Back in March when COVID-19 became wide-spread in the U.S., many small businesses came to a standstill, slowed down, closed temporarily, or quickly pivoted. What we thought was a temporary inconvenience turned out to be a worldwide pandemic that we're still going through right now. The difference between now and a few months ago is that we've all adjusted to a new version of what our day-to-day looks like. Whether that's working from home while managing kids or working partially in an office with less people, it's a much different day-to-day than we had before.
I recently asked you on Stories how I can help you or your small business right now during our new normal. We received lots of questions, so I have a multi-part series planned over the next several weeks answering some of your most asked questions and sharing tips and advice you requested. Today is about balance and juggling work and life right now…
Overall, when it comes to juggling work and life, my key tips are the same as they have always been and were pre-pandemic:
- Focus on Your Priorities
- Divide and Conquer
- Block Off Time
- It's Gonna Be Okay
Those four things working hand-in-hand are super important always but even more so right now. Whether that's because you are: dealing with a new baby or have multiple kids at home, working from home, running a business from home, trying to get a new job, trying to start a new business, or getting a side hustle off the ground, you're trying to do it ALL while also trying to stay safe and healthy.
1. Focus on Your Priorities. This means taking inventory of what parts of your life (both personal and professional) need your daily attention the most. Right now, many of us who are parents are stretched thinner than ever with possibly little or no childcare, no school, and no summer camps. Your children need you, and your work needs you. First, when and for what do your kids need you (and only you)? If they have online classes on Zoom or a certain amount of help needed with daily activities, get a good grasp of when you need to be fully available for them. This will obviously vary based on the ages of your kid(s). For example, ages 5 and up can do a lot more on their own than a baby or toddler.
This priority focus also applies to work. Whether you work for another company or run your own business, it's nearly impossible to do your normal full-time schedule during your normal hours if you're also home with your kids. So focus on the parts of your business that are most active and continuing to bring you income. For some of you, this may now be a good time to focus on parts of your business you never had a chance to take care of (like updating your website or filing all your business papers away), especially if certain parts of your business have slowed down or are on hold due to COVID-19.
2. Divide and Conquer. Every home is different so your available childcare/help will vary. Maybe your partner also works from home, and you need to figure out how to split each of your days so that someone is fully available for your toddler. Perhaps a parent or nanny has been part of your pod since quarantine started, and you have some hours of childcare help available. Once you have your home team assessed and everyone has their own new normal schedules figured out, this is where team work makes the dream work. Coordinate with your home team a schedule that works best for everyone in helping with not only your kids but also meal prep, cleaning, and all those household things that now need more attention than ever. You can then go about giving yourself set times for work and life within your day.
3. Blocking Off Time. While a normal day for you might have been a nice 9-5, adding in being a homeschool teacher doesn't usually allow for your work hours to be standard at all. Based on the priorities you have set above, you'll need to block off the time needed for your family and then fill in work in the other times around that. Whether that means you can work while your kids get a couple hours of downtime, while they are on a Zoom summer class, while your baby is napping, or while you have someone else at home available to be with them, this is your time to get your own work done! Now, this could be 1-2 hours a day or 6-8 hours a day depending on your own family's schedule and needs. This also might mean making time in the evenings after your kids are in bed to really get a couple hours of uninterrupted time to either finish work, start on a new project, or work on your new side hustle.
4. It's Gonna Be Okay. Even if you get yourself set-up with all of the above, some days will not go perfectly. And it's okay! I have had days where I was on a phone or Skype interview, and my kids come screaming into the room. I've had moments of peace thinking that everyone was doing great only to have everyone in full meltdown mode fifteen minutes later. These times are not normal, and we are not expected to be perfect at handling it all. Not today…maybe not ever. I have had moments where my stress of trying to DO IT ALL at the same time wore on me, and I found myself being crabby to everyone in my family for the rest of the day. But now I try hard to remember that we're all trying the best that we can. And tomorrow is a new day!
Now after keeping the above in mind, here are some specific questions I received…
How can I find time to kickstart a new business with a young baby? This time will come from a combination of when you have help and when your baby is sleeping. Basically, how much time do you have when your baby doesn't actively need you? Is that one hour a day or is that more? If you have help available, take it! Many new parents (especially Moms) have a hard time asking for help. Not only do you need help to find some rest (if you're still doing nighttime feedings), but if you are trying to start a new business or side hustle, you need some regular time to keep feeding into your career goals (again, if that's a current priority for you) as well.
I am juggling three different hustles and having a hard time balancing them all. Help!
This is when priorities come into place. Do you need to be doing three side hustles right now? Are they all working? Are they all growing? Are they all making money? If not, focus on the one or two that are doing best, earning the most money, and making you happy. You'll be much happier, less stressed, and those hustles that have your focus will thrive more.
Do you have tips on working from home while parenting?
If you didn't work from home before (which most of us didn't) then it's time to set up a new work-from-home area. If you don't have a home office, this could be a corner of your bedroom or an area of the dining room. Ideally, this is a closed off space to provide a bit of separation when you do have blocked off time to work (more WFH office tips here). Having just a bit of separation helps physically indicate for everyone that it's work time.
When should you take risks in your business? COVID-19 changed my entire structure.
Lots of business have seen major changes over the past three months…some small and some major. I have seen small businesses take major risks with appropriate pivots that majorly paid off. I have also seen some play it safe and stick to what they know and what their customers are still coming to them for during this time. Taking a risk right now is most likely a good move if that risk doesn't require money that you don't have or are unable to get. Some risks simply involve time and the execution of new ideas, and those are great risks worth taking. Some risks may require bank loans and extra capital. Those risks are only worth it if your business has managed to stay on course fully (or even grown more during this time), in which you may be in a great place to take a loan with interest rates being extra low right now as well.
If you have any other small business questions or advice needed, please feel free to ask in the comments below!
(Photo by Lily Glass)