BUSY SEASON TIPS FOR SWAMPED PROFESSIONALS
The pressure to meet deadlines, the late nights and the early mornings - when you are self employed, it can not only be feast or famine; it can be feast at work, and famine when it comes to managing your personal to do list. We all have finite amounts of time, and it is hard to juggle all of our responsibilities in equal measure during stressful times.
I'm right along with those stressed pros. A few years ago we had a team of 5+ most of the time, and my family was relocated, so now our team is down to two full time and one part time person, and the others work independently from their homes as freelancers (most started their own businesses when we moved, and are amazing at them). We used technology, a strong work network of trusted colleagues, and a few extra hours now and then to meet the gap left when we moved, and so far it has gone pretty well.
My husband and I recently had a discussion about how crazy work was in January, and I had a similar discussion speaking with a friend of mine recently. In reminiscing on these dialogues, I thought of some of the things my husband and I do to manage our time together more effectively, and how these baby steps may help other busy professionals in the workforce.
My husband is not only a partner of KHBOffice LLC, but he is also a busy IT professional (Cloud Architect) for a large corporation here in Charlotte, NC. He also has the late nights, deadlines, and other responsibilities that sometimes make it hard to balance with his share of our home management (we try to go 50/50 best we can - the reality is that it's more of a variance between him keeping us going, and me, depending on who has more time available!).
Personally, I balance not only my business (growing nice and steady - we are just on the nose of a quarter mil in revenue for 2017, and I'm expecting to grow this year by another 15%-20%), but I also home-school my daughter and my nephew, so when I say each day is a team effort, I'm 100% serious. We spend 5 hours in class every day, and they are only off for holidays, so they are generally in school much more than they would be in public school. We are wrapping up multiplication facts and fractions, and are progressing steadily on division, along with their other subjects. My home-school life is a whole other story, and if it fits in the blog I'll insert some of the goofiness on occasion.
So, some of my tips - if you have additional ones, please let me know. I'd love to append them to this post.
1. Focus on spending time with kids. No matter how much we have to do, our kids come first. We shut down for at least a few hours after work to have family time. Our current favorite board game is Trivial Pursuit Family Edition (the adults try to sneak question cards from the kiddie deck), and we love American Housewife and The Goldbergs. We won't watch them without everyone crashed on the couch! We also hike during the warmer months, and shut down as much as possible on weekends. Work is important, but our children are growing, and the every day experiences and love they feel now will carry forward into their adult lives.
2. We recently started using Home Chef (referral link inserted - should give you $30 off)! The price is really affordable. Before signing up, we compared their selection and pricing to the other big names out there right now, and they won out.
I need to stress... the food is delicious.
It feels like you are at a restaurant (minus germs and noise) every night, and we maxed out our plan to 5 days after receiving our first box. There was an oopsie - somehow Fedex was a day late delivering, but they had packed our box with so many (reusable!) ice packs that our food was still frozen when it got there.
It took us 30 minutes to prep, there is no coordinating who is going to cook because directions are with each packet, and you learn a few more (manageable) cooking skills in the process. You also get receipt cards, in case you ever want to go rogue and make it yourself.
Seriously, this service saved our life and broadened our meal options, and the accountant in me loves that not only are we not wasting food, but our grocery bill is budgeted as one static line item, and it is less expensive than what we used to spend on groceries. Plus, OUR KIDS EAT IT. <-- that's a major wow right there, from the little people who prefer pizza and noodles to just about everything. Time saved: 3 hours grocery shopping and meal planning time per week; approx 45 mins cooking daily, since the meals are designed to be quick to cook. (Quick note - you can only subscribe to 5 days a week - wish it was 7! - so plan accordingly for the other two days).
Total time per week taken back for us: approx 8 hours - that is an entire day. Seriously.
3. For our non-perishables, aka TP, paper towels, and things like shampoo, we order online once a week from Walmart.com. We used to order everything from Amazon Pantry, but recently I did some price checks, and was a little embarrassed at how much more we were paying on grocery items from Amazon. On the same pack of toilet paper, we paid $6 less at Walmart.com than Amazon. Plus, free 2 day shipping without Prime. So, our food arrives every Tuesday, and our household goods arrive on Wednesday. I pay marginally more to buy online (5% or so), but if you add up gas and effort, plus the ability to reorder recurring items without fuss, it is worth it, and less expensive than driving to the store. Plus, with our current flu epidemic we like to think we are doing our part to not get sick!
I fully expect to keep watching pricing, but I'm happy as a clam.
If we forget something, there is always Instacart, or a quick trip to Food Lion during Karate class. I love Instacart, but I think grocery delivery of this nature is still in its infancy, and I hate all the plastic bags. Plus, the delivery fees and tip add a bit more than I'm happy with. I've only ordered things a few times, but it is a great service to have available, nonetheless. I'd like a more environmentally friendly packaging option (heck for all three services - there are more boxes this way than going to the store ourselves), but we reuse them, and I am pretty sure if I thought through it I could find an option or request to use different bags.
4. My favorite splurge - a cleaning service. So far this year I've gotten away without having someone come over and help me keep things orderly once every few weeks, but if things get too hairy I keep this card in my back pocket. For my home, one service costs around $150, and the business that cleans our house is amazing. They even do toilet paper flowers, just like a hotel. Seriously, I feel so spoiled when they come by!
During the summer I do my own cleaning on the weekends, but it is nice when things get a little stressful to understand that delegation is not limited to the business.
5. Get some help. My wonderful, sweet mom actually works here part time, twice a week. She helps me with data entry, spreadsheet formatting and other administration, and is a complete godsend. If we aren't too busy, she won't come by, but getting to spend time with mom, catch up, and get some extra work completed is a lifesaver.
For other businesses this might mean outsourcing (a great time to work on specializations) - we've done some of that this year as well and referred out to trusted colleagues when necessary - hiring a part-timer from Robert Half or another staffing agency, or a mix. There are services out there that will do everything from answer phones to enter data and more. If you know the resources at your disposal you can cut down a little bit on the intensity of the workday on occasion.
6. For professionals with kids, this is a great time to make sure that they are assigned age appropriate chores, and understand that they are helping with a family effort. My daughter is responsible for cleaning her play room, her bedroom, and putting away her and her brother's clothes. She gets a weekly allowance on her Greenlight card - also amazing - it is a pre-loaded debit/payment card for minors with parental controls and the ability to toggle off and on. I hate the $4.99 fee a month, but it is worth it at her age. I may change when a better product comes along (and I fully expect one to). She is happy helping out, and she is learning responsibility. Little stinker has already saved close to $200 this year, so once the balance gets to around $300 I plan to sweep it into an interest bearing savings account.
At the end of the day, it is progress not perfection, and you have to breathe. I am terrible at stressing out when I feel like I have too much to do, but the above steps have helped me to tame a little bit of the chaos. I have other tactics I employ, but the above ideas are very impactful in my daily life.
Make sure you make time for self care - have a good breakfast and make time for lunch (wow, the mom in me is strong today), and some light exercise and sleep. The rest will have to fall into place, because if the foundation isn't there, then the brain won't be either.