At some point, every parent entrepreneur has wondered if building a successful business is worth the countless hours, endless research, and sleepless nights it can take to get everything into place. Many have probably wondered if it’s even possible. These Pro Tips can help any parent entrepreneur balance a side business with parenting, while still working and parenting full time, too. (After all, you have to get there somehow).
1. Schedule Like It’s Your Job
Because it really is your job. If you want to find work-family balance, but you also want to build a solid foundation for your company’s success, you have to treat your business like your day job. Schedule yourself to work on business needs. Then, hold yourself to it as if you’d get fired for missing work.
The reality is, a rigorous (but reasonable) schedule will keep you from getting “fired” from your own company, courtesy of you, yourself. Use time prioritization strategies, like a 15-Min Planner, to ensure your time is well-spent. Make sure to schedule time for all your priorities, including work, cleaning, and family.
2. Get Help
If it takes a village to raise a child, imagine what it takes to build a business. At some point, you may have to acknowledge that you need help balancing life as a parent entrepreneur. Ask someone in your family or at church to babysit for a couple of hours. Hide out in your home office, a nearby coffee shop, or a local library with your phone on Do Not Disturb. Tell your family to call twice in a row if there’s an emergency.
For many parents, the stark reality is a sheer lack of time. If you don’t have a parent or a reasonably priced babysitter, and especially if you have young children, take advantage of anywhere you can spend some time taking care of business needs while your kids are self-occupied (e.g., your backyard with the sprinklers on, fast food PlayPlaces where the kids are confined, or even your best friend’s house).
Sometimes, it just comes down to the fact that keeping up with life as an entrepreneur parent is like having 3 full-time jobs at once. You may feel it’s necessary to hire someone, even before you’ve made revenue, and that’s okay. If you find yourself spending hours researching to learn new skills, it may be worth the expense to get some help. Set a budget and start looking for college students who want to intern. If you already have a business license and a brand name, you’re ready to hire, whether the help is temporary or permanent.
3. Goals Aren’t Written in Stone
The purpose of creating goals and strategies is so you’ll have a plan of action, a direction for your efforts, and a way to measure progress. So don’t beat yourself up if you miss a deadline or fall short of a goal. It’s easy to think you might’ve missed your goal because you just didn’t try hard enough. In reality, this may be a sign that your last goal needed adjustment, or perhaps you focused on the wrong priority. Just set a new goal with the realization that you’re learning every day.
Besides, give yourself a break. You’re sleep-deprived, your head is full of kid songs, and your house is probably a mess. It’s not the end of the world, and it doesn’t mean you won’t succeed.
4. Wake Up Early or Stay Up Late
Take advantage of the quiet hours. I know you want that extra nap when the baby’s sleeping, but unless he’s under 6 months old, that nap isn’t justified in the face of balancing your side business with parenting needs. Instead, make a trade-off with your partner: if you can reach X business goal by Y date, you get to sleep in for an entire weekend.
Yes, it’ll mean less sleep and more willpower. But if you’re a parent entrepreneur who’s you’re truly passionate and dedicated your business, you have it in you. Though to clarify—getting too little sleep won’t help you in the long run, especially because kids make parents even more tired than other adults. The flip side of this is to go to bed when your children do. Then, if they wake up in the middle of the night, you aren’t losing as much sleep. This helps you get up early so you can start out the day with a sense of accomplishment.
5. Take a Break
Everyone needs a break, even the most accomplished entrepreneurs. If the combination of MomLife/DadLife + Side Business = , it might be time to back off a little. If you’re stressing, not sleeping, your current agenda doesn’t come naturally, and you’re not on a critical, all-or-nothing deadline, don’t force it.
Take some “Me” time. Go sit in a hot tub. Take a walk. Do something new with your family or go on vacation. Just generally fill your cup; after you recuperate, you’ll be ready to tackle the demands of running a business.
If you still find yourself lagging when your break is done, try a few strategies to inspire yourself:
- Watch a motivational video, like a TED Talk
- Have a conversation with someone uplifting
- Get a quick workout into your schedule–more oxygen to your brain!
- Do a short activity you find soothing, like making a cup of tea or taking a shower
6. Plan a Business Retreat
I know, a little lackluster. Us parent entrepreneurs don’t get enough time off, especially for those of us with a full-time job on top of everything else. So taking a business retreat might seem like the last thing you want to do, but don’t underestimate the power of taking a day or several days to focus on what needs to get done.
First things first—plan ahead.
- Make a list of critical business needs and a plan to tackle each one efficiently.
- Draw up an hourly schedule to keep your goals reasonable.
- If you haven’t already measured your speed in accomplishing necessary tasks, take some time to get a realistic idea of how quickly you work.
Most beginning entrepreneurs don’t have money to book a hotel room for a weekend business retreat. If you do—great. You’ll limit your distractions tremendously if you lock yourself in a hotel room for the weekend, but you may also find yourself becoming depressed or losing steam halfway through (trust me, I’ve done this. It isn’t easy, even if you’re happy-go-lucky like me).
Retreats don’t have to cost money—go to the library with a homemade lunch (eat it outside of the library, you don’t want to be that guy) and use the quiet environment to hone your focus. And if you’re a fiction lover like me, sit in the non-fiction area, where you’re less likely to be distracted.
Alternatively, there are options for renting temporary office space that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Try the Regus App. For a few dollars a day, you can take some much-needed time, use free WiFi, and enjoy a quiet space to focus on your side business.
7. Focus on Your Kids
If you feel your kids are constantly interrupting your work, it might be time to put down the laptop and play. They know you’re stressed, and they don’t understand why you’ve been gone from home or why you can’t pay attention to them constantly. In fact, knowing kids, they may even act out on purpose to get your attention, even if they have plenty of love and attention from other family members. After all, you’re their parent. They love you SO much.
So, take them out to a park for a couple hours. Trust me, if your business plan can’t handle a 2-hour break, then you can’t handle your business. When you come home, the kids will be much calmer & they won’t act out for attention as much.
And remember: You can always find time for your side business, but it’s harder to make up for time lost with your kids. After all, they don’t stay small forever.