How To Be a Full Time Mom and Run a Thriving Creative Business
Written by Kristin Brown
You probably wish you had just a couple extra hours in your week, right?
Just a couple more hours would solve the perpetual problem of feeling behind on all the things.
I have definitely caught myself thinking this more than once. But no matter how much time I have, it’s never actually enough. Is that true for you too?
So what if we changed the definition of enough?
What if you actually DID have exactly as much time as you need? What if you moved through your life under that assumption rather than believing there is never enough?
I can testify that this simple mindset shift works WONDERS and allows us to work with the hours we DO have, rather than lamenting that they’re not enough.
But I hear what you’re thinking. You’re going to work on that mindset shift, but you could still seriously use some actual, practical tips to use those hours a little better and more efficiently, right?
Me too! I’ve worked hard at time management for years since becoming a mom and have learned to fit in all my work in the fringe hours of my day when I’m not taking care of my twins. When they were babies, I worked while they napped for a few hours each day. When their naps disappeared, I started working before they woke up and during afternoon quiet time. I also enlisted their grandmas to come play for a few hours a week and I work during that time.
I don’t have it all figured out, and the kids are still only three years old, but I’m committed to being a (mostly) full-time mom AND running a thriving creative business.
What does that really mean? How much work do I actually get done and how long does it really take?
Here’s how it all breaks down for me:
I work about 15-20 hours a week most weeks:
2 hours weekday mornings from 6-8am
1 hour some afternoons while the kids do quiet time
3-5 hours total while the kids play with their grandmas during the week
Occasional extra blocks of time on Saturday mornings or if I hire a babysitter for a couple hours
Because I know my time is limited, I am always looking for ways to be as efficient as possible and very focused.
Here are four strategies that work best for me:
I try to group similar kinds of work in batches to save mental energy switching from task to task. If I’m in writing mode, it’s just as easy to write a few Instagram captions or emails all at once. Laura and I like to record a few podcast episodes in the same week. I also batch smaller tasks like when I’m designing something, editing photos, or organizing paperwork.
I also do a few different kinds of work so I might do podcast work one day of the week, virtual studio management work another, and photography edits another day.
It feels more efficient to do similar things at once and to skip the part where you have to remember the process of actually doing the task. And, it reduces decision making when I have a set pattern for when I do certain things.
2. Deep Work
I learned the concept of deep work from a book by the same name written by Cal Newport. The concept is all about training your brain to stop getting distracted and to learn to give our entire mental focus to the work we’re doing.
He says most of us live with a "background hum of nervous mental energy” that pervades our daily lives and that the solution is “deep work: the professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
Deep work has been HARD for me to learn to do! But just knowing the concept helps me make a concerted effort to give my full focus during work hours. Not giving into distraction is a muscle that I’m working hard to cultivate.
3. Ruthless Prioritizing
Ruthless prioritization goes hand in hand with deep work. With limited time to work, I have to make sure my time is spent on the things that actually move my business forward and create new value. It’s easy to spend an hour on email and keeping up with Instagram, but those things don’t provide much value to the bottom line. I have to ask: what is THE most important thing? And then do that FIRST.
Once you know what the most important thing is (or maybe the two or three most important things), you have to get comfortable learning to let go of the lower priorities. There’s no way you can get everything done, so if something isn’t one of your top three priorities, it may be time to let it go — at least for now. This is not easy, but if you can learn to say no to others and yourself, you can be far more productive with what matters.
4. Use Your Best Hours
I can get more done in one morning hour than in two evenings hours. This is because my brain has its best thinking ability first thing in the morning. After 7pm (or if I’m being honest, after 1pm...) my brain feels tired and sluggish and it requires way more effort to think strategically and creatively at that time of day.
Because I know this, I have structured my entire days around utilizing this time to its fullest. I go to bed early so I can wake up early.
I have trained my kids to take me seriously when I tell them I’m not ready to start the day until a certain time and they know what’s expected of them if they wake up early. And I rarely sleep in because I WANT to get up and do the work I love! And now it’s become a habit and I actually love that morning work time.
Bonus Tip: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
One last note: taking care of myself is non-negotiable!
I know I’ll ONLY have the ability to focus and the energy to wake up early if I give my mind and body the rest they need! I give myself the evenings off to relax however I want and then go to bed between 9:00 and 10:00. And I’m working on being better about fueling my body with better food and staying active.
I know from experience that pushing too hard and asking too much of yourself without rest and renewal leads to subpar work and frustration.
So that’s my best advice on doing full-time work in part-time hours!
I hope this gives you confidence that you can fit in your creative business in whatever hours you have.
Any tips you’d add to the list? Just comment below.
Does this sound like you?
You want a meaningful life.
You want to use your creative gifts and start that project you’ve always dreamed of. You have goals and plans for the future but it feels impossible to get going on any of them when you’re so bogged down with the day-to-day busyness of ordinary life.
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