The baby circus: working from home with little ones
When my twins were born in 2014, my graphic design business was around 2 years old.I had been steadily building up clients, and from the 1st year to the second, had doubled my income. Mostly I was working from home on client projects – sometimes to mix things up, I’d go into an agency for a few days. Such carefree days, full of choice!Things were going well. So well in fact, that I figured I would just pop the babies out, have a little break for a few months, and then pick up where I left off.Quietly smug that I’d soon be living the dream: working from home while juggling my business with my babies.What was I thinking? That babies miraculously become self-sufficient little beings from 4 months of age? (Yes, that’s kind of what I thought.)Fast forward 15 months, and I cannot get a single thing done when they are at home with me. Small toddlers demand a LOT of attention.I’d like to take a moment to make sure you don’t skim over this important point, because I feel like no-one really made it clear to me.** TODDLERS DEMAND ALL YOUR ATTENTION. ALL THE TIME. **(Sorry, I’m a bit traumatised. I’m deep in the baby trenches here.)
Working from home with babies – not all it’s cracked up to beI’ve tried being super-juggling-business-mum: quickly trying to work on a task while they’re engrossed in pulling apart duplo blocks.In that miraculous window where no-one is crying, screaming, hitting, pinching or biting each other – or hanging off my leg in hysterics – I have honestly tried to get real, actual work done.What can I say. I’m a glass half full kind of girl.(In case you were wondering, it never works. More on that below.)In spite of the craziness, however, in the last couple of months I have:
- Designed and launched a new business website
- Put together a coherent and strategic marketing plan
- Pulled together an outline of a course I’m going to teach in May
- Sold some seats for that course through the strategic marketing plan
- Created some modules for a mini-course I’m going to be using in my sales funnel
- Completed my usual allotment of client work (OK, that’s not entirely true…I’ve scaled back on client work. There’s a limit to what I can get done – I don’t have time-bending super powers. Unfortunately.)
Time management and productivity toolsThe trick is to find a productivity tool that helps you get organised and stay on track. I’ve tried the following:
A quick peek into how I organise my working timeSo, I use Trello.I’ve created a series of boards for client work, and project work. Trello boards are just another word for Uber-Lists. At least, in my mind, that’s what they’re called.On each board, I create lists that I then fill in with tasks. For example, on my Your Web Toolkit board I have:
- Website tasks (recolour lead magnet, look at Divi tutorial to redesign blog posts)
- Email marketing tasks (write autoresponder series, check out Gravity Forms)
- Facebook strategy stuff (listen to Amy Porterfield podcast, update Thank You page)
- Blog post ideas (this one’s empty at the moment – I’m working on a content strategy. *clears throat*)
Focusing on the task at handWhen it’s time to sit down and do some work, I quickly scan my to-do list and run through a mental checklist:
- How much time I have vs how much time a task will take
- Am I looking at tasks that will move me towards my current marketing goals?
- Is there something on there that I’ve been putting off because I just don’t want to do it? Especially if it’s been hanging around a while. Either just get it done or delete it.
- Are there tasks that I would ENJOY doing, but ultimately aren’t particularly productive. Really pay attention to this, because I have been noticing that I give myself plenty of stuff to do just because it’s enjoyable, but it really is just filler
Working from home by working away from homeIt’s not all Trello boards and fairy dust though. No, the real secret here is HOW I’m working these days (mostly covered in bits of food and quietly weeping, if I’m honest).Trying to get work done while at home in charge of small humans is impossible. All those promises of work/life balance? Getting to spend quality time with your offspring while you grow your business and keep your clients happy? Not in this household.I have to either be sitting on the floor playing with the girls, or holding one on my increasingly creaky right hip. Or some combination of the two. Anything else is not acceptable, and I WILL be told in no uncertain terms.It’s hard work.And it doesn’t lend itself to getting anything productive done.I now only do work when my hubby is on baby duty. I usually head out to a café, mostly because we don’t have a spare room in our current flat where I can hide. I also try to use nap-time (which is becoming a joke, by the way), and I surrender most of my evenings.The point is, I don’t try to do work on my business when I’m around the babies (god, they’re toddlers now, not babies anymore. It’s alright…they’ll soon be at school and I’ll have PLENTY of time).In summary, carving out that physical space is vital.
Change your working mindsetI probably shouldn’t admit this, because it’s not cool to admit that we’re (sometimes) angry mums. But here goes.I get so furious when I try to ‘sneak’ some work in while on baby duties. Because they interrupt me, I can’t just finish what I’m doing. Is there anything more annoying than getting interrupted when you’re trying to concentrate?When I do this, it creates lots of bad energy that bounces between me and the girls until everyone is in tears.So, I’ve learned that while I’m with the babies, to just be with the babies. Don’t try to multitask. Don’t try to be productive. Just be their mum.My husband doesn’t work full-time, and has flexible hours. In that respect, I’m probably luckier than some ‘mumpreneurs’.And so I usually get somewhere between 2-4 hours a day for work. And yes, that includes evenings.When it’s time to work, therefore, I actually work. I flip the Trello boards, really think about which task is a good use of my time, and knuckle down to do it. No faffing, no excuses.
So here’s the real secret.The beauty of having small windows to do work in, is that you become very focused.My tip? Give birth to a couple of babies that suck up all your time. You’ll be amazed at how much you can fit into a baby-free hour or two.You can read more about what I’ve been creating in these spare moments of frenzied productivity over here.
Creator - Your Web Toolkit
Cathy is the owner of Your Web Toolkit, where she empowers online entrepreneurs to turn their business dreams into reality.