Thanks to social media, we mom entrepreneurs can seem like a pretty social bunch. We’re founders & Presidents out mixing and mingling to spread the word at networking events; eager entrepreneurs growing our business potential at lunch & learns and conferences; journalists and bloggers out covering stories and traveling to events; moms out shuttling our kids to and fro.
To people who are not mom entrepreneurs/bloggers, it may seem like all fun and games, but when worlds collide and our schedules hit the fan, often it’s not just one part of our puzzle that collapses — it’s the whole puzzle.
And this is where Nancy Reagan pops into my head and yells “just say no!” (If you are too young to get that reference, Google it. Also: get off my lawn, kid).
Friends who truly know and understand me well know how fiercely protective I am of my family time, and my time in general. When people ask me how I do what I do (and I am fairly certain that question is actually a backhanded compliment wrapped in a sarcastic eye roll, but that’s another post for another time…), I usually just tell them: “I know when to say “no,” so that I can say “yes.”
Say no to say yes. Easier said than done, for sure.
To be clear, I do not at all claim to have perfected this skill, but in my nine years as a blogger and eight years as a serial entrepreneur, I’ve come to rely on some rules that have helped. Between work, blogging, volunteering, teaching, family, friends, and kids, I could be busy from sun up to past midnight almost every single day of the week, twelve months of the year — but why on earth would I want to be?
I do not enjoy being busy, but rather I enjoy being productive; there’s a big difference between being busy and being productive.
Here are some things I’ve adapted into my routine as a mom entrepreneur that have helped me remain productive and balanced over the years. To me, this simply means I get nice big meaty portions of family, friends, work, blogging, and self time as part of my balanced daily diet.
I hope these working mom tips help some of you fellow mom entrepreneurs out there (or moms, or entrepreneurs, or stressed out dad entrepreneurs).
Say No to Say Yes: Top Time Management Tips for Mom Entrepreneurs
1. Be honest about your social limits and create a social limit rule that works for you. I love going out and meeting people, but the majority of my paid gigs require focused writing & designing time. In front of a computer. Talking to no one else. I also have this adorable family that I love more than the moon, and if I don’t get to spend quality time with them during the week –and I mean, A FREAKING WHOLE HECK OF A LOT of quality time with them — I go bananas. I get cranky, depressed, and pissed off resentful at the things that kept me away from my family. Therefore, I have learned to aim for no more than four events total per week that require me to be away from my family, including both personal (fun girls’ night outs count) and business. That’s my personal social limits maximum rule. Your social limits rule might be two events a week, or even two events a month. Find the rule that helps keep you sane and focus only on the events that offer the best professional or personal return on investment (ROI).
2. Ask yourself: what’s the personal or professional ROI and is it worth the time you will invest? It may sound harsh, but how you invest your time is one of the most important investments you make, so you have to be ruthless about cutting things out. If you’re not going to gain something from a networking event, workshop, or heck, even a fun night out with friends, then buckle down and say “no.” What constitutes the gain in this investment scale is up to you, but be realistic about tying it to your needs — both your business needs and your personal needs. You can attend five networking events a week, but which ones will give you the most authentic connections that will benefit your business AND the ones you will personally enjoy the most? If you’re overworked and stressed, go grab a friend for a drink and recharge. ROI is completely different from person to person, from situation to situation.
3. Then ask yourself: is the sacrifice worth it? So let’s say something has amazing ROI. There’s a conference where 90-percent of the attendees are your ideal target client. The next step is to think about what you are sacrificing in order to make that gain. Let’s be honest: we are always, with every decision we make, sacrificing one thing for another. If you attend that blogging conference, but miss out on your child’s championship tourney, which is the event that will give you the most ROI (personal or professional) and which sacrifice that you are willing to live with the most? The “good mom” in you might automatically say that of course, you need to attend your child’s tourney! But, what if you are the sole provider for your family and business has been painfully slow? As in, we-might-lose-our-house-and-everything-we-own kind of slow? In this case, which decision yields the greater ROI and greater sacrifice? Whatever your sacrifice, embrace it as yours and accept it.
4. Get used to picking the lesser of two evils. Forgive yourself and move on. Sometimes the choices aren’t cut and dry. Sometimes, we really are pulled equally in two directions, and either sacrifice will totally suck. Most of the time, there will be at least one outside party who is not happy with your decision. You can’t please everyone, not even your whole self, all the time. Make your decision, stick to it, forgive yourself & absolve your soul of any and all guilt, allow yourself to enjoy your decision, then move on.
5. Learn that sometimes “no” just means “no for now.” I’ve turned down clients because my schedule was jam packed, only to have them contact me later and hire me when my schedule had an opening for a new client. I’ve also put off numerous personal social engagements knowing that I would be able to go out with those friends soon enough, when the timing made more sense in the grand scheme of things. Look ahead, and see if there is the opportunity to reconnect with those professional and personal contacts and events again in the future.
Bottom line: do what matters most to YOU, and let go of everything else
The bottom line is one that goes against the stereotypical martyr mom image society likes to try to guilt us into believing is healthy: in fact, to be truly happy and successful, you need to be selfish with your time. Do your volunteer work. Take on that challenging, high paying client that makes you excited about your work. Drop everything for your kids’ activities and school events. Whatever you do, make sure you do it all for you. You are the driver of this bus, and you are ultimately the one who decides when and where to stop, and when to keep on rolling. No one else.
And that’s where the “yes” part comes in.
When you begin to learn how to say no to the things that are not honestly worth your investment of time and energy, you find that you have time to be able to say yes to the things that really matter. Maybe you find that one amazing client who appreciates your work instead of those 10 life-sucking clients who would have bled you dry. Maybe it’s being able to volunteer for a charity that means so much to you and your family. Maybe it’s simply being able to stay home and have a relaxing movie night with your family instead of being 3,000 miles away speaking at a big conference.
Say no. Be honest about your interests and be ruthless with your cuts. Say no often. Say no, so you will know when to say yes. Say no, so you will have more opportunities to say yes to the right things.
Do you often say yes when you should have said no? Or are you an invitation declining master? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Feel free to share any tips that have worked for you, too!