How to plan your business around your life (not the other way around)

Schools out, now what?

It was a client meeting that changed my biz life.

Late last year, I met with some clients to talk about a PR plan for the first half of 2016. Both women are mums and both have three young kids, like me.

As we sat at the table in a local café, they talked me through their marketing schedule. “In term 1 we’re unveiling our new packaging and releasing product A. In term 2, we’re launching the new shop and…”

Wait a minute. Did she say term 1?

Yes, yes she did.

Not quarter 1. Not the first half of the year. The first school term of the year. (Here in New Zealand, the school year matches the calendar year).

Now I know that might seem like a simple enough planning strategy. But until that day it had not occurred to me to map out my biz year according to the school terms. For a working mum, this was a genius plan.

A big part of my ‘why’ is to create work that is flexible and fits with my family. But as anyone who is starting an online business knows, entrepreneurship takes a heck of a lot of work. There have been far too times my kids have had to put up with a busy and distracted Mum, or got talked into watching a movie while I finished a blog or a client project. Too many times when I’ve thought how nice it would be to have a job with defined work hours.

Every time the holidays came around, I would get stressed out trying to manage client projects and book all my calls on set days, while struggling to sort out simultaneous childcare for all three kids.

Even though I’d worked for myself for years, I was still trying to fit my life around my work.

I was still stuck in my employee ways, contorting myself to try and meet others’ expectations and timetables.

But when my clients pulled out their marketing plan, I suddenly realised that as an entrepreneur, I have a choice. I don’t have to do things the way they “should” be done. And I want my kids to remember the holidays for all the fun times together, not feeling like they were constantly pushed off to childcare (of the real or digital kind).

I can choose to fit my work around my life.

After that breakthrough meeting, I added “term time work schedule” to my biz vision board and started talking to other mums in biz about the concept. People loved it, but there were lots of concerns too. How would it work in practice? And what would my clients say? I could sense a lot of fear about stepping outside the norm, of not being available to our respective clients.

But the more I thought about it, the more I thought – why not give it a go? Why not create that business vision now instead of consigning it to the realms of some day?

Still, it took me half a year to shift my biz planning over to a school term method. My goal was to schedule my product launches, face-to-face client work, workshops and done-for-you projects into term time. This would leave the school holidays for planning, marketing and the general bits and bobs that keep things ticking along, to be done in the evenings and weekends, or in those brief windows when the kids are happily occupied.

So these July holidays, I’ve finally blocked out my calendar for the full two weeks. I won’t be taking any client appointments, or starting any new done-for-you projects over this time.

Does this mean that I will be downing tools for the whole of the school holidays? Heck no!

I’m running a new round of my FREE Write to the Heart of Your Message sessions, finishing off a couple of existing client projects, putting the final touches on my rebrand, writing my upcoming Customer Intelligence workshop, blogging and posting on social media, replying to emails… all while resisting the urge to add other pressing tasks like “create my new lead magnet” and “create a new digital product” to that list.

It’s a lot – actually, I know already that it’s too much. There will be many stolen hours late at night, in the early morning or the weekends.

And sticking to my resolve has not been easy. I’ve already had to say “no” to a couple of clients who wanted to bring their appointments forward, when my fear/ego was telling me that “Of course I could squeeze in just one appointment….”

But every time I explained the commitment I had made to myself and to my kids, I was met with nothing but love and grace. Other than the summer break (and I’ll deal with that when it comes around), the April, July and September school holidays are only two weeks long. That’s not so long to wait for an appointment and my clients know they can email me in between if they need help.

Meanwhile my daughter is turning nine during the holidays, so there’s a cake to make, a birthday party to plan, sleepovers to arrange, a Lego show to attend, meetings for the school committee, brownies to bake, trips to the library  and countless games of rugby, soccer and hockey to be played on the lawn or at the park.

My term time schedule is an experiment in progress and will be for a while yet. But if you’re going to go to all the hassle of building a business, why not do it in a way that works for you?

Now I want to hear from you. What are you doing – or what could you do – to make your work fit into your life, rather than the other way around? And what’s holding you back from doing it? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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