someone looking over my shoulder in happiness (and relief!). I made a promise and asked everyone important in my life to hold me accountable. I even posted it on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and challenged my followers, friends and family to join my accountability circle. And now, I’m sharing it here. With you!
I’m just a few days into this new routine, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much it has improved my day-to-day life. It’s relieved stress and anxiety, and I’ve even found myself accomplishing more with seemingly less time! Turns out, focused energy works smart, not hard. Late night energy…working hard, not smart. Scheduling your day down to the minute might feel trivial, but give it a try. You may find, like me, that it completely changes your perspective, energy and ability to confidently accomplish your goals. Let me know how it works for you!
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.
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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!