Alright folks. Here comes my second post about the "balance" between being a mom and being a work-at-home business owner. (Read the first one here!) It's filled with some tough stuff because oh man, are these two jobs tough. I thought a lot about "balance" as I mulled over what I wanted to say and realized is that it's such a misnomer. "Balance" implies that work and life are equal. It implies that if you take something from one you give it to the other. "Balance" implies that time can be divided equally or fairly. And let's get real - none of that is true.
So when I talk about "balance," I'm talking more about my strive for sanity. I love my family. I love my job. I make no apologies for either. Without my family I've got nothing. Without my job I don't feel like me. So my never-ending goal is to live a happy life that incorporates both. The six things discussed below are what I know to be true/what works for me.
Practice makes better. I feel like I always say this, but you have to remember I've been blogging for almost 9 years. I can write posts and develop editorial calendars and resize photos in my sleep. I know what I'm doing and I'm comfortable with my voice and so this type of work happens very quickly for me. If you're brand-new to blogging and struggling, you might be thinking "Wow, Elise makes this look easy" but you have to remember, I have a lot of experience and practice on my side. Don't set ridiculous goals like posting six times a week if you're just starting out. Remember that you have to devote effort to this (or any!) craft and over time you get better and more efficient.
Get ahead. I'm always working about a week ahead. What does this mean, exactly? Aside from "around here" or "currently" blog posts, I generally have everything for the blog written and ready to go 3-10 days in advance. For the shop, I generally have the next month's project prepared (like completely finished) before the current month launches. This is how I work because when I'm behind I'm panicking and when I'm panicking I'm not efficient or creative. If you panic when you're behind too, I recommend figuring out a good way to catch up. Maybe this means not blogging for a week to prepare for the next week. Maybe it means deleting all of your emails (responses be damned!). Maybe it means hiring or trading for some help for a few extra hours to gain some momentum.
Sidenote : I got a comment awhile back about how I never seem to "enjoy the moment" and that I appear to be always "looking ahead to the next thing." I suppose if you just know me via the blog you might have that impression, but in real life the opposite is true. I focus on the future and work ahead in my business so that in my every day life with Paul and Ellerie, I can be present and not distracted by the fact that it's 7pm and I have to write tomorrow's post.
Set (and hit) your due dates. I talked about this last time but I cannot stress this enough. You have to be able to set realistic deadlines and more than that you have to be able to hit them. If you continually push back deadlines, you make them meaningless. And when they are meaningless, they become much easier to put off and next thing you know you're on a three hour Facebook stroll down memory lane. Due dates and deadlines are important for collaborations and they are equally important for your own business. Consider and respect your own time just as you consider the time of others. And hey! Stuff happens! If you can't hit a deadline, that's okay. Be honest with yourself and reschedule.
Lock in some dedicated work hours. I've mentioned this, but in 2014 we hired a nanny for eight hours per week. Those eight hours are just for me and my business and it's unreal what having set time has done for my life outlook. Unlike Paul's work schedule or Ellerie's nap schedule, these are guaranteed hours that I can count on which helps me relax during my "free" hours. It may not be practical financially at this point in your business to hire help, but if you're struggling to fit it all in, I would encourage you to pick an set evening that your partner or parents can watch the kids or trade shifts with another mom. Knowing that you have some time that belongs to you is priceless. And then obviously you'll want to make good use of that time.
Be real about your priorities. I spend approximately three minutes "getting ready" physically everyday. This involves brushing my teeth, throwing on an "outfit" and putting on a baseball hat/headband*. Looking super pulled together physically is not a priority to me as compared to actually being super pulled together mentally. I spend 15 to 20 minutes each morning savoring my coffee and cereal while catching up online. That quiet sitting time is a priority to me over straight hair and photo-able outfits. It doesn't really matter what your priorities are, but it matters very much that you think about them and then are deliberate with how you spend your time.
Recognize everyone struggles. Everyone - every single person - has tough days. There is no magic formula. You can't read (or write!) a thousand posts about "balance" and suddenly have it. You just have to start from scratch and adjust, adjust, adjust. Take the tough days for what they are and move on. Take the good days for what they are and throw a party in their honor. Don't compare yourself against anyone. Don't judge your business, marriage or parenting skills against any one else's - especially when the only story you have is what you read online. We're all flawed, we all make mistakes and we all try again to do better tomorrow.
*don't worry, I do shower daily, it's just in the evenings. ;)