You have a business to run, a house to maintain and kids to manage. So what?
I have seen mothers of five start successful businesses and still maintain their sanity. There is no silver bullet as you can imagine it takes sacrifice and commitment, but it's possible. If given an extra hour most people would fill it with busy-ness, not business. To which I wonder, what are they avoiding, justifying or neglecting?
If I said there was a way to gain an extra hour to work on essential tasks I know you’d believe me, but your own limiting beliefs would get in the way of actually finding that hour and using it wisely.
I used to be like that, and I still am some days). For instance, I work from home, so housework, meal prep and little reminders (book Noah’s immunization needles) jump out at me on the daily. While I try to push them aside, sometimes they get me, and sometimes I’ll just let them. But when it comes to crunch time (deadlines or waiting customers) they have no power over me, and I can easily find an extra hour in the day to check off my list of essential tasks.
I recently had a great chat with an acquaintance of mine who was stressing about overwhelm. She has been running a successful blog for about ten years and is on another journey to bring a new product to light. All this on top of being a partner and mom. We chatted for about an hour and determined that she could gain back an hour a day if she outsourced some of her writing to a ghostwriter and opened up her platform to some vetted contributors. The idea had crossed her mind a few times already, but there was no forcing function to take the leap. Now with added pressure to grow both businesses she knew she needed to gain that extra hour each day so committed to making those necessary changes to be more focused (and sane!).
So how do you find your extra hour like my friend? Here are six suggestions below.
1 - Change Your Habits
Overwhelm, guilt, and lack of business growth are associated with bad habits. Some of the worst culprits are email refreshing, social media checking, multitasking, giant to-do lists and lack of preparation. If you examine your morning routine, for example, I bet you can easily spot something in the first hour of your day that is eating up time. Maybe a 5-minute task, like letting the dog out, or even making coffee that somehow always spirals into 20-minutes. How you begin your day will set the stage for the rest of it and if you’re not intentional with your routine, you will waste it.
“If you’re not intentional with your routine, you will waste it.”
Good habits that help give you time back include:
- Prepping your coffee the night before
- Doing housework only between 6-7 pm or on weekends
- Following a meal plan
- Eating the same nutritious breakfast every morning (your kids included)
- Rotating the same four dinners (that everyone likes)*
- *If you don’t like to cook or would instead be doing something else.
- Time chunking or blocking
- Checking tomorrow’s calendar before you go to bed.
- Un-scheduling your day if you see additional meetings or calls.
- Disconnecting from work and screens at an appropriate time before bed (1-2 hours before sleep time, suggests many studies). Not only to maintain good sleep habits but to put you in a better state of mind.
- Non-negotiable family time
- Deciding what to wear for the week on a Sunday. To make it easy, dedicate days of the week for specific outfits, like Monday = Means business, Tuesday = Teal day, and so on.
Everything you do during the day needs to progress towards your goals: whether that be business, health, family or even spiritual goals. If what you are doing or working on is not aligned with your ideal daily outcome, then reassess your activity.
At the end of your day, write down your most significant achievement for the day and then rate it out of five according to your feeling of accomplishment. One, being not great, and five being super. If you think you’ve accomplished all you need to do, then pat yourself on the back. But what didn't get done will roll into tomorrow and eventually start to compound if you can’t sort it out. That’s where overwhelm kicks in, sh*t starts to get out of hand, and you start seeking that extra hour again.
2 - Outsource Menial Tasks
Oh dear, how obvious is that, right? We often look at delegation regarding how much it would cost, as opposed to its return. When I was living in San Francisco with my husband (then boyfriend), he would always take his laundry next door to the wash & fold service. It averaged about $20 a load, so $20 x 4.3 weeks/mo = $86/mo. I never considered outsourcing my laundry so thought that this was a rather expensive luxury. But he quickly justified his point; doing my laundry was costing me money. At the time, I was running a marketing company charging $125/hr for my work. It took an average three hours to do a complete load of laundry at the laundromat which in my billable hours would have cost $375. $375 - $86 = $289. That’s a $289 monthly loss! Annually is a $3,468 loss just because I was doing my own laundry.
The only issue you may have in outsourcing menial tasks is finding the right person to do the job. For me, I hated doing groceries and thought that I was the only person who could ever do them right. Ha! “Do them right” as though grocery shopping is that hard. As it turns out, you can get your cleaning lady to do them for you. That right there is a weekly time saving of about 2-hours. And layer on food prep (washing fruits and veggies and cutting them in preparation for your meals) saves another hour. Outsourced laundry + grocery shopping + food prep = 6 hours of time saved.
What else can we add to this equation? ...
3 - Park New Ideas in the Closet
We are all, on some level, chasing a dream. And when we share it with others, we are often faced with a ton of ideas and suggestions from friends or co-workers, customers, and partners. If your dream is to grow your business 10x or increase subscribers to 1 million, then people tend to throw ideas at you like confetti, for hopes of some recognition or a piece of the pie. Some ideas are so enticing that you jot it down to start researching tomorrow, while others you may delegate to a colleague to follow through. But all this means invested time into something that may not be necessary, on the whim that it sounds cool and ‘no one else is doing it.’ Gosh, maybe that cool idea is getting a pool or signing Joey up for Level 5 swim class even though he already has hockey, music, and school. Regardless of the perceived cool-factor of an idea, proceed with caution if you know this means time and resource investment to something you are already of limited supply.
4 - Make a Note of The Time Eaters
Throughout the week, jot down the things that you feel take you away from what you need to accomplish. Are you spending way too much time on your phone? Commute time too long? Subscribed to too many ‘good’ newsletters and want to read them all? Too many watercooler chats? Can’t decide what to eat? There is a solution to all of it. Install Moment to track how many hours you spend on your device and get notified when it’s too much. Negotiate work-from-home days if you live more than 30-minutes from work, use Unroll.me to clean up your inbox, apply a somewhat-open-door policy at work (or online) with your team to set proper boundaries, and do weekly meal prep to keep you from eating crap or overthinking your meals.
5 - Stop Running After Perfection
As Sheryl Sandberg says, “Done is better than perfect.” Most times we need to ship the imperfect product, launch the imperfect site, send the imperfect email and maybe even not make our beds. Constantly chasing perfection is borderline (if not) OCD and an incredible time suck. Think back to a moment when you stressed about the most minute details of a project or task. In the end, was it even worth the added anxiety and investment of time? Not likely. Even planning your own wedding is often overdone. And how silly. It’s a day we should all enjoy regardless of the forgotten table toppers or martini mix. When your guests reflect back on the day, the things they most remember is the bride's dress, the food and booze and the speeches. Everyone could be naked for all that matters ;) What perfection do you chase on the daily? What can get downgraded or stopped altogether?
6 - Enough IS Enough
With all this chatter about our lives being ‘enough,’ we forget to realize that most of the things we do are enough. It’s not hard to see that we live in a culture with a strong sense of scarcity. "We wake up in the morning, and we say, 'I didn't get enough sleep.' And we hit the pillow saying, 'I didn't get enough done.'" We're never thin enough, extraordinary enough or good enough – until we decide that we are. "For me," says Brene Brown, "the opposite of scarcity is not abundance. It's enough. I'm enough. My kids are enough." When we can more appreciate that what we do is adequate, we can then celebrate everything in our lives without worry that we need more. Enough IS enough.
What do you do in a typical day to celebrate abundance? How have you been able to find that extra hour? I would love to know in the comments below.