Running a business when you have children can encourage you to be inventive with the type of business you have. However, the fact often remains that the only time you have to work is while your children are at school or nursery. If you can work in the morning or evening, then that’s fantastic, but it’s not always possible.
So how can you make the most of the limited time that you do have?
1. Set boundaries
Know what your work-life balance is. If you can’t or don’t want to work outside of school hours, then that’s entirely up to you - it’s your business. If you know when there will be periods, like school holidays where you’ll struggle for childcare, or periods where you will have additional help and can work extra hours, then include these into your overall business strategy. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated, but make sure you write it down as it encourages you to be more mindful of it.
2. Be realistic
Make sure that you know how many hours you can work each week. Do you have far to travel to drop your children off? If you’re dropping off at 8.45am and picking up at 3.00pm, then make sure that when you plan, you’re realistic and allow for the fact that you have a maximum of 6 hours per day to work, which if you can work 5 days a week, equates to 30 hours per week. This 30 hours needs to be spent working both on and in your business and will need to include admin, networking, meetings, travel, website management, as well as social media and other marketing.
3. Set yourself clear objectives
Think about your business objectives and set yourself yearly/quarterly/monthly goals to help you manage your time more productively, as you know what you’re working towards. Try to include an estimate of how much time you will need to complete these.
4. Plan and schedule
Use a diary, planner, or both to create a weekly and daily to-do list, then set yourself clear objectives for that day/week/month. It’s helpful to have a to-do list in your diary/calendar for each day that you’re working and to populate this with tasks you know you need to complete that day. If you know you need to complete something on a certain date each month, such as social media scheduling, invoicing, or accounts, then schedule this in advance and then forget about it until you have to do it.
You may need to attend events or training outside of your usual hours, but if you know in advance, it's easier to arrange childcare.
5. Track and manage your time productively
Use an action log to track the time you’re spending on each task. After a week or a month analyse the log to see what you’re spending your time on, and then look at how you could make your time more productive.
- Can you decrease the time you spend on certain activities?
- Can you cut these activities out?
- Can you make them more efficient?
- Can you outsource some tasks?
- Look at the time you spend on social media, if you’re finding that you faff around on social media, or get distracted by social media notifications, then allow yourself a certain amount of time to check them and turn them off while you’re working.
6. See technology as your friend
Where appropriate, use tools like social media scheduling, CRM systems, email unsubscription tools, design platforms like Canva, free invoicing or accounting platforms to make your life easier. You can then block book time in your diary to schedule, invoice, or design marketing materials.
7. Don’t be pressured
If you need to cater for the working hours or needs of your clients then do so, but don’t let anyone else pressure you into trying to change your working habits to suit them. It’s your business, and you can run it how you want.
When time is precious, then face-to-face meetings, including travel time, can often take away a huge chunk of your working day. Make sure that if you need to attend a face-to-face meeting it is of value to you, whether monetary or wellbeing. If not, then consider alternatives such as web platforms, phone calls, and emails.
Time spent networking is valuable too, so make sure that you research the group beforehand to ascertain whether it’s a good fit for you and your business. There are lots of different reasons for attending a networking meeting – do the members represent your customer base? Would it be a good support network for you? As long as you have a good reason for going, it’s a good use of your time.
10. Outsource or delegate
Consider whether you can outsource or delegate some of your activities to someone else, whether that’s an associate, a virtual assistant, an intern, or a skills swap with someone. Just because you can do everything, doesn’t mean that you have to.
11. Have a contingency plan
If you or your children are ill or there is an emergency of some sort, then make sure you have a contingency plan in place to make sure that you’re prepared. Whether that’s:
- acknowledging that there’s nothing you can do about it, and everything will have to wait until you can return to work
- calling your clients or customers to let them know when you anticipate being back at the helm
- calling on someone who can act in your place
- working hours that you wouldn’t usually to get the work done.
Make sure that you maintain your focus, at least for the majority of the time. If you’ve set objectives, created realistic daily to do lists, and are mindful of the time that you have to work, then it’s amazing how much you can actually accomplish.
Running your own business with (small) children can be really tough, and is definitely demanding, trying to juggle priorities, but with pre-planning, and being ever mindful of your boundaries and work-life balance, it’s absolutely manageable.