I'll tell you right now that you'll never get it all done. Your inbox will always have e-mails, you'll always have dirty clothes to wash and your nightstand will always contain unread books.
I'm not trying to depress you: I say this only to make you realize an inevitable truth--a truth that's in direct conflict with my belief that having finished tasks in your life gives you peace and happiness.
How many times do you tackle your e-mails from newest to oldest? Do you go through your to-do list from top to bottom? Do you answer the phone because it rings and do the laundry because the hamper's full? This is true for almost everyone. The mom entrepreneur is juggling raising a family and a business, and she's usually overwhelmed.
The mom entrepreneur needs to work smarter. It's not enough to get things done. You need to get the right things done. A very small part of what you do will have a profound impact on your family or your business. So take an inventory of everything that needs to get done and commit each day to completing the big things (often the hard things) that will make a huge impact. Instead of just tackling each workday as one large block of time, divide it into different types of work. Schedule a bit of time for phone calls, a bit of time for e-mails and a big chunk of time to get projects done.
Beware, though: When weighing the value of items, the big projects will always seem more important than doing your child's scrapbook or getting in a workout. You need some perspective. Take out a sheet of paper and create three boxes that represent the most important parts of your life. I suggest the following:
- Your family
- Your work
Your to-do list shouldn't be one long list. It should be separate lists for each part of your life. Then choose the top three things that would make the most difference in each category. Of course, even that will seem overwhelming and impossible to accomplish.
The trick to balancing your calendar as a mom entrepreneur is to have a strategy when planning out your day. Get three highlighters and book time for each category of your life. Set time for yourself (a workout, a walk on the beach, etc.). Set time for work (e-mails, phone calls, meetings and projects) and set time for your family (play dates, scrapbooks, etc.). Honor those times. When someone wants to set a meeting during your workout time, let them know that you're already booked. You don't have to tell them it's your workout time. The truth is that every part of your life deserves attention and planning. We need to spend the most time on the things that will make a difference and the least time on trivial tasks that won't matter a year from now.
Honoring your time also means being true to it. When you're working, truly work. When you're with your kids, just be with your kids. You don't have to answer your home phone when you're working. You don't have to check your BlackBerry when you're at the park with your kids. I think you'll find relief when you set these rules for yourself. And you'll find yourself more productive than ever before at home and at work.
One final tip: The last key to success is to smile and laugh when the whole plan falls through--as it often will.
Lisa Druxman is Entrepreneur.com's "Mompreneur" columnist and the founder and CEO of fitness franchise Stroller Strides. Druxman is also a nationally recognized speaker and author, and is considered an expert in the field of fitness, particularly pre- and postnatal fitness. She hosts a free monthly webinar during which she answers questions from fellow mompreneurs. If you are interested in participating, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.