My twin girls are 4 years old now, and spend 5 mornings a week in nursery.
That gives me 4 hours a day to work, which I’ve been doing now for the last couple of years.
It’s ‘just’ enough time to get everything done, mainly because I put some strategies in place when they were younger – that have served me well over the last few years.
When my twins were born in 2014, my graphic design business was around 2 years old.
I had been steadily building up clients, and from the 1st year to the second, had doubled my income.
Mostly I was working from home on client projects – sometimes to mix things up, I’d go into an agency for a few days.
Such carefree days, full of choice!
Things were going well. So well in fact, that I figured I would just pop the babies out, have a little break for a few months, and then pick up where I left off. Quietly smug that I’d soon be living the dream: working from home while juggling my business with my babies.
What was I thinking? That babies miraculously become self-sufficient little beings from 4 months of age? (Yes, that’s kind of what I thought.)
Fast forward 15 months, and I couldn’t get a single thing done when they are at home with me. Small toddlers demand a LOT of attention.
I’d like to take a moment to make sure you don’t skim over this important point, because I feel like no-one really made it clear to me. ** TODDLERS DEMAND ALL YOUR ATTENTION. ALL THE TIME. **
For example, quickly working on a task while they were engrossed in pulling apart duplo blocks. In that miraculous window where no-one was crying, screaming, hitting, pinching or biting each other – or hanging off my leg in hysterics – I honestly tried to get real, actual work done.
In spite of the craziness, however, in a period of about 2 months during all this craziness, I managed to:
It’s took a radical mindset shift, and I surprised myself with how much I can get through in limited time. I’m starting to suspect that maybe I was a tiny bit inefficient (I’m looking at you, Facebook!) when working in my pre-baby life.
I thought it might be useful to share the system I use to get work done in limited windows of time.
So, I use Trello. I’ve created a series of boards for client work, and project work. Trello boards are just another word for Uber-Lists. At least, in my mind, that’s what they’re called. On each board, I create lists that I then fill in with tasks. For example, on my Your Web Toolkit board I have:
But my secret weapon – ta da! – is my Daily To Do board. (groundbreaking stuff, hey?)
I have a list for each day of the week, and the original idea was to tick off the tasks in a lovely efficient fashion. In reality, I move them along from day to day – often over the course of a week or two – until finally each task is finished.
In spite of the foreverness of getting these tasks finished, I’ve been amazed to find that I am getting stuff done. I’m eating that elephant one tiny bite at a time. Or boiling the frog. Whatever the metaphor is for doggedly just doing and doing and doing till you’re DONE.
I also use my Trello boards as a dumping ground for all the ideas that come to me when I’m busy doing something else. I quickly add the idea I’ve just had to either that day’s board, or the relevant client or project board. And then feverishly get back to working on the thing that I’m actually doing right then.
When it’s time to sit down and do some work, I quickly scan my to-do list and run through a mental checklist:
And so, within a minute or 2 of sitting down, I know exactly how I’m going to spend that particular allotment of time. What a dork. (But it works).
I probably shouldn’t admit this, because it’s not cool to admit that we’re (sometimes) angry mums. But here goes.
I get so furious when I try to ‘sneak’ some work while I’m with my girls. Because they interrupt me, I can’t just finish what I’m doing. Is there anything more annoying than getting interrupted when you’re trying to concentrate?
When I do this, it creates lots of bad energy that bounces between me and the girls until everyone is in tears.
So, even though they’re older now – and can be distracted by TV for a while – it often doesn’t lend itself to getting much work done.
I’ve learned that when I’m with my girls, to just be with my girls. Don’t try to multitask. Don’t try to be productive. Just be their mum.
When it’s time to work, therefore, I actually work. I flip the Trello boards, really think about which task is a good use of my time, and knuckle down to do it. No faffing, no excuses.
The beauty of having small windows to do work in, is that you become very focused. My tip? Give birth to a couple of babies that suck up all your time. You’ll be amazed at how much you can fit into a baby-free hour or two.