Suzanne Brown, the founder of “Mompowerment,” joined us as a guest speaker last month to talk about a new approach to managing the work-life balance. For many women, the challenge of managing a family along with building a career or business is a daily struggle. In this webinar, Suzanne provided fascinating insights into how this can be achieved. Suzanne’s focus has long been on providing a path for women of all backgrounds/sectors to balance part-time work and motherhood. Through her research for her recently published book, Suzanne interviewed 110+ women who have successfully made that change.
If you missed the webinar, click here to watch the replay.
After the webinar, Suzanne took some time to answer many of the questions that we didn’t have time for during the live broadcast. You can view these below.
We’re also very excited to have teamed up with Suzanne to offer a FREE eBook: A New Approach to Work-Life Balance.
Get your copy below.
• www.reneetrudeau.com (work-life balance and self-care tips)
• www.lauravanderkam.com (productivity and time management tips and information)
• www.gretchenrubin.com (work-life balance, happiness, and some productivity ideas)
• www.headspace.com (app for meditating that is recommended by several people I know and trust)
What I heard over and over in interviews was to try not to flip a switch when you change your approach to your calendar. Make the change gradual. If it’s response time you’re working on, don’t respond in 5 minutes, wait 15 and then 30 and then an hour and so on. You still want it to be timely but shift the way you respond so that you’re simply not being reactive.
When it comes to productivity, you want to manage your time and that is often directly linked to your calendar. Try to block off specific times on your calendar well in advance. Start to block off time in the next few weeks if that time hasn’t been taken on your calendar. Share with your manager and colleagues that you’re trying to be more efficient and effective with your time and making a few adjustments. Even knowing that can help them understand why you’re changing things up so that it doesn’t come across as you not responding.
It can also be helpful to start looking at when you’re most productive and block off that time on your calendar as quickly as possible. Ask your manager for his or her “help” to be effective with your time. Use phrases like “I want to make sure to get X done, so I’m blocking off Y time on my calendar. How can I explain that to people?” That way he or she becomes your ally and might help others do the same.
If you’re part of a team, get check-ins on the calendar. That way people know when they can get hold of you. You can also consider something like office hours when people can drop in to catch up or ask you questions. That time might be unproductive in that you’re not getting large amounts of work done, but it can have a big impact as it relates to team building and helping your teammates with their needs and this helps you down the road.
And see if you can agree to basic calendar parameters with everyone. For example, maybe agree on when meetings happen (e.g., not before 9:30 a.m. and not on Friday afternoons 3 p.m. or later). You might have a meeting occasionally in that blocked off time, but it will become a rarer and rarer occurrence.
I have figured out that there are a few reasons why parents can be hard to reach. First, some parents simply don’t really check email. It’s foreign to me as a working mom, but for some parents, moms, or dads, especially those who don’t work, they don’t check email regularly. Second, some parents are simply unorganized. They don’t have a system to be efficient with their time and therefore aren’t as timely with their responses. And, finally, some parents simply don’t respond. They might be too busy or simply don’t feel the need. It’s almost like you have to establish that baseline interaction and then you start getting responses and engagement.
In my situation, I try to meet all the parents the first time we meet the teacher and share that I’m room mom. I explain I will be sending emails out occasionally for their help or input. From the beginning, I share expectations (e.g., I will be putting this out on this day until this day and I need you to do X, Y, Z). You might have limited time to get their attention, so make it count. And, finally, I give them plenty of time to respond. And still send a reminder about responding. Last resort is that I call or text. That way I can say “Please check your email and respond.”
If you get no satisfaction from a task that is needed regularly, it might be time to remove it from your task list.
Takes a long time versus satisfaction you receive
You have a low level of satisfaction, but you also realize that you’re devoting a lot of time to this task and it’s something you can delegate.
Area of Improvement
What if this is something you really don’t do well? And if that’s the case, it might also be the case that it takes you much longer than it should. Can you delegate it to someone else?
The financial benefit might show you that it makes more sense to delegate. For example, if you can charge $100/hour for your time and it takes you 10 hours of your time each month. That’s $1000 as a cost to you. You can hire it out for $40/hour and it will only take them 5 hours (they do this regularly, so they are faster at it). That is a savings of $800 per month and almost $10,000 per year. It’s like you’re losing almost $10,000 each year by doing the task.
Some typical outsourced services are grocery shopping, housekeeping, or something related to cooking. From the work side, these kinds are services were often outsourced: bookkeeping, virtual assistant services, and aspects of marketing.
Beyond that, you want to organize your week and your day with clients/other team members’ deadlines in mind as you prioritize your time. If something needs to be completed by 10 a.m. on Tuesday, it needs to be done by Monday evening on your end. I recommend reaching out on Friday morning to get input before people leave for the week. That way you can look at it and have a plan of attack for the following week on Friday or on Sunday.
You will likely need to remind people about this time difference, even if you’ve worked together for a while. Have them prioritize what they want you to work on as well.
They also spoke of the need for building a network. While that is something many moms spoke of (it was the #1 piece of advice during the interviews), the single moms talked about it in every case. Their network seemed to allow them to find roles that enabled more work-life balance.
The single moms I spoke with talked about being incredibly aware of their time and using time management to its fullest on the business side and the home front. They talked about things like meal planning and grocery shopping only once per week. This also requires setting and maintaining boundaries, which is integral to work-life balance. And that partially requires advocating for your needs to managers and senior leadership.
And finally, the single moms I spoke with talked about self-care in a different way than other moms. They said that self-care requires you take advantage of the moments when you find them since it can be hard to specifically carve out time for things like self-care when you’re always on. That said, taking time for yourself is important for that very reason. And it might look different from day to day and week to week, so be comfortable with a level of flexibility as it relates to work-life balance.
The idea behind layering from my perspective is to find things that go together well, such as a networking playdate where it’s a win-win for all involved. The idea is that the pieces fit together nicely instead of jumping back and forth between tasks, which is why you want your child(ren) and the other child(ren) to play well together. Another example of layering is doing a work task combined with a personal task such as listening to a podcast of a TED talk for work while doing dishes. The things mesh well together.
Some people would probably interchange the two without any hesitation. It really depends on your definition of each term.
I have a whole chapter dedicated to WFH and job-share situations based on input from moms I interviewed. And it’s something that I can relate to as a WFH entrepreneur.
There are a few general tips that I think help keep you on track at home and help you with productivity in general. Create a consistent physical space, which is your work space. Don’t try to do household things all day. Dedicate time to make household chores happen but limit the time during your work day. And finally, stay organized, so that you’re not distracted by tidying up just one thing (that becomes hours of you organizing and not working).
When it comes to prioritizing, there are a few things to keep in mind. It can be helpful to list all the things you need to achieve, breaking bigger goals into small ones. For example, in theory it’s easy to put as a single item on your to-do list that you’re creating a website, but in reality that is many smaller steps. Break everything down into smaller bites. I would include on the same list any personal, child-related, and household tasks you’re trying to achieve as well. You want to look at your time holistically with all the different aspects in mind. It can help you figure out how to manage your time overall.
Start looking at the importance of all the things on the list. And rank the list. Each day have your three to five things you’re trying to achieve based on this ranking. Usually, I’m aiming for one main thing and the rest of the three to five are important and it’s even better when I can get those things done, too.
And plan your day out based on these priorities. I generally plan in 30-minute segments, but I know people who plan down to the 15-minute time increment and all the way up to about an hour time slot.
The trick in all of this is that you manage your time and can use it as you wish, so make it work for you in whatever time increments and by whatever means necessary to figure out priorities. And make sure you understand all the things, not only work things, that need to happen.
I know women who have a full-time job, a side business, and have the role of both mom and wife. They make it work because of streamlining their side business and being incredibly organized with their time from a personal and professional perspective. They are incredibly precise with what they work on and how the spend their time. They outsource almost everything that is not necessary for them to touch. Most of the women that I know who are doing all of this are wanting to not work full-time over the long-term, so they are willing to put in the time now and not focus on work-life balance. Their side businesses are generally moving toward being passive income-focused.
I did the full-time job plus the side-hustle for seven years as a strategic marketing consultant. During those years, I was initially single and then married. I wasn’t a mom, though. The moms who I interviewed needed work-life balance to look different, which is why they work part time.
Take the time to see what’s motivating you to take on the side role in addition to your full-time role. And see what things you can outsource, from the most basic to the incredibly time consuming. And don’t be afraid to redefine what success looks like to you. It’s a very personal definition, so make it look the way you want.
If you missed the live webinar, you can watch the replay now. Don’t forget to download the free eBook that offers specific examples of what you can do to better balance work and home life, including part-time work and entrepreneurship. Tips include how to
• make a plan to shift your efforts to part time,
• build a manageable work-at-home plan,
• maximize productivity in a more limited work schedule, and
• practice self-care to support your efforts.