It’s no secret that I have been doing this juggle of growing a business and raising a family simultaneously over the past eight years. I started my business because I knew I wanted to be a mom. I knew I wanted to be able to have the freedom to spend time with my family and enjoy these precious early years of my children.
When I was in the consulting world, I just could see that wasn’t going to be possible. It was 10 and 12-hour days. It was a lot of travel and being on the road. I looked around the people who were in that world, and I realized this isn’t the way I want to show up as a parent, as a mom.
When I left the traditional consulting world and went off on my own, it was very intentional, with the goal being that I wanted to not just make an amazing living, but live an amazing life. For me, a big part of that was being able to be a mom and spend time with my kids.
Over my entire career as an entrepreneur, I have also juggled having two extremely high-risk pregnancies.
Having my twins the first year that I had started my business, being on bedrest with both pregnancies, but having hyperemesis with my son, Mitchell, where I was on IV fluids and IV Zofran, and had a home healthcare nurse coming to check on me for the first several months of that pregnancy.
I’ve built multiple six-figure businesses while juggling toddlers and newborns and all the craziness that comes when you are a parent.
It hasn’t been an accident.
But I have to say that looking back over it, I could give you a lot more perspective now on what worked, what didn’t work, and how I continue to move forward as the mom of three little people.
My little people now, the twins, Juli and Alex, are seven. They’re going into second grade this year. It’s really exciting. My littlest guy, Mitchell, is four. He’ll be going into preschool next year. It’s been quite an adventure having these little people.
I wanted to share with you today a little bit about how we manage to plan the business around our family, because this is our focus.
This is my focus, planning the business around the family so that I am, first and foremost, there for my family.
I hope this will help anybody, not just mom entrepreneurs, but dad entrepreneurs, too.
My husband, Jameson, has been home with me behind the scenes. He’s left his job as a teacher several years ago. He’s been behind the scenes with me helping me run the business and raise our family, really, as a team. I think what I’m going to share with you today applies whether you’re a mom or a dad.
I get asked by moms all the time, especially in my Fired Up and Focused Challenge
“How is it that you manage and juggle the day-to-day keeping up with your house and doing all the chores that the family needs you to do?
How do you juggle your schedule?
How do you make time for everything you need to make time for in a week?
How do you plan for vacations and holidays?
What do you do when the kids are home sick and your whole schedule gets thrown out the window?”
That’s what I want to talk about today, because it’s manageable, it’s doable, but we’ve got to start taking some of the skills that we learn as moms and implement them in our business.
A few months ago, in January or February, I remember sitting at my daughter’s ballet class, sitting out in the little reception area on the sofas with all the other moms, as you do, as you wait for your kids to do their activity, or do their class. We were all talking about summer camps.
At this point, it was January, February, it was early on in the year, and summer camps were a good six months away, but all the moms knew that if they didn’t start looking at the summer camps and figuring out what they were going to do, that the spots would be filled, and they would be another summer without having something for their kids to do.
This is something moms are pretty good at. We know when we’ve got to do the registrations for the soccer team. We know when we’ve got to sign up for the summer camps. We know when we’ve got to start planning the vacation in order to make sure that you can get a reasonable price on your airline tickets.
Somehow, we’re really good at planning ahead when it comes to certain things with our families, but that doesn’t translate when I talk to a lot of mom entrepreneurs.
That really is the secret to juggling this, to juggling this journey of being both a parent and a full-time entrepreneur, it’s learning to plan ahead.
I want to share with you a little bit about how we plan ahead, and how we start with the big picture and then come all the way down to day-to-day.
When we follow this, it helps us to make sure that no matter what life throws our way, if our kids are sick, if I hear that my mom has to have a surgery, if my sister with a newborn calls me crying saying that she needs a couple of days of extra help, we can easily handle our family life and not jeopardize the business. Let’s get started.
First thing’s first, we have to start with looking at what’s actually going on in our year.
The first thing I do, and I really do this about probably once or twice a year, is I grab a big calendar where I can see a month at a glance for the entire year. I actually have a desktop calendar for this, like a big desktop pad. I’ll put a picture on the post at rachealcook.com/episode46 so that you could see what I’m talking about.
You can use a big desktop calendar. You can use a Google calendar. Doesn’t matter. You just need to grab a calendar that is going to be your command central for your life and your business.
The first thing I do with my kids is I sit down and compare my calendar to their school calendar.
School calendars are available usually a year or more in advance. I know in our school district, they publish them for the next year really quickly so I could already look at what’s going to happen next year while they’re in second grade.
I can pull up that calendar and see all of the holidays, all of the teacher workdays where the kids won’t have school, those surprise Mondays or Fridays where suddenly you didn’t pay attention and didn’t realize your kids only had a half day or, “They don’t have school today?“
Sit down, put it all on your calendar.
It’s one of those simple steps that I think so many of us forget to do. Then I see these messages pop up like, “Oh no, my kids are home three hours early for half-day dismissal. I completely forgot.” You got to plug that stuff in. I always sit down and start with that because my kids are school age.
Now if your kids are younger, you need to pay attention to what else is going to impact you regarding their care, or what they’re doing during the day.
When my kids were in preschool, we still had a calendar for that preschool. We knew the weeks that they took off, so we knew that that preschool was shut down for one week during the summer because the people who ran the preschool, that was their summer vacation.
We knew that they took off for a week during the winter holidays. We knew that they took off for a week in spring break. We knew the days that they did not have school, and they gave it to us in advance.
That’s the biggest piece of the puzzle for us regarding all the kids’ stuff. It’s starting with the school calendar and then plugging in any other activities because, again, these are calendars that likely are out there. You just have to plug them into your master calendar.
For my kids, most of the stuff they’re involved in, we already have an idea of what the dates are. I know for my daughter’s dance, we knew at the very beginning of the year when her dance recital would be, what the extra dress rehearsals would be, what the big dates would be that we needed to pay attention to.
Not all activities are going to be that well organized, but generally, you should be able to find out what’s happening in at least the next three months in any activities your kids are a part of.
It might mean you have to be one of those annoying parents, that I tend to be sometimes, who emails and says, “Hey, I need to know all the dates in the next three months so that we can make sure we can follow through with this activity.”
If your kids aren’t old enough to be in school, you at least have to know what’s going on in any other activities or any other childcare you have, because chances are, they already have that schedule.
From there, we take that year at a glance, looking month after month after month, and we plug in the dates that our family needs to know about for holidays, vacations, and family time.
So we know that at the end of July, we’re going on a family vacation to Chincoteague Island on the Eastern shore of Virginia for their world-famous pony penning. If you haven’t heard about it … I grew up in Virginia, so this is always something that’s a big deal. It’s when they go out to Assateague Island and round up all the wild ponies and bring them back over, swim them over to Chincoteague to basically check on them, do all of vet checks, et cetera, et cetera.
It’s a big fundraiser, and how they make sure they care for the ponies. We’re taking the kids out this year. It’s going to be really fun.
We’ve had that in our calendar for over six months. We’ve had, in our calendar, a week at the beach with my husband’s family for over six months. I also know that there are certain times of the year that we’re going to take off as a family.
I know that I prefer to take off the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Basically, the whole time my kids are off on winter break, I take that off. I block that out.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re traveling, but it means, “Hey, do not book me for appointments.” This is a work-optional week for me.
I’ll do the same thing on my kids’ spring break. Even if I don’t know if we’re going to go anywhere, I will at least block it out of my calendar as a “This is a work-optional week for me. This is a family week.”
It doesn’t matter if you already have something actually planned, like you already have reservations or tickets somewhere.
It’s important to block those weeks out, because if you don’t, then you come up on them, and realize “Oh no, I didn’t realize I needed to take this week off because I have my kids at home.“
I recommend making sure that those weeks that your kids are on break, you go ahead and block them out.
That is so important. It’ll just save you a lot of stress to make those.
Instead of being appointment-based weeks, make them work-optional weeks, or flex-work weeks where you can fit your work in around whatever your kids are doing that week. It just makes your life a whole lot easier.
Along those lines, I also make sure that every quarter, we’re taking a good three or four-day weekend.
Sometimes this is easy for me to block out a Friday and a Monday, or a Thursday and a Friday, because my kids have random days off all throughout their school year, those random teacher workdays.
Whenever I see, “Oh, there’s a three-day weekend here,” sometimes I will just plan it to be a three or four-day weekend for the whole family so that we know, “Hey, this is a special weekend. We can do something fun.”
Plugging that all into your calendar, it will just make your life a lot easier because whenever you sit down to look at your schedule, it won’t be a surprise.
Now, what do you do during those longer weeks and those longer breaks?
This is where it’s going to take a bit more planning. We’re going to get into this in just a second, but here’s what I have to say about the longer stretches of time.
If you have the two-week breaks in the winter, you have the whole summer home with your kids, what do you do, especially if you’re at the stage in your business where you don’t feel like you could take that whole time off?
I don’t recommend taking all of summer off. It’s not realistic for a lot of entrepreneurs and a lot of businesses.
Probably, the worst thing about trying to take the whole summer off or just letting your summer be something that isn’t really business-focused is that it makes it even harder when the fall comes around to actually stay on track and to get back up to speed.
If you really slow down a ton during the summer and don’t stay on top of your business, suddenly you’re kind of starting from scratch when the fall comes, when school’s back in session.
Here are a few things to think about when it comes to those longer breaks.
First, be honest with yourself.
How much do you want to or need to work? If you’re a service-based business, you probably still need to see a certain number of clients in order to keep the revenue flowing so that you can keep the lights on, right? What is that number?
Now, that might mean that you take on more clients during the regular, more scheduled times of the year, so during the fall, during the spring, you’re taking on more clients so that you can have a lighter load during the summer.
That’s smart planning. If you know that you only want to work four days a week during the summer, you need to make sure that you are making up that somewhere else in your business, but it has to be done in advance.
It can’t be done at the last minute.
That’s one thing you want to think about, how many hours are you realistically planning on working over the summer.
For me, I do pretty much a 4-day workweek. I learned this great strategy. I don’t remember who shared it with me, but I started doing … Monday, Tuesday were workdays. Wednesday was off. Then Thursday and Friday were workdays.
Basically, I had two days of work, one day off, two days of work, two days off. During the summer, that just became a really great rhythm that allowed me to not feel too stressed out or overwhelmed or anything during the summer. It allowed me to have one day a week where I knew the beach wouldn’t be too packed, or the zoo wouldn’t be too packed, and I could do things with my family.
Knowing how you want to structure your week during the summer break is super, super important.
Part of that is knowing when you’re going to work and when you’re taking off. Part of it is knowing what’s the plan for the kids while you’re working.
Now, I am the first to admit, and I have talked about this before, I am not a mom who can work well when my kids are home. I need quiet.
Like, I tried for a long time to be the type of mom who could work when her kids were at home, even if someone else was watching them. When they were really little, that was doable.
When they were really little, we had a nanny or a babysitter who would come and play with them, but I definitely need my quiet. I need my space and my time in order to get anything valuable done in my business.
I have a whole post about this, it’s How Mom Entrepreneurs Can Get Childcare Without Breaking the Bank.
How we have really managed this hasn’t been putting together a bunch of camps, because I realized I didn’t like being kind of beholden to that schedule. I wanted to be able to have the flexibility that if it was a beautiful day, we could just throw everyone in the car and head to the beach, or we could say, “Hey, let’s go visit grandma.”
In fact, last summer, my husband’s grandmother, the kids great-grandmother, had a pretty bad fall. Everybody was really worried about her. She was going to need surgery. I remember the week of 4th of July, Jameson and I just looked at each other and we said, “We got to load in the car, get to Atlanta. We got to go see Grandma” Having that flexible is really important to us.
What we do is we make sure that we have a babysitter, or a couple of babysitters, who we can depend on for a few hours the day that we are committed to working.
Even though my husband is stay-at-home dad, even though he works with me in the business, he doesn’t become default childcare.
Some days, he does, but he also has stuff he wants to get done, so we make sure that we have a babysitter that we’ve booked for the summer.
One of the secrets I learned about babysitters is you want to make it as regular and consistent of a schedule as you can for them, because that makes it easier for them to fit in other hours with other families, and you want to pay them well.
When you treat your babysitters well, they will stick around.
The last couple years, when my kids got too big to need a full-time nanny, or a regular weekly nanny during the school year, we just found a kid in our neighborhood. Chances are, you can do the same thing. You can find a babysitter.
This year we have one of our neighbor’s mom’s just moved into the neighborhood, so we have a grandma we’re adopting who’s going to basically be our childcare during the summer for a few hours every day.
It’s amazing because suddenly they have planned out one day they’ll be going to the pool. One day, they’ll be going to the library. One day, they’ll be going to the park.
By giving them specific things that they can do, options where they can take the kids, it frees me up to have a good three or four hours of work time while the kids are entertained for several hours. I have found that this is just huge.
Now, what else does it look like to manage my calendar and manage juggling everything?
We just talked about the big picture, making sure that you’ve planned for what the year is going to look like with the kids’ school and the kids’ activities, and the kids’ vacations, how you’re going to plug in your own vacations and family time.
The next question I get is, “How do you just manage the day-to-day, the week-to-week, because that’s where the big picture plan seem great on paper, but then it starts to fall apart day-to-day and week-to-week?”Here's the biggest lesson I can share: You've got to stop flying by the seat of your pants.Click To Tweet
That’s why the schedules, that’s why the plans break down, is because too many mom entrepreneurs don’t plan for the unplannable. They don’t plan for the sick days. They don’t plan for the calls from school and they’ve got to stop everything.
As a result, when those things show up, which they will, they’re going to. You’re going to have a kid with a sick day. You’re going to have a sick day. You’re going to have a day where you wake up and just want to sleep because you’re so exhausted.
You have to plan for the unplannable.
You have to start working ahead so that you create a buffer. Too many entrepreneurs get trapped in this cycle of doing their work the week that it’s due.
If part of your, for example, marketing strategy is to send out a weekly blog post and newsletter, but you’re sitting down the night before you want to send it out to create it, you have no buffer.
If something else needs your attention, if your four-year-old is having a fit and then hits his head on the train table and you’ve got to take him to the emergency room, which was my life a couple of weeks ago, if you’re having something that is due the very next day that you haven’t had a chance to accomplish yet, that puts your business in this state of it’s really setting you up for the feast or famine cycle.
It’s really setting you up for constantly trying to make sure you hit that week’s deadline. It’s almost like you’re working week to week.
It’s like you’re living paycheck to paycheck. Same type of thing. There’s always going to be this fear that you’re never getting anything done, or that you don’t have any bandwidth, any buffer, for when things go wrong.
How can you start to create more buffer in your work?
What starts to happen when you break free from that? This is why when you go through my Fired Up and Focused Challenge … it’s at firedupandfocused.com. You know it’s actually free … one of the things we talk about is a model calendar, but then people have a hard time sticking to it.
The reason they have a hard time sticking to it is because they’re doing the things that they’re supposed to do week to week, like immediately at the deadline, instead of working ahead.
You really want to start working ahead.
Here’s what that looks like. If you have a blog post due, let’s say this Thursday, instead of just writing one blog post, you write the blog post for this Thursday and next Thursday, and go ahead and schedule next Thursday’s.
Then next week in your block of time that you’ve blocked out for your marketing, you write the next two blog posts. Suddenly, it adds up. Over time, you get this cumulative effect where now you’ve built up several months worth of blog posts that are ready and scheduled.
Suddenly, you have a buffer. You have a buffer. It’s so beautiful because now it means if you have to miss a week, you can shuffle your schedule around.
You can now make things happen because you’re not working right on deadline. You’ve given yourself some space in your calendar.
This works incredibly well, not just with your marketing, but it works well with any big… not just your day-to-day, week-to-week marketing, like your blog and your newsletter, but it can also work when it comes to creating new programs.
It can work when it comes to creating a new webinar, or a new challenge, or anything else that you’re using to build your business.
I know that in my business now, because I batch things and create things in bigger chunks, I’m now able to free up my time instead of just focused on getting a newsletter and a blog post, or a newsletter and a podcast out.
Now, I’m able to do things like, “Okay, during my big content blocks, I can create a new bonus for my students inside the Sweet Spot Strategy. I can create a whole new webinar funnel that we can put out there and test and see how people respond to it. I can start doing things that are really going to move the needle more in my business. I can focus on bigger projects that are going to make a bigger impact in my business.“
The only way it’s possible is if I’m working ahead on the things that are easy to batch. That is one huge way that I’m able to better juggle the week-to-week and the day-to-day.
Mondays is my CEO day. It’s all about planning. It’s all about reviewing where we are, looking at the goals, looking at us in our project management system, making sure everybody’s on task, checking in with my team.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, most days of the week, are all content for me, whether that is creating this podcast, or creating new content for my students, or creating new programs.
Then, Fridays are a flex day for me. It’s kind of a catch all day where if I need to have calls with people, if I’m doing a bunch of podcast interviews for my own attract strategy, that’s where I do it.
By having that model calendar, I am able to both get the things that need to get done done, and I’m able to have that flexibility that I need for when you have to take the kid to the emergency room, or you have to pick someone who just threw up up from school, or you get the call and your mom’s going into a doctor’s consult for a surgery and wants you to be there.When you work ahead, suddenly it's not such a huge deal to shift around your schedule, because you've got that flexibility built in. Click To Tweet
Start thinking about how you can work ahead.
Don’t try to get crazy about it. You don’t have to plan and work three months ahead. But even just working a week ahead will make such a difference.
I promise, if you make a commitment to yourself right now to start working one week ahead, so you’re writing the blog post just for this week but for next week, you will start to feel so much relief and so much less stressed.
It’s kind of the equivalent of having that emergency fund in your savings account. You just feel a little bit more at ease. You can sleep a little better, because you’re not worried about what you’ve got to do tomorrow. You know that it’s handled and you’re good to go.
Other types of things that will help you guys aside from … looking at the big picture and planning your year up front. I do this usually right before the school year. I do it right around the beginning of the year.
I probably look at this a couple times a year just to make sure that we’re not missing anything, and then making sure that I’ve got my model calendar so I know what I’m supposed to be doing each and every week. I’m starting to batch and work ahead so that I’m not working on deadline, I’m not pushing myself every week to fit things in. Instead, I’ve got that buffer room.
I have to say a lot of these practices that I do in my business, they translate at home. The practices that help me at home, they translate in my business.
Working ahead and having a plan is how we keep up with the day-to-day in our house. We actually have in our project management system … This is so nerdy. Completely nerdy. My husband and I, we’re just like, “You know what, we need to put all of our household stuff in the project management system so we know who’s in charge of doing what.”
Every other day, a little task will pop up for me, like vacuum your office, or update YNAB, our personal budgeting software, or do meal planning. We just get ourselves into this rhythm where the model calendar has applied to a lot of other areas of our life.
We kind of have days where we’re doing certain things around the house. There are a couple days a week where we’re in charge of making sure we’re doing the meal prep on Sundays and Wednesdays. We just have those little systems set up.
It might seem overwhelming to get started with this, but I have to say, once you start, everything becomes so much smoother.
Start with something that’s really overwhelming for you when it comes to juggling just life and business, and figure out what would make this a little bit easier.
For me, it was the meal planning, because often, I would wake up and sit down and not eat breakfast and then not really eat lunch. Then by the end of the day, I was eating everything in sight, which was just a terrible habit.
Honestly, it made me feel like crap. For us, it was, “Okay. We need a meal plan. We need to sit down on Sundays, we need to prep a bunch of things. On Wednesdays, we need to prep a bunch of things.“
Those are the two days we try to hit the grocery store with our list. We cook a bunch of stuff. We actually package up my lunches now, just like I was going off to work instead of just downstairs to my office, but it makes my life so much smoother.
Think about where are the things in your life, in your family that are causing you stress, and where can you implement a system where you can plan and prep a little bit more in advance.
Final thing I’ll say, and then I’m going to sign off for this special Mother’s Day episode, is don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I preach getting support all day long, but it was not easy or natural for me. It took a very long time for me to start asking for help. Honestly, my husband did not know how to cook a thing beyond pancakes until he left his job three years ago to come home and work with us.
Now, he can cook anything I can cook. In fact, he started getting so into it, he started buying his own cookbooks and finding his own things that he liked to make.
I feel like as I talk to a lot of other women, we have some hangups around asking for help, or just letting our husbands figure out their own way of doing things. Ask for help, but give your partner permission and freedom and control over what you’re asking for help with.
Don’t micromanage them on how they make dinner. Don’t micromanage them on how they fold the towels. This is a note to me, because, yeah, I used to be the one who would get so upset that he didn’t fold the towels the way that I wanted him to fold the towels.
At the end of the day, ask for help and then let it go.Ask for help and let them handle it the way that they're going to handle it. Click To Tweet
I promise you, you do not have to be alone juggling a whole household worth of chores, a whole household worth of groceries, and cooking, and cleaning by yourself. If you have a partner, ask for help.
Talk with them about why you’re asking for help. They need to believe in what you’re doing. They need to see the vision for what you’re doing. They need to see how it’s possible. They need to know what you need in order to make it happen.
Don’t just let the resentment build up because you haven’t sat down with them and said,
“Here’s what I’m creating. Here’s what I’m building. Here’s my goals for this. Here’s what I’ve accomplished so far. Here’s why I need you to take over making dinner three nights a week and cleaning the kitchen and the bathrooms every week.
I need you to free up five hours a week so that I can do this.” Have those conversations because it will make your life a lot, a lot easier.”
I hope this little Mother’s Day, planning pep talk was helpful. Don’t hesitate to hop over into our Facebook group, the Fired Up and Focused Facebook group, to chat with me. Did this help? What are some challenges you have?
Just getting that support, getting the planning done in order to be a successful mom and entrepreneur. I’d love to hear from you. I truly believe that mom entrepreneurs are going to be a huge force of good.
We’re not only doing work that matters, but helping our kids see that you can go after your passions and do something you love and be well paid for it, make an impact in the world. I know that’s probably a driving reason for you to create a successful business. I’d love to hear from you.