This post is well timed given I have just arrived back in the country, being away on my own for 17 days! It is an answer to this question below and many like it that I received in the annual PWK survey last year.
How do you manage working full time on your blog & running & organising household of 7 people??
I thought the best way to answer this question was to break it down into key areas of my life, like most with most answers, it isn’t straight forward and it doesn’t just involve me!
Having a strong goal
I have found when you have competing demands you need a clearly defined and measurable goal to keep you focused. This goal for me is to be planned, present and patient mother. As all the demands for my time come in, I assess them in terms of how are they helping me achieve this goal. This does mean saying no to things that I would like to do. It does mean saying yes to some things that I would rather not do. They are hard decisions, but are made easier by having a clear goal and long term focus.
My hours of work
For most of last year I would have worked 25 – 30 hours a week in a good week and in busier periods it was closer to 35 hours a week. 35 hours a week was too much for me and the family. My key focus to help me achieve my goal for 2015 has been to work less hours.
For the first few months of this year I reduced my work load to consistently below 25 hours per week and over the last month I have reduced it further to around 20 hours per week and the difference has been huge on me, how I feel and therefore the impact I have on the family.
How did I reduce my hours?
I have dropped off one key project that I was doing last year, the Planning With Kids calendar. As much as I loved working on the calendar, when I did an analysis of the time spent on it, it became clear that it was not a viable project to continue, so I accepted with much sadness that there will not be a 2016 calendar.
I have become very disciplined about my start and finish times for work and I have cut out any low value added tasks that I can. I am spending less time on social media, as I have written about previously too often I would be on social media for “work” but was honestly not really working.
Has this affected my income?
No. My income has stayed the same, at this stage. There may be a slight reduction in monthly revenue in an upcoming month or two, but I am working on a new project that if all goes well, will make up for that by the year’s end. Bottom line though, for how I am feeling and for the increased family harmony, a slight drop in income would have been worth it.
Creating firmer boundaries for work and home
To achieve the reduction in hours and not a reduction in quality of output, I needed to create firmer boundaries for work and home. The weekly schedule I created this year has been my guide and worked really well. There of course is flexibility in this, like attending Mother’s Day celebrations at school when I would usually be working, but in the majority of instances, if I am scheduled to be working then I stick to that and if it is family time, devices are put down and it is time to be with the family.
Sticking to the schedule helps me keep on track of everything. It allows me to work on autopilot, put the load of washing on so everyone will have the right uniforms the next day for example. I no longer leave to chance that I will remember everything as I simply won’t. The weekly schedule is the foundation for me being able to manage my work load and my family. It is also how I fit in my running.
A running routine
I love long distance running. I adored running the Boston Marathon a couple of weeks ago (you can read my recap here). I had a great program that told me what I needed to do every day.
I would look across the week at what I had to do on Sunday night and work out what tweaks if any I needed to make to my schedule. I would look and see if the running for the week would require my husband to be around at times he wouldn’t usually be. There were some weekday mornings when I had long runs to complete, I needed him to leave for work a little later than usual. I would let him know as soon as I had worked this out to see if he could do it. He always made every attempt to help me out with this, for which I was grateful.
Each night I would get my running gear out, set my alarm and would get up as soon as it went off, no matter how early it was. I tried to minimise the time impact my long distance running had on the kids, so early mornings and I are quite good friends. I simply couldn’t take three hours in the middle of a Saturday or Sunday on a regular basis. In the marathon training program I just finished this meant many mornings when my alarm would go off well before 5am.
I actually like running early morning anyway. It is absolutely my favourite way to start the day, that and a WOD at CrossFit! People will often say things along the lines of “you are so disciplined” but I don’t really see it that way. I have a goal I want to achieve, I create a habit of running early morning and then I just do it. It becomes a part of my day, just like making dinner for the kids and reading stories at bedtime.
Missing out on things
I do miss out on lots of things because I choose to run long distance. I will miss a class dinner mid week, as I need to get things organised at home and get to bed early so I can do the long run planned on my training program.
I don’t do lots of coffee catch ups after school drop off. I need to be home by a certain time to keep everything ticking along. Somedays I will though and then I need to do catch up later that evening if I do.
Along with the question at the start of this post, there were also a few questions in the survey like this:
- Do you actually get any time to spend with your friends or to just veg out?
- How much ‘me’ time do you make for yourself a week. Not including exercise time.
In the big mileage weeks of my training plan, there isn’t much just vegging out or hanging out with friends. I accept this as part of the trade off for the enjoyment I get from my running.
One of my goals with reducing my work hours has been to be able to have more time for friends and time that isn’t scheduled for me to be doing something. I am getting closer to that point and am really looking forward to it happening.
I fully acknowledge that my ability to work, run and spend time with the family happens because everyone in the family contributes. The kids help out around the house (you can see an example of what they do in our family contribution schedule), are used to me running in the early mornings and are continually growing in independence.
My husband and I work as a team. He has undertaken challenges like the Kokoda Trek and an Ironman which I fully supported. He has fully supported my business endeavours and sporting goals like running the Boston Marathon. We use our online calendars to book in times so we know each others movements and what that means for the other.
My husband also contributes significantly to the household workload as well. He irons all the school shirts, he will vacuum and do washing, cook an occasional meal and our garden only looks nice because he takes care of it.
I am not perfect
I am far from perfect and combining working, being a mum and running is always a work in progress. Sometimes it takes me over a week to respond to comments on the blog or facebook. It is not that don’t appreciate and read these comments when they come in, I do, but sometimes when it comes to the end of my allocated time for social media and email, I haven’t made it through all of them. I am working on getting better at this and becoming quicker at replying, so if I owe you a reply, please know I am working on it and will get there.
Last year I took on too much work and I have learnt from that. I used to view my time as being pretty much endless as to what I could spend on the business, but it is not the case. I am still tweaking to find the right amount of time that works for all of us. I am sure there will be more missteps, but I feel very much that I am on a better path.
I am not great at calling my friends and family on the phone. I have been much better at it this year, but still need to improve. I can be content staying at home at night on the weekends, but need to get out a little more to make sure I see some of the fabulous people I have in my life more often. Same can be said for entertaining at home, I have become out of the habit of doing this and really need to get back into it. So there is still much I can do to improve how I combine all aspects of my life successfully.
How do you combine the major roles in your life? Do you find you have to give up something to achieve something else?
This post is part of a series on the blog called Motherhood and Me. Click here to read more posts in this series.