In the past fifty years, mothers’ working hours have shifted dramatically. While in 1965, mothers spent twice as much time doing housework as childcare and career work combined, by 2010 career work became the most time-intensive task. (Fathers’ time use, on the other hand, has changed little.)
Imagine a three-way tug-of-war with the mother in the middle and three different ropes pulling her in three different directions. Balancing work, home, and family becomes an intricate juggling act.
The challenges of managing a career and a family can seem insurmountable, but implementing these few practices can make it exponentially easier. As Procrastinate on Purpose author Rory Vaden says: It’s not about time management; it’s about self-management.
How to Realistically Balance Career and Home Life
Here are the three vital aspects of self-management for mompreneurs and
practical keys to grow your business, broken into accessible daily practices:
- Master Your To-Do List
No matter how you do it, write down your to-do list. This step is so basic that many people underestimate its importance. Get your task list out of your head, freeing up precious mental space for more important thoughts, like how you’ll achieve your tasks. Try an apps, planner, online tools or simple pen-and-paper.
Prioritize your tasks. Weigh the timeliness and how long each task will take to complete, then rank the tasks in order of importance. Now you can go through in order without using valuable time to decide what to do.
One helpful tool is Laura Pasquini’s interactive lesson on writing to-do lists and tracking where your time goes.
- Plan your day the night before
This gives you the benefit of perspective. You don’t have to do anything that you’re planning right away, which relieves some of the pressure you might feel. It also saves you from using productive work time in the morning to plan. You can see the road in front of you; all you have to do is follow it.
- Be active before work
Physical activity gets your endorphins going, stimulates metabolism, and activates your fight-or-flight responses in a good way—it will motivate you and give you energy.
- Set up a healthy work environment
Figure out how you work best. Standing or sitting? With music or silence? Get rid of distractions and keep things organized so you won’t be tempted to avoid real work by organizing.
If you need to, set boundaries. If you're working from home, this might mean setting concrete “working hours” so your family respects your working time and you stay on task, rather than being pulled into household obligations.
If you work at an office space, this might mean turning off unnecessary notifications that distract you from work. Facebook banners, other people popping in, mail deliveries or personal e-mails are tempting distractions but can waste up to 2.5 hours of work time every day. Either way, set yourself up for success by creating a work environment that works for you.
- Start as early as possible
You don’t have to be the earliest riser, but discipline yourself to start your work as early as you can. There will always be other tasks to do and distractions urging you to push work back. The sooner you start; the better your chances of completing.
- Tackle challenges first
It’s tempting to put off the hardest tasks until last. Challenge yourself to tackle tough work first. This gives you the most time possible to complete the task and provides a sense of accomplishment that propels your day forward.
- Give yourself deadlines, and stick to them
Being time-crunched is not a comfortable feeling, but for most people it is incredibly motivating. Social expert Kelly McGonigal gives a wonderful explanation in her speech How to Make Stress Your Friend. If you need to, put a time next to each task and do your best to hit each goal. The point is not perfection, it’s motivation.
- Practice 50/10 timing
For every 50 minutes you spend working, give yourself a 10 minute refresh period. Use that refresh time to do something that will continue your productivity: watch a motivating lecture, look at photos that inspire you, practice deep breathing, eat something you enjoy or do physical activity.
- The 5-minute rule
Even if you feel stuck—especially if you feel stuck—commit to working on the task for 5 minutes. Set a timer and do whatever you can, as long as the action focuses on that task. This might be identifying the problem, thinking of a different approach, reading educational materials or free-writing. You never know what might come up. And if you're looking for ways to manage stress at your home office, this technique can also be a huge added bonus.
The best way to form new habits is to train your brain to repeat the activity, and the human brain is hardwired to seek out pleasure. Rewarding yourself for successes, however small, encourages that pattern.
- Keep learning
Inspiration is a powerful motivation. Learning about others’ projects can inspire your own. You will also feel more driven if you see your work as part of a larger whole (learn about social consciousness in our recent post about emotional intelligence). Try TedTalks, podcasts, Pinterest and following blogs. Inspiration doesn't all have to be work related—find whatever inspires you and use that to motivate yourself.
- Share your experiences
Talking about your business successes, struggles, and goals helps your brain remember these experiences and learn from them. Incorporating other people into your plans also keeps you accountable. And perhaps the biggest benefit is getting diverse perspectives—challenging your own thought patterns will keep you mindful and self-aware.
As with any new habit, mindfulness and consistency are key (see our recent blog about building healthy brain habits). Carefully equip yourself, whether that’s investing in a calendar app or setting aside 15 minutes before bed to reflect. Then consistently practice these behaviors. Creating successful habits takes time—challenge yourself to follow-through, but don’t be hard on yourself if you’re not 100-percent efficient right away.
“Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges and less than perfect conditions. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.” ~Mark Victor Hansen
Being successful in business as mom entrepreneurs is a multi-faceted challenge. Balancing work and family can be a full-time job in itself! For proven business advice from a mompreneur veteran and to get working mom support on how to create a great work life balance, contact us at 406-577-2100.