1. Have a switch-off time in the evenings
Today’s technology means that we are constantly bombarded with messages, notifications and emails, 24-7. It can be extremely hard to break the cycle and put your phone or laptop down, but the evening times are so crucial for relaxation and unwinding after a busy day. If you have kids, like me, the school run followed by dinner, bath and bed for the little ones is an exhausting but fun part of the day when you can reconnect with the family and spend some quality time.
One tip I have learnt is to have a definite switch-off time every day, where you put down the tech and have some screen-free time. Maybe you’ll decide that you need to check your emails just once after the kids are asleep, or maybe you’ll have the evenings completely free - either way, set out your stall, set up an out of office and add a note telling any communicators that you don’t check your emails after 5pm during the week, and only once a day at weekends. Provide a contact number for any urgent requests that can’t wait, and you’re covered for any emergencies.
In January this year, France decided that its workers had the “right to disconnect” from looking at and answering emails and work-related messages outside of working hours. This huge development reminded employers that the “always on” culture could have a detrimental affect on the health of employees - so take this onboard and be more French. Ooh la la!
2. Decide on your life priorities - and stick to them!
When you decided to ditch the confines of a nine to five job, I am pretty sure that working like a maniac every hour of the day wasn’t the aim of the game - flexibility and spending time on different aspects of your life were most probably the key drivers.
Of course, starting a business can be hugely time consuming and sometimes all-consuming, and you do have to put the effort in to make sure you get something out of it - but there is nothing wrong with having a few key life priorities that you pinpoint right from the start that are non-negotiable.
Maybe you want to be able to pick the kids up from school three times a week, or you want to be able to take your baby to a weekly group. Perhaps you love having your nails done and a bouncy blow dry once a fortnight. Schedule them in to your diary and stick to them. Sure, there may be times when you need to be flexible and move things around, but set your stall out right from the start to make sure you prioritise those things that, for you, make you feel happy.
3. Plan, plan, plan!
Having a clear plan and an organised diary can work wonders. You are your own boss now, so it’s up to you to organise you life to make sure that you get stuff done, move the business along, attend meetings and appointments and work towards your goals.
Every month, set aside an hour to plan the next - input any meetings, targets and to-do’s into your diary, bullet journal or phone calendar. Plan in some targets to meet. Include social engagements and your life priorities (see above!) and you’re all set. Of course, things can change and new opportunities can crop up all the time, so on Sunday evenings, check your diary for the week and make sure it is up to date.
Utilise free apps, to do lists or even employ a Virtual PA to help - whatever works for you.
Additionally, if you have a family member or friend who’s a whizz with social media, invoicing or creative ideas, get them onboard to help you.
Having a clear schedule and a to do list that you can prioritise and tick off helps you to focus on what is important, and also helps you to be able to switch off during the evenings without worrying. Work smarter, not harder, and you’ll smash your goals.
4. Remember to take holidays!
It can be so easy as a self employed mum to keep on working through holidays, or even worse, forget to take any time off at all!
Plan in some weekends away and family holidays at the start of the year, so you have a clear idea of your down time. With careful planning and help, it can be possible to keep the odd week clear of any diary dates and meetings.
If you really can’t do without your phone or laptop on holiday, take them with you but have a very clear and defined time every day when you check your messages and handle any urgent queries. Utilise your out of office to let people know that you are only checking messages once a day, and provide a phone number for any emergencies. Switch off all notifications and stick to your guns!
Time away with the family will refresh you, recharge you and help you become a leaner, meaner business woman on your return! And everyone has the right to disconnect from constant screen time, as per the first point.
5. Learn to say no
Being brave enough to say NO to boring social engagements, business meetings that don’t set you on fire and other “opportunities” that won’t drive your business forward takes time. It also takes confidence and is something that, for many, doesn’t come easy.
It is so important for good mumprenuers to have a lean, clear calendar that focuses on the right things. It can be so easy as a working mum of any kind to get drawn into committees, school activities and other things that can drain your time without providing any joy. Of course you have commitments to your children and family, but you don’t have to be everything to everyone and the feeling that you are being pulled in every direction can be exhausting and overwhelming.
Learn to say a polite no to anything that isn’t a priority in your life. Focus on your family and your business, and be picky about the other stuff. Running around like crazy won’t help anyone in the long run, so be kind to yourself.