Here’s a question I get asked all the time:
“I don’t know how you do it, Alicia…with two little ones to care for and so few hours in the day to actually focus on your work. Somehow you manage to write your weekly ezine, hold a bunch of teleseminars each month, run your group and private coaching programs, AND be creating and promoting new offers and new products all the time. I’m so impressed and inspired by you, but more than that, I want to know how you do it all!?”
To be honest, sometimes I wonder myself! Something I often say to other, especially new, mothers is, “despite what everyone tells you to do, do whatever works for YOU.” In a way, that’s how I started running my business after I had my daughter. I just did whatever worked. I still do.
When she got a bit older, it was easier to manage both being a fulltime mother along with running a successful business. Then enter baby #2 and it was back to square one. It’s not easy but it is possible. And here’s what’s really interesting (mompreneurs, take note): I started making about $3k more each month since having my son – and I’m working LESS.
A client once pointed out to me that it seems the biggest growths in my business have been when I’ve been having babies – and she’s right!
Over time, I’ve figured out how to get the most important things done while still being able to focus the majority of my time on my family (after all, that’s one of the reasons why I went into business for myself in the first place).
Here are just a few of them:
1. Setting my work hours
My typical work day looks like this: I get organized the night before for the next day. This jump-starts my day and makes sure that when I do get those tiny pockets of time to get something done, I know exactly what to do. This makes me feel like I’m accomplishing stuff in-between drop-off and pick-up from school, making crafts, playing trains, making dinner, etc.
When I started my business, I didn’t get any real work done until naptime. I worked for about a total of an hour or so while the kids napped, five days a week. Then I put in some more time after they went to bed at night, whether I was leading a teleseminar or catching up on emails. My biggest block of focused time, usually reserved for writing and product creation, was on Saturdays, when I worked approximately 4 hours.
During a perfect week, that gave me about 12 hours of time dedicated to business. However, there’s never a perfect week (one or the other doesn’t nap, I have some pressing non-business-related task that I can only take care of when they’re sleeping, one of them is sick, etc.), so my best guess is that this gives me about 8-10 productive hours to work on my business each week.
Now that the kids are both in school, my dedicated work time is a couple of hours in the morning until I pick my son up at noon, a little at naptime, and sometimes in the evening (again if I’m hosting a teleseminar) or on a Saturday, if I have a launch going on.
So, although my hours have shifted, the amount of hours is still relatively the same – about 15 hours a week.
So how do I decide what to focus on that will move my business forward the fastest in that limited amount of time each week? I use what I call a Priority Card…
2. Using a Priority Card
A Priority Card will help you organize all your tasks in a way that will SHOW you every day what you should focus on. There are a lot of details that will threaten to take your mind off your priorities (this is where a virtual assistant can be of immense value), but those details are not necessarily what will move you forward in your business. To do that, you need to consistently focus on completing the projects that will move your business ahead big-time.
You can create a system for helping you focus on your priorities in a number of ways, but I’m going to give you mine. Like I said, I only work about 15 hours a week on my business, so adjust your own plan accordingly.
At the beginning of each week, I choose 3 to 5 projects with looming deadlines (self-imposed as they may be) from my master task list (which really is so massive that I write it on a 8.5 x 14 legal pad). For example, at the moment, I am working on my annual Online Business Breakthrough Workshop.
On a colored index card, I write down those projects and prop the card in a standing clip holder, right in front of my computer screen. When I start to feel that sense of overwhelm, or when I find myself getting distracted by new ideas or other tasks (all of which seem important), I remind myself to look at my Priority Card and focus only on what’s written there.
Once I started using my Priority Card, my own business growth leaped forward ten times faster than when I was doing a little of this and a little of that, working on a dozen things, but taking much too long to actually complete just one project.
3. Ignoring the phone
I’m serious when I say that I ignore the phone. Some of my clients get heart palpitations when I tell them that I NEVER jump when the phone rings and suggest they do the same. I don’t even have the ringer turned on on the business line. Does this mean I miss some important calls? Probably. But my virtual assistant checks my messages in a timely manner, takes care of what she can, and forwards the rest to me. I then email or call people back at a more convenient time for me.
4. Quick consults
When a prospective client wanted to speak with me about ‘just a few questions’, I used to gladly schedule a time to talk. But instead of a few questions, I’d be on the phone for at least a half hour, basically giving a free coaching/consulting session, and being frustrated with myself for not valuing my time more.
And up until a few years ago, when a potential client or customer requested to talk with me further about working with me or about one of my products, they could schedule a time to talk for a much smaller fee than my usual hourly rate, and if they decided to go forward with working with me, they could apply the fee they paid towards the program or product they were interested in. This was fair and valued both our time and investment in the process.
Now, however, prospects can talk with my virtual assistant should they need more information about any of my programs or products. If someone is interested in working with me one-on-one, they need to apply for a private coaching spot and if I feel it’s a good fit, we set up an interview to discuss moving forward.
BONUS: Make and use lists
I’d be lost without my lists! I’d never remember to do anything if I didn’t write it down. I keep a bunch of reporter’s notebooks around the house and anytime I think of something I need to do, I write it down in whatever room I’m in – whether it’s business or personal. Then I periodically gather the lists and separate them into three main lists; personal, business, and other (which includes the “someday I’d like to…” stuff; things that aren’t a priority but that I want to remember to do at some point), and check things off in priority order from there.
If you start applying some of these steps now, I guarantee the number of productive hours you spend on your business will increase. And you’ll also feel less overwhelmed and less stressed about trying to get it all done!