Sarah Drake has been running a boutique graphic design studio - Sarah Drake Design - for nine years, specializing in custom wedding invitations, family crests, corporate invitations and business branding. Sarah is also the mother to two boys. Juggling small business ownership and being a mom can be tough! We compare ourselves to others, and run ourselves crazy trying to achieve perfect balance (does it even exist?). Luckily, Sarah offered to open up and share honestly about tips she's found helpful to stay sane and feel productive through it all. From compartmentalizing, scheduling, and cutting yourself some slack, Sarah's tips are valuable for today's multi-tasting busy mother or woman.
Notice I don’t say how to juggle work and home life? or how to balance work with home? It’s because I don’t believe it’s possible. Not that things can’t run more smoothly - I just think that trying to achieve that perfect syncronism is something that you can run yourself ragged trying to achieve, and then beat yourself up when it doesn’t occur.
I had been hearing the word balance for years. Trying to achieve. Literally crying with my girlfriends who are moms and also hold full time jobs or their own businesses that life never felt in balance, and things were hectic and overwhelming all of the time. I was tired, forgetting appointments, and then feeling terrible for failing. If work was going smoothly, home life was suffering, or the opposite. The following three tips are definitely things that have helped, but I have to mention, also have taken me a long time to achieve. My sons are both old enough to do a lot of things themselves, and i’ve been in business for 9 years, so I’ve had some time to work this out. These suggestions may not work for new moms, or mothers of five, or single moms with no help. But they might. I feel lucky that my husband has been a super active parent, and that his job at night (while certainly has it’s disadvantages) has allowed him to be with our boys every day, pick them up from school, and be part of their lives fully.
Establish regular office hours at an area that works for your lifestyle. This may be a corner of your living room, remote office (like a coffee shop), or actual office/studio outside the home, but the most important thing is that from 10-2, or 9-5, or whatever hours work for you, you are present to the task at hand. This frees you up to be present at home too, able to attend to a crying baby or make dinner without trying to answer emails or hop on a conference call. This really only works well when you have childcare or your kids are in school, for me at least. I found it next to impossible to get much done at all trying to work around a nap schedule. If you can afford to have even one day where someone else is looking out for your kids, you can start to do this incrementally, and work up as they get older. If childcare isn’t in your budget, try childcare sharing with another parent who might have a similar situation, so you both get a few hours to work or sleep or read a magazine uninterrupted.
I learned this from my good friend who was going through nursing school with a brand new baby. She literally wrote down everything she had to do to get through it, from nursing the baby from 4-4:30, to blocking out time to study. Now, on my good days, I prioritize the things I need to get done, and assign a block of time to get them done. I take her advice and write down everything, so a sample day might look like this:
9-9:30 Check Email
9:30-10:30 Seymour Proofs
10:30-12 Kennedy Production
12:30- 1:30 take walk (Listen to Podcast)
1:30-2:30 research new product line
2:30-3 Check Email/Social Media
3:30-5 help boys with homework
5:30-6:30 soccer practice
I pick three things I want to accomplish that day, using a guideline that I have implemented from living and learning about how I work best, and from teachers and guidance I seek out.
CREATING (this would have to do with work)
PRESERVING (my home, my family, gratitude)
TRANSFORMING (removing obstacles, changing perspectives, etc)
In a perfect world I would do this every day, but I’m not THAT disciplined. This is great for when things start to get too one sided, if I start to forget things, or I’m noticing I’m not exercising or having any personal time. I might go through a yoga schedule at my favorite studio and write down two classes I want to get to that week, and then assign work and home around that, so that I get what I need too. This is really important so that your to- do lists aren’t all work!
When the inevitable happens, and you remember an email you have answer, or you want to check your social media stats, jot it down, and get to it later. Remember you have a time for that in the day, and try to stick to the schedule. Not only will you feel more productive, you won’t be left wondering what you did all day.
Go easy on yourself
Above all, know that you are doing your best, and these, along with so many other ideas, are just guidelines. It’s so important to figure out what works for you. Maybe one week you'll get sick, and nothing will get done. That's okay. Sometimes, maybe you'll just need a day to do nothing at all.
I’ve listened and learned from friends, coaches, podcasts, and developed my own systems from learning from others. Some great resources:
Jess Lively Podcast: The Lively Show
Design Sponge Podcast: After the Jump