Survival Tips from an Entrepreneur and Mother

Photo by Standsome Worklifestyle on Unsplash

A dark winter is approaching, especially if you live in the upper Midwest.

Even darker than the winter Joe Biden warned about in his final presidential debate.

Snow is on the ground, the air is damp, and the sky is gray. But, our darkest days are yet to come once daylight savings time ends.

Meanwhile, the flu season is looming and COVID-19 cases are soaring.

For all of you who are entrepreneurs working, parenting and schooling at home, this means no end is in sight.

While we can’t always control the events of our external world, we can control a few things in our own world. Especially as we enter several more months of pandemic home life.

What to do? Here’s a few tips that can help you.

Determine when you are going to work. Then work.

One of the challenges of being an entrepreneur (among many!) is that there is no formal structure so you have to impose your own structure. With many kids taking classes online or on a hybrid schedule, you are doubly challenged with your own issues and theirs.

But, this doesn’t mean you have to endure chaos. Determine your best hours for work, whether that is a core time of the day—early morning, traditional daytime hours—or late evening.

Stick to the plan and work during those windows.

For me, it’s the normal business hours — e.g. 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. For others, it’s getting up in the wee hours of the morning to work. It doesn’t matter. Just commit to a work plan. Of course you’ll be interrupted, have to make lunch, or address your child’s questions. But, when they know you are “working,” the interruptions are minimized.

Don’t let others (outside of family) hijack your time.

I, too, was once a hijacker and wanted to meet friends, colleagues and others for coffee to network or catch up on a life. But, now that our entire family is home most of the time working and schooling, I’m turning into an anti-hijacker.

Plus, I shouldn’t be spreading germs outside our house anyway.

Here’s the point. When a well intentioned friend wants to meet for coffee, lunch or a walk during the middle of your work day, say no.

The problem with the coffee break or walk, is that by the time you leave your house, engage in the activity and return, you’ve lost at least a couple hours, if not more.

You’ve now been severely distracted; getting restarted with your work or family duties feels impossible. Of course, you want to see friends or others, but do so over the weekend or at the end of your work day.

If someone really needs to network or talk with you, go virtual. Schedule a short phone call instead. But, don’t let your own work days, or your children’s days get hijacked.

Don’t hijack your own work time.

Hijacking time is two-fold. Of course, others can take your time. But, each of us can be our own worst enemies.

Hijacking our own time is about all the stuff that tempts us throughout the day — which has nothing to do with our work or parenting. Think about the desire to run to the mall and pick up the pair of jeans on sale. Or, the need to run to the grocery store to buy milk. Or, stop by the local coffee shop for the latte you are craving.

The distractions are even worse at home. As I’m writing this, a piling over laundry basket is in sight. Bills need to be paid. And, the dishwasher needs to be unloaded.

What do I do? Nothing. All of these wants, needs and desires will be waiting for me after my work day.

So how do I handle “mini-hijacks” to help my kids, take the dog out or schedule an appointment that can only be scheduled during work hours?

I go for it. These are minimal activities that don’t take me away from work for a long period. It’s important to differentiate big distractions from small tasks that will allow you to continue being productive. If anything, small interruptions are a refreshing break to get up and stretch.

Mutually respect and communicate schedules.

I work upstairs where my kids are working and doing homework. I’m an easy walk down the hall and they are respectful. But, I’ve learned to give everyone a warning when I have an important work call that absolutely can’t be interrupted or when I’m giving a presentation.

The upside about communicating my logistics is the the rest of the family now does the same. My kids share their class schedule or let us know when they have extracurricular activities online or they are taking a test. And, we’ve all learned that my husband’s judicial administrative proceedings — all being recorded — are sacred for not being interrupted, except for the dog who has an occasional lapse and barks.

Get your work done. Then quit.

Avoid work bleeding into all parts of the day. Whatever your core work hours, when they are over, quit for the day. And unless there is something significant or major to address, close your computer screen or put your phone aside. Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean you can’t have boundaries. The work will be there tomorrow.

I’ve learned that I need to quit work by 6:00 p.m. so I can prepare dinner, start laundry or do the other house chores that have been piling up during the day. If I need to run an occasional errand, I’ll do it after my core work hours.

I’ve also learned to use this post work time to be present with my family. Perhaps some of you would think that’s my second job (and it is). But it’s also part of the day that I like most. I feel good that I’ve worked hard and can pivot to different duties that get me up and moving. My work brain is ready for a break too.

Give yourself grace. Drop the guilt.

Of course my days still get hijacked, interrupted and occasionally I run an occasional errand during work. So what, right? This process is not about perfection. It’s about doing enough things right.

Just as importantly, don’t beat yourself up. We all have unproductive days. Or, we have days when our time with family was filled with endless frustrations, an argument or family feud. But, if there is a year to demonstrate grace, not just to others, but to yourself, this is the year to do it.

Remember when our own parents used to tell us as little kids to “just try our hardest” regardless of the results? While hard work doesn’t always yield success, hard work with some decent systems in place does.

In an unbelievably crazy year, just do your best. That’s it.

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Entrepreneur || Fortune 500 Executive

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Linda Thrasher

Linda Thrasher

Entrepreneur || Fortune 500 Executive

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