As a mom of three young children and business owner, I get asked the same question quite frequently. How do you manage to do it all?
The truth is, I don’t. I don’t come close to “doing it all” because I simply can’t. I have a full-time job running ToteSavvy and I have three kids under 6-years-old. Without adding more time to the day, it’s just not possible to put in a full day of work and a full day of focused parenting.
What I have learned in my 6 years of being a CEO mom, is that compartmentalizing my life is the best way to get things done and not feel like I’m running at a full sprint all day, every day. I can’t be engaged with my family when I’m trying to get work done, and the same is true for doing quality work when I’m half focused. After a lot of trial and error, I discovered the key to my success was learning how to compartmentalize my day in order to stay focused and get stuff done.
THE STEPS TO COMPARTMENTALIZING
Step 1: Areas of Focus - The first step is to determine what areas of life you need to segment. For me, it’s family and work. These are the areas I value most, and subsequently where I want to spend the majority of my time. In order to compartmentalize these areas of my life, I schedule periods of time during the day to solely focus on one segment. For example, if I’m with my kids I focus on just being a mom. I try to stay off my computer so I’m not tempted to jump back into a work project. The same goes for work time. I put aside everything I need to do that falls into the “home life” category so I can solely focus on work.
Step 2: Make a Plan - In order to get the most out of my time, I like to strategically plan out my week in advance. I find it helpful to know what’s expected of me and how I’m planning to accomplish each task within the hours of the day. This goes for both work life and family life. I find that I’m able to get more done and feel like I’m putting in a “full day’s work” to both being a business owner and mom when I have a plan and set goals. More on how I plan and prep below!
Step 3: Divide and Conquer - In order to feel like I’m adequately spending enough time and energy of each life segment, I divide my days and weeks accordingly. My kids are in school (most days) so I’m able to plan my work time during their school hours. During family time, or when I’m getting together with friends, I completely shut off from work (mentally) so I can focus my time and energy on who I’m with. This may seem super obvious, but it took me about 5 years to figure out how to live my life this way and it’s helped tremendously.
PLANNING MY WORK WEEK
To organize my work life I like to chart big monthly goals, then define smaller tasks within those goals to help achieve the larger goal according to schedule. I use a planner that includes blank pages for big-picture planning and both monthly and daily planning pages to organize the small tasks.
Generally, at the beginning of each month, I’ll define those big goals or carry one over from the previous month. I take each goal and break it down into easy actionable steps that I can execute in a day or less. Then I determine which projects and tasks are a priority over others and plan my work week accordingly.
It’s not a perfect science but it helps me have a path every time I sit down to get work down. Because I “turn off” my work life during time with family and friends, it can be difficult to pick up where I left off. This planning helps me remember where I was so I can jump right back in.
Helpful Hint: I love using square sticky notes for my big goals or projects and smaller rectangular sticky notes for the tasks. I’ll set up at my desk and cover it in sticky notes before adding action items to my planner. I love doing this because if I mess up or want to redo something I don’t have to cross things out in my planner. My planner stays clean which further helps me focus during work hours.
Another tip is to not schedule too much into one day. I used to be so eager to finish all of my tasks that I’d plan more than I could realistically do in one day. Now, I try to plan 2-3 tasks per day allowing for time to clear my inbox and handle other issues that come up. If I finish my set tasks early, I can always work on something from the next day and get ahead.
FAMILY WEEKLY PLANNING
Just as planning is important in order to do my job well, I've found it’s crucial in not feeling like a disaster of a mom. While I don't plan everything, I like to have the basics charted weekly so we have some direction.
For instance, every weekend I plan our meals for the upcoming week. This includes every meal of the day our family of five is eating. On Sundays, I brainstorm recipes, write a grocery list, and grocery shop. If I'm short on time I’ll use a grocery delivery app like Amazon Prime Now or Instacart. Breakfasts usually aren’t too complex. I buy healthy cereals, oatmeal (or make overnight oats!), and/or eggs. Lunches are all packed in advance (thanks, Lunchbots!). I pack Mon-Wed lunches on Sunday and Thur-Fri lunches on Wed night.
I plan to either cook or order takeout (or eat out) each weeknight so I have a plan after I pick my kids up from school. I try to cook 3-4 nights a week but it’s not always possible with busy schedules and general parent fatigue. And by the way, when I say I cook it’s not a 4-course meal. I love crockpot meals, sheet pan recipes, pre-made salads, and things that can be thrown together in 15 minutes or less. Weeknights can be stressful and the last thing I want to worry about is cooking.
Outside of meals, I like to plan and prep the night before for activities and school. We have a backpack station near our back door where our kids hang their backpacks and store their shoes and jackets. We use an Ikea Kallax cubby system for the shoes and jackets which has worked out really well in helping the kiddos be more independent with getting out the door. That said, I still have full on power struggles with my 3-year-olds about putting their shoes on or wearing pants in general. #momlife
For after-school activities (we do ballet and soccer!), I like to have their bags packed the night before or even on Sunday night. I’m really good at forgetting stuff (just ask my 6-year-old) so setting it out by the door in advance is mandatory for me.
All of this prep work may seem like a lot of work for a Sunday but I’ve found it gets easier as you continuously do it, and it truly does help the week run a little smoother. Of course, I still have my moments when I forget something important or miss a deadline but I’m less stressed about when I’ll get everything done when I have a plan.