I am a wife and mother, and the owner and CEO of my business. I work full time from a home-based office surrounded by the chaos of a busy family of five. As the main caregiver in our family, I do the scheduling, activities, errands and meetings. Many of my clients, colleagues and business associates are also busy working parents running their own companies, and we all share hints that help us hold our busy lives together.
Here’s a glimpse inside my day, along with some tips to help you balance your own work and family life — I hope you enjoy the read and find these tips useful. If you have a great tip for keeping balance in your life, please share it in the comments below. I’d love to hear it!
Have a beautiful April -- see you in May!
Balancing work and a busy family life
I get up early so I can get a healthy mental start to my day before the chaos begins. Having coffee by myself each morning is key, because that's when I clear my mind of clutter and plan the day ahead. Once I've settled my mind, I am ready to tackle my day.
I start by working on my company’s social media—writing and scheduling posts and using Hootsuite, Facebook and Linked In to engage with followers. I also write and respond to email, but only twice daily—in the morning and later in the afternoon—so that email doesn't interrupt other higher priorities throughout the day.
Next, it’s time to check in with my parents (they live with us). I spend 10 minutes with them at the breakfast table to hear how they're doing and let them know my availability for that day. I also use this time to lay the groundwork for dinner, getting meat from the freezer and prepping any vegetables. I do not tidy the kitchen in the morning, because that takes time from my work schedule. I’ve learned to ignore household chores like unloading the dishwasher or folding laundry until I’ve accomplished important office work.
In my February blog post I wrote about planning meals per day/per week. This help me know what I'm making and whether I have the right ingredients. This habit is a huge time (and stress) saver for me.
I’m normally back at my desk ready for the day by 9:15am unless I have out-of-office meetings, marketing or doctor's appointments with my parents. Work for me usually involves writing, creating ideas for business growth, researching solutions, drafting emails, making client calls, etc. As I work, I keep track of all this activity so that I'm up to date on projects, leads and meetings. It's a lot of work!
Here are a few tips I've picked up along the way that help me maximize my work time:
- Keep your to-do list or work schedule open and in front of you, to keep you on track. If you’re out and about, have it on your phone; set up alerts as reminders.
- Combine like tasks to increase productivity and minimize waste.
- Turn Facebook off (scheduling business page posts means you don’t need to check FB during the day). Check FB once per day or less.
- Ensure your office setup is conducive to high productivity: include a big table, notice board, proper equipment, etc.
- Don’t get distracted by your kitchen! This took a while for me to overcome. I attend to my household after I’ve completed my morning office tasks.
- Take a break from your desk to get a glass of water and to mentally re-charge. Step outside for a few minutes and breathe in the fresh air. I do this when I break for lunch.
I always have quite a few meetings and events each week: new client meetings, marketing, deliveries or networking events. I love meeting new people, advising businesses and networking, so this is an enjoyable part of my job. It does, however, add to my already-busy schedule, so I need to plan carefully and well in advance. I schedule meetings back-to-back whenever possible, especially if traveling or using a co-working space. Meetings and networking are time consuming, so use that time well—have clear objectives for your time so you come away with action points.
I have limited time to work between 3:30 and 5pm; some days I’m out picking up bakery supplies, making orders, attending meetings or running family-related errands. This gets tricky, because afternoons are when my inbox fills with emails and phone messages. It's easy to get behind. I've learned to quickly sift through emails and voice messages, and only deal with urgent correspondence; I handle these immediately so they don’t take over my evening. Another trick: If you’re waiting for kids at activities, diarize (perhaps with an app such evernote.com), make notes or update your CRM (customer relationship management software) on your phone. When my children were small, I’d use carpool time to write my manuscripts or go over my do-lists.
I limit work in the evenings to one hour at the most. I almost never work late because of my morning routine, and I'm disciplined about getting to bed at a time that affords me at least seven hours of sleep. Plus, evening is when I’m finishing laundry, dealing with teenager and elder parent drama, doing random household chores, keeping everyone in check and hopefully having a little family time. My teenagers (and sometimes my parents) stay up later than I do these days.
My biggest tip for managing it all: Act fast and don’t procrastinate. Get the work done; don’t just keep adding things to your to do list. If you do, your list will become overwhelming, and you’ll feel less and less motivated. This take-action mindset is a tip I’ve learned from my own business coach.
A long-time family favorite
When I discuss the practicalities of meal-planning, cooking can sound like a chore. But for me, it's a real passion. It’s no wonder I love food: My relationship with cooking started at the very young age of seven! Looking back now, I joyfully remember going through the process of making ‘roti’ (a version of pita bread) in South America. Every day after school my chore was to roll the dough for my mom to cook when she came home from work. Then, when she would cook, I was right beside her helping and learning the steps. I continued the tradition and passed down the joy of cooking to my own children, including them in the kitchen as my helpers when they were little. Now they love to cook and make tasty meals for me to try; I'm their taste tester.
I used to be afraid that when I made certain foods my children would turn up their noses because of certain ingredients (like fruits)! But I found ways to overcome their finicky tastes and make cooking fun and healthy. My son doesn’t like fruits, so for a while I tried different recipes that incorporated fruits (to get his taste buds accustomed to the flavors). For quite some time he would take one bite and spit the muffin or bread out; he'd call them "‘nasty." After multiple attempts I finally mastered a healthy and delicious apple-banana muffin. Rather than telling him it was a banana muffin, I added chopped fresh apples and called them apple muffins. (I knew he liked apple pie.) The trick was to use something that the my son liked and then find a way to turn it into a healthy treat. Today the same apple-banana muffins are a winner at coffee shops and with many of my other customers.
I hope you have fun making them!
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- ¼ cup + 2 tsp coconut palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 banana, mashed with a fork
- ½ of an apple, finely chopped
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp flaxseed meal
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line muffin pan with paper cups or spray with vegetable oil.
- Melt butter and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, mix coconut palm sugar, egg, vanilla, chopped apples and banana.
- Add melted butter and stir.
- Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not over-mix.
- Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.
- Bake until center comes clean, approximately 20-25 minutes.
Yields 10 muffins.
Note: blueberries, strawberries, pineapple can also be used.
Spring Fashion Refresh
Add a pop of spring to your wardrobe with spectacular spring trends! Giving your wardrobe a fresh upgrade for spring can seem like a daunting (and pricey) task, but it doesn’t have to be. You can update your look with a few transitional pieces that won’t break the bank. Dress yourself for the season by adding color to your style. A few of my favorite pieces include a pretty bold floral dress, white pants, yellow (daisy or polka dot) pants, white sandals and a pink handbag. A pastel-colored cardigan and a bold lightweight jacket add pep to your step. A simple dress with a blazer is a beautiful style for the office.
Start pulling out breezier materials that can keep you cool as the weather warms up. Just be sure you’re wearing dresses for spring—not summer—this time of year. It's dress weather, but it's not yet sundress weather. Stick to dresses with a spring-like or neutral color palette, spring fabrics and even a bit of a sleeve.
Take a moment to window shop and visit your favorite boutique for what colors and styles are trending. Purchase a piece or two, and then mix and match them with what already exists in your wardrobe. I visited my favorite boutique last weekend to check out the styles, and I bought myself a pair of light-colored embroidered jeans. I plan to matching them up with a white or green long sleeve, button-down shirt and a pair of brown block-heel sandals. I can also use this outfit for summer—that's versatile fashion!
Happy hunting, and have a happy and fashionable spring!