Schools out for summer. That may mean lazy, hazy days for our children. But for us mom-preneurs, it usually means crazy days filled with more work, not less.
Dont get me wrong; I was looking forward to summer almost as much as my kids were. Long, sunny days. Playing at the spray park. Weekend cookouts. But the reality has also meant more time in the car driving the kids to different activities every day and less time working on my business.
During the school year, I had a nice routine that worked well for my kids and for me. Since my son was only four and too young to ride the bus (the school districts rule, not mine), I had to drive the kids to and from school daily. This meant an hour and a half to two hours in the car every day, more if my high school daughters had an after-school activity. But I still got a solid six hours to dedicate to work every day. Knowing that my time was limited, I usually found it easy to focus on work, even working from home. The laundry and dishes could wait until the kids were home from school. Work couldnt wait. So I got it done.
Between day camps, sports and music lessons, Im lucky if I get three solid (child-free) hours of work a day now. I knew Id be working less, but I didnt anticipate how much less and how difficult it would be to adjust to a new routine.
To make the summer months enjoyable for everyone in the familyand to maintain my sanity as much as possibleI had to get some control back over my time. I had to find a way to have fun without shuttering my business for three months. I came up with four keys to making the most of my time, staying productive and still have a fun summer.
Start every day with a plan.
I plan my day over breakfast every morning during the school year. And this habit has been invaluable during the summer. Before you start your day, plan out exactly what youre going and when youre going to do it. Write it down. You probably already have major events and appointments in your calendar. Write it out on a sticky note every day if that helps you stay focused and on track. Dont just schedule work and appointments. Schedule play time, meals and housework. Then stick to your schedule. Of course, you can be flexible and spontaneous and make changes to your schedule when something comes up. But if that something doesnt involve taking your kids out for ice cream or going to an outdoor concert, then dont change it. What I mean is, honor your time by doing things when you plan them. If you schedule work time in the morning, dont end up doing the laundry.
Do one thingand only one thing at a time.
You know the saying, Be here now. Being fully present in whatever youre doing is important all year long. But it is essential during times, such as the summer, when you feel as if you have nowhere near enough time to do everything youd like to do. These are the times we usually end up multitasking. Resist that temptation. Do only what youve decided to do in that moment, and save everything else for latter. When you take your kids to a ballgame, be at the game. Dont check email. Dont get on a conference call. Just be with your kids. When youre working, give your full attention to your work. Dont schedule doctors appointments or make a grocery list. Just work.
I know how hard this is. I pride myself on being able to do twelve things at once. But something suffers. Doing twelve things at once means nothing gets done as well as it could be. And, when kids are involved, it means hurting someones feelings. I can spend two hours in the room with my son while Im trying to answer emails, and he feels as if we havent spent any time together at all. In contrast, when I give him even only 10 minutes of focused attention, we both feel strengthened and reconnected. It does wonders for my relationships to spend dedicated time every day with my husband and children.
On a practical note, it also does wonders for my productivity. Spending focused time on only one activity at a time means that activity gets my full attention and the results show it. I can spend about half the time on an activity and do better workif Im fully present.
Accept the challenges.
One of the best things Ive done for myself this summer is to change my mindset. When I start to worry that Im not spending enough time on work or that Im not giving the kids enough fun, I realize that Im not present and so bring myself back to this moment. When we worry about the future, dwell on the past or experience guilt about what we should be doing, we are by definition not living in the present moment. Whats so difficult about staying in the moment is that we are constantly confronted by challenges and tempted by distractions. For example, I struggle with scheduling client sessions over the summer when my husband is traveling and I have to arrange childcare for my son. I get stressed and tense and at times want to give up.
But I know that struggling against a challenge will only make it worse. We handle challenges more gracefully and more successfully when we are calm and relaxed. I am reminded of the line from the serenity prayer, Give me the strength to accept the things I cannot change. This has been so helpful to my mindset this summer. I would not make my kids give up a summer sport just to keep me from having to drive them there. So I accept their activities and the fact that I spend more time in the car. I plan ahead and bring work to do. Instead of driving back home, I may work in a coffee shop, in the car or, if Im lucky, outside under a tree. That is definitely a challenge I can accept.
Share the load.
Being a mom-preneur, youre used to doing things on your own. But youve probably also learned that you cant do everything yourself. And even the things you can do, you may do better with help. So get help. Practice the teamwork you preach to your kids. Build a team for yourself. Recruit your kids to do more around the house. Line up daycare, day camps, play dates and babysitters in advance. Have friends, family members or neighbors on call to help out in a pinch. And offer to help them. It may take a village to raise a kid, and it also takes a village to support a happy mom-preneur.
With planning, presence, attitude and teamwork, even mom-preneurs can have a great summer. Adopting a new routine and a new mindset, you can be productive and have fun. After a summer of practicing getting the most out of every moment, come August, you may even find yourself groaning about back-to-school.