It happens every morning and all through the day
… the endless barrage of meeting requests, conference calls, invitations, and the never-ending “to do” list. Part of being self-employed means I have to wear a lot of hats. I’m the sales person, the business development person, the product manager, the marketing manager, and the secretary all in one – oh, and did I mention I work from home with an infant?
My mind never seems to stop. I’m thinking about business strategy. How to talk to whom. How to get to networking events without feeling guilty for leaving my baby. How to grow this blog. How to plan our wedding with everything going on. How to find time to read a book or do some yoga. How to get it all done without leaving anything or anyone behind.
I gave up the traditional desk job 3 years ago to start my own company for a few reasons. First, because I knew that in the position I was in, I wouldn’t have the income potential that I really wanted. Also, because my job required more time away from my son (I only had one at the time) than I really wanted to take.
The last 2 years have been a heyday for me with health issues and pregnancy and now being a new mom again in a completely different situation than I was in the first time. I’m finally in a place where I have the energy and motivation to focus on increasing my income and contributing to my family so that my fiancé doesn’t have to carry the whole workload but it’s not easy. Trying to build a business and take care of our home is a balancing act and I’ve been putting a ton of thought into how to make it all work. I’m reading the book I Know How She Does It by Lauren Vanderkam. It’s a great book that focuses on how women of different income levels and positions arrange their schedules to make time for all of the important things in their lives. Vanderkam created incremental time logs for her participants over years and came to a pretty interesting conclusion:
The women who made the most money also spent the most time with their families. Why? Because they took control of their time and made the necessary adjustments to work during their most productive hours and stop wasting time.
It is possible to succeed at work without neglecting your family.
I got to thinking about the other professional women I know and examining their strategies as well as my own and realized that it really IS possible to do it all if you really want to. Some of these suggestions come from me and some of them come from women who have reached far higher success than I have. Here are a few pointers on climbing the success ladder without sacrificing your family priorities.
Acknowledge that it is not a bad thing to want to succeed in your career.
Some women want to be mothers and that is ok. There is nothing wrong with that. Some women want families and also want to climb the corporate ladder and that is ok too. For those women, a big part of achieving overall happiness is feeling like your career is going somewhere.
Evaluate your relationship with money.
There is a terrible stigma around working women who want to make money. When a man thrives for a high salary, he’s ambitious, but for whatever reason, when a woman has high financial goals? She’s seen as greedy. This is just not true. There is nothing wrong with wanting to have a high bank account balance, investments, and savings. A woman’s money is every bit as valuable as a man’s and it is okay to want to want to earn more.
Do coffee meetings instead of happy hour.
One of the things that drives me crazy about the industry I work in is the constant bombardment of invitations to after-hours networking events. This is just a fancy way of saying “let’s make an excuse to drink after work.” Not only have I never made a decent connection at a happy hour, I’ve never enjoyed taking time away from my kids to listen to a bunch of sales folks swap stories about how great they are.
However, it’s a catch-22. If you don’t go to the “work things,” you’re not seen. If you’re not seen, it’s hard to get attention. The best alternative for this offers a way to have a more intimate conversation and a valuable break from the day.
Meet for coffee.
It gets you out of the office and helps you reset for the day and offers your prospect an opportunity to do the same.
Use your days and hours in the most productive way possible.
Do you ever feel bombarded on Mondays while the end of Friday can’t seem to come fast enough? Most people who work Monday to Friday feel that way. The reason for this is because Mondays are reserved for dealing with last weeks pass-over items and Friday, often gets wasted because no one wants to use the end of the week to start a new project.
Remove this thinking and structure it differently.
I use Friday as a planning day. That is all I do on Fridays unless it’s my only opportunity to take certain meetings. This way, Monday – Thursday can follow a schedule that focuses on generating business instead of planning to generate business.
Another part of increasing productivity is using your hours in the most effective way. Have you ever taken a “short break” from something, only to get sucked into a Facebook hole? I certainly have – although for me it’s usually Pinterest or Twitter.
If you’re like me, try using the Pomodoro method to get things done. The method calls for 4 bursts of work or study, usually 25 minutes, with 3-5 minute breaks in between. After 4 rounds, take a 30 minute break. You can track your Pomodoros on a sheet of paper or there are even apps that keep track for you. This method works for most, so much that it’s recommended for professionals as well as students.
Make your work match your willpower.
Another part of using your hours most productively is to schedule your most important projects during the hours that are most productive for you. This can be challenging depending on your roll in your organization. If you do have some control over when you are focused and when you are not, use that advantage to avoid meetings during high energy hours.
This is the most challenging task for most women because everyone is a little different. We all have energy at different times of the day. For some, it’s first thing in the morning and gets killed by checking email. For others, it’s in the early evening when you have to pick a child up from daycare. I can’t give you the answer for how to solve this, but I can tell you that if you evaluate the way you spend your time against your production, you should be able to see the spaces where there is room for some movement. Make it happen however you can.
Get a mentor, or BE a mentor.
Complacency kills progress. If you’re sitting at a desk job, making the machine move at the same pace every day and have no desire to move forward – well you’re crazy – and probably not reading this article.
The point is – we all benefit from learning and growing. Find someone you respect and want to emulate and learn from them. If you really think that you have nothing to learn from someone, find a protégé to take under your wing. You will learn new things and grow in new ways either way. Everyone has something to teach you and the more willing you are to listen, the more likely you are to be heard when the time comes.