Susannah’s story – how small changes created time to start her own business

A few weeks ago in my newsletter I shared a little snippet from a story of a mum who made a number of small changes in her life that have had a huge impact on her and her family’s life. Today I have the full story and I am sure, like me, you will find it inspirational. Susannah completed my Planned + Present E-course in June 2017 and embraced the key concepts with gusto to make these changes – congratulations on your hard work Susannah!

Tell me a little bit about you and your family

My husband, Ben, and I met in 2007. Ben is a very calm person who is very disciplined about his time management and maintaining his health and fitness. We definitely complement each other and I love his approach to life (and him!).

We have three children. Our eldest child is seven and our youngest is three. Our middle child was stillborn. I do my best to raise awareness of stillbirth – six babies are stillborn in Australia every day and this rate has not changed in the last 20 years. I was largely unaware of stillbirth until it happened to me. I believe that there needs to be awareness and understanding of an issue before a change can happen.

Prior to tracking your time, how did you feel about the time you had to get everything done?

I felt that there was never enough time in the day. It was a case of, “If only I had more time, I would be able to do all the things I need and want to do.”

What did you find out when you tracked your time?

It was eye-opening! Through time tracking, I had a huge realisation. It was this:
I was hardly doing anything without using my phone AT THE SAME TIME!
For example:

  • As I was making breakfast, I’d be looking at my phone.
  • As I was getting dressed, I’d be looking at my phone.
  • As I cooked dinner, I’d be looking at my phone.
  • As I tidied up, I’d be looking at my phone.

You get the idea.

Looking at my phone while I completed these routine tasks meant that it was taking me far longer than necessary to complete them.

For example, by looking at the data, I could see that preparing dinner while simultaneously checking my phone meant that this task was taking me, on average, more than two hours (I wasn’t preparing any gourmet meals and the preparation could definitely have been done in less time).

As a result of these routine tasks taking up so much time, I wasn’t getting to the things that I actually wanted to do.

Of course, before time-tracking, I was aware that I was using my phone while doing other things. However, I was significantly underestimating the extent to which it was happening. I was also telling myself that my phone use in this context didn’t really “count” as I was cleverly multi-tasking and making these tasks more interesting than they would otherwise be.

The time tracking exercise and the data it gave me really helped me to see the truth about the story I was telling myself about my phone use and confront the reality of the impact my phone use was having on my life.

What changes did you make?

I have made a number of changes. These are:

Keeping my phone out of reach and out of sight.

I actually keep it inside a container with three questions written on the lid.  The questions are: What For? Why Now? What Else?

The questions are there to prompt me to ask myself what I need to do on my phone, why I need to do it right now and what else I could be doing. This approach has been really effective as it forces me to be very conscious about the fact that I am checking my phone rather than doing it mindlessly.

Experimenting with single-tasking (thank you Nic) and learning more about mindfulness.

I used to think that I wouldn’t be able to complete routine tasks without the entertainment and distraction that my phone provides. However, when I tried it, I realised that focusing on one task at a time (even a tedious task) can be very calming and that the effects of that flow into other areas of my life. Of course, as I mentioned, single-tasking means that I get the routine tasks done more quickly than I did before.

When I feel drawn to check my phone while doing something else (it still happens), I find a mindful approach really helps. I have been learning more about mindfulness and I find it so helpful. I know ‘mindfulness’ has become a buzzword but I really encourage people to look beyond that and give it a go.

For me, mindfulness means returning my wandering mind (my mind likes to wander into the past and the future) to the present moment. I do this by simply paying attention to my breathing. I realised that when my mind wanders into the past or future, it can stir up uncomfortable emotions and I had a tendency to reach for my phone to distract myself from them. I have found that a few deep breaths can be really helpful in overcoming the desire to check my phone and return to the present.

Deleting social media apps from my phone.

The only social media app I had on my phone was Facebook. I was like a moth to a flame when it came to the Facebook newsfeed. I would pick up my phone to do one thing and, before I even realised what I was doing, I would find myself scrolling the feed. Nic, your description of the “zombie scroll” definitely applied to me!

Deleting the Facebook app from my phone has made a huge difference to my phone use.

I run my own business and Facebook plays an important part in this. I use the Facebook Pages app to manage my business page. This means I can stay on top of any messages sent to me via my business page but there is no risk of falling into the trap of scrolling my newsfeed.

I do still check Facebook via my laptop but I use a Chrome extension (Newsfeed Eradicator, thank you Nic) to block the newsfeed and only visit pages and group that I need to visit.

I completed the Mindful Technology Management course (thank you Nic) and this helped me in implementing many of these changes.

Changing my phone use is an ongoing process and one that I am still working on every day.

What made you want to start your own business?

The idea to start my business, The CV Studio, actually came to me late one night in September last year.

Let me rewind a little… when I finished uni, I was fortunate enough to secure a graduate HR position at Hewlett-Packard.

My family and friends often asked me for help in writing their CVs and cover letters. I was always happy to help as I worked with recruiters in my role at Hewlett-Packard and had insight into what they liked to see.

After Hewlett-Packard, I worked for an Australian technology and consulting organisation that specialised in recruitment technology for large organisations. Again, I was working very closely with recruiters and learnt a lot about how they use technology to make recruitment decisions.

So, late one night in September last year, I was reviewing a friend’s CV. As someone who knew her personally, I knew what an asset she would be to an organisation. However, I could also see her CV was not clearly conveying her skills and strengths. I knew recruiters would most likely miss all she had to offer because her CV was not written in a way that would capture their attention.

I realised that my friend, despite being highly skilled and an expert in her field, did not have the knowledge she needed to write a powerful CV. I also guessed that she probably didn’t enjoy updating her CV so probably only did it when she really had to do it.

It was a lightbulb moment. I realised that lots of people would be in the same situation as my friend and, that by starting my own business, I would have the opportunity to help a lot of people.

As a child I always loved to read and write. One thing I really love about my business is the opportunity it gives me to write on a very regular basis.

Throughout my career, I have gained the most satisfaction from helping others and I love that The CV Studio enables me to help people in a really practical and meaningful way.

What made you think you had time to start your own business?

My time tracking had shown me that I had a significant opportunity to create time in my day and I felt excited about what I could do with that time.

I was passionate about my business idea and I knew that I would make the time for it even if it meant I had to find different ways to get other things done.

What I have found – which has surprised me – is that I am energised by my business. This energy has enabled me to get things done (both inside and outside of my business) and I find that extremely satisfying.

How is it all going?

It is going extremely well!

I love working with my clients. I really enjoy collaborating with a client to create a CV and cover letter that will help them achieve their goals.

I also write professional biographies for business owners. A professional bio can be used on the About Me page of a business website and could also be used as part of a LinkedIn profile or as a speaker profile. I love capturing and telling a person’s story to help them connect with people.

There have been so many unexpected benefits that have come with running my own business.

I feel very connected with other women running their own businesses. It is such a positive and supportive community and I feel so fortunate to be a part of it.

Our seven year old has been inspired and she is now constantly looking for opportunities to start her own business!

I didn’t expect the personal growth that I have experienced as a result of running my own business. It is definitely a cycle of constant learning, challenging myself and applying new skills. I love it!

What is Susannah’s business?

Susannah’s business will be one of interest to many readers! It is The CV Studio and it offers a targeted CV and cover letter packages that are suitable for professionals and parents returning to the workforce.

Susannah has also created a free Facebook group Back to Work Mums! This group is for mums who are planning a return to the paid workforce, and mums who have already returned to work.

The group offers support, tips and info and Susannah offers free CV health checks to members of this group. You can also follow Susannah’s work one The CV Studio Facebook Page.

Need some help prioritising your time?

Sometimes the list of things we feel we have to do, the things we want to do and things other people want us to do can be overwhelming. Having a single goal can help you set your priorities and have a focus that you can filter decisions through. If you would like help setting a single goal then my e-course Planned & Present can help you. Through-out the course lessons you will be taken you on a journey where we work out where you are spending your time now, determine where you want to be spending it and creating a plan to get you there. The course will deliver to you:

  • Clarity and confidence to deal with competing interests – by determining your “why” you can make navigating this minefield much easier.
  • Creation of positive habits – through learning about why habits work and how you can fit them into your life permanently.
  • Routines, processes and plans to organise the chaos of family life – there are templates for you to use and routines to follow, so you don’t have to start from scratch.

Planned + Present is a seven week e-course to take you from feeling out of control and overwhelmed to feeling planned and present. It is a step-by-step guide on how to organise the chaos of family life while still leaving space to enjoy it.

With the drive of wanting to be organised it can be easy to forget why we want to be organised – to be able to spend more time enjoying our family. The course teaches you how to establish plans and processes for those repetitive tasks of family life, allowing you to be more effective and efficient with your time, so you can be more present with your family. It also shows you how you can spread some of the workload to others in the family, so you don’t feel like you are the worker bee all the time.

Planned and Present includes seven in-depth lessons, for you to work through. And with lifetime access to the course, you can do it at your own pace if you wish.

To find out more about Planned & Present and sign up for the course head here – Planned & Present.