Life is too short to do one thing at a time.
That’s my motto. Perhaps that’s why it seemed perfectly reasonable to adopt my first child while in college. Then to birth my second while in college. Then to get pregnant with my third while in college. My twenties were a flurry, a whirlwind of little chores and major events. Oh buddy, what a rush!
But when I graduated from college, sold my house, and moved into a condo downtown to settle into the nest as a stay-at-home mom, it wasn’t long before the depression set in. I was walking, just wandering around with the kids for miles every day. When winter hit and we couldn’t go out for walks I vacuumed the carpets bald.
I was a wreck. I had to do something, but what? The time demands of graduate school were more than I felt comfortable charging to my kids, and the financial demands were more than I could lay on my spouse. I considered changing my mind and taking a job outside the home, but I couldn’t stand the thought of not witnessing my children’s milestones. Or working for someone else, for that matter.
“Wait,” I thought, “I can have everything!”
All I had to do was start my own business. And why not? With the technology world expanding faster than the known universe, why couldn’t I take advantage of this change to create my own definition of success.
And so I have.
It’s been nearly two years since I embarked on the journey of the work-at-home mompreneur, and I’ve learned a few things (the hard way, of course) about how to nurse a baby with one hand and build a business with the other.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Create a Road Map
What can you do? What do you want to do? What resources do you have to invest? What connections do you have to get the word out? Most importantly, what do you want?
Consider all of these questions deeply. Take your time. Put it all together into a few viable results, then do some research. Gather information on the logistics of achieving your desired result. Which combination of logistics and results most appeals to you based on this brain storm?
Again, take your time, but don’t get paralyzed by the details. There will be plenty of time – and plenty of cause – for refinement. For now, focus on choosing a final result and list the major events between you today and you when you reach your destination.
2. Break It up into S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Once you have an idea of where you’re going, think about what it’s going to take to reach each milestone along the road. Turn those lists into specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound goals. These S.M.A.R.T goals should reflect not only what it takes to reach each checkpoint, but what you can conceivably accomplish with the limited time at your disposal.
Now, you may have heard or think intuitively that this step should be schedule, but trying to stick to a schedule is a first-class train ride straight off a cliff. It looks great, you feel accomplished, and you’ve invested extra in the perks. But schedules are for people who completely control their time. If you’re a stay-at-home parent with children under fives years old, you do not control the schedule.
Rather than dressing up a schedule for the slaughter, focus on making the most of the time that crops up unpredictably throughout the day. Prioritize your tasks so you know exactly what you need to work on anytime there’s a crumb of quiet.
There’s no reason to waste that time sifting through your tasks trying to figure out what you should be doing or where you left off last time. Figure it out ahead of time.
At first, it was tough to switch mindsets quickly to focus on the task at hand no matter how different from the previous task, even though it was kinda my thing. I started out by developing a mantra that I attuned to during my daily meditation. Then I started using the mantra as I changed tasks. In a short time, the mantra became a cue.
It’s nothing deep or mysterious, it’s simple Pavlovian conditioning. Now, when I recite my cue, my mind empties immediately and the next stimulus I engage with is imprinted on my focus. (Read that paragraph again and then guess what my hobby is.)
Now, before you start cycling through all the reasons you can’t do this, stop and take a deep breath. You can do this. You can have everything you want in life, and you can balance the aspects of your life – self, family, and career – to achieve your own definition of success. Just be realistic in your planning and time management. Be loving toward yourself, and make sure you are your own standard.
You’ll do great.
About the Author
Whitney Raver is the founder and CEO of What’s the Word, Inc., an inbound marketing agency focused on the marketing for education. Her love of all things EdTech and education is surpassed only by her passion for invention, which is fed through nurturing her children and her business.