How to stay organized, make time for you and win your day.
Life is hard, sometimes messy and often just pure chaos. For me, an entrepreneur and mom of three, staying organized is the key to keeping the shiz from hitting the fan.
The number one question I get asked during interviews, on podcasts and by clients, is how do I manage to run a business, raise three kids and make time for myself? The answer is time management and implementing a solid routine.
Juggling one, two or however many kids you may have - school schedules, play dates for the littles or busy social lives for the teens, business meetings, deadlines, squeezing in a workout or never mind a date night. It can be a multitasking frenzy at times!
For me being an entrepreneur is a whole other stratosphere from working my corporate job, simply because work doesn't end at 5 pm. It is just the nature of the beast, work goes with me everywhere I go, so capitalizing on those little pockets in my day is gold.
In my 20 plus years working in my previous careers, 18 years of being a Mom and 4 years of being an entrepreneur, I have learned some tricks and I thought you might find some of them helpful.
1. Determine Your Non-Negotiables.
What are the things that are most important to you? The things that if your day goes sideways these things take priority. These are the things that you do every day, no matter what. Decide what they are and put them in your schedule every single day. My non-negotiables are 10 minutes of quiet meditation, a journaling and gratitude practice, personal development, usually a book I'm leaning into and 30 minutes of exercise.
2. Wake Up Early.
What time do you need to be up in the morning? Now turn the alarm back an hour, that's what time you should be up in the morning. Getting up before your troops in the key. If you wake up 5 minutes before waking up your kids, I promise you you’ll set the tone for the rest of your day ... chaos! Use the extra hour to set your intentions for the day, have your morning coffee (while its hot) and make a list or tend to your non-negotiables.
3. Establish a Solid Morning Routine.
I used to make excuses as to why I couldn’t do certain things. I know you have told them to yourself as well “there is never enough hours in the day” or “if I have free time, I should (insert activity) with my kids”. Whatever your excuses are, that’s on you. If there are things you genuinely want to do and you feel there isn’t enough time, then wake up earlier and make the time.
The reality for me is, my days no matter how well I plan them out, something almost always comes up. I was ending each day feeling like I was giving to my business, clients, staff, kids, husband and I was the last person to make time for. I developed a morning routine that is all mine, from 5:30 am - 7:30 am I dive into me. 90% of my non-negotiables happen in the morning and I start my day feeling like I have already accomplished so much. Mornings are the only time in my day where nobody needs me, there is nothing to interrupt me and I am in full control of how I start my day. I truly believe that if you can win your morning, you will win your entire day.
4. Make a List a.k.a Map Out Your Day.
There is always a list a million things long that you could add to your to-do list. But adding too many things is just setting yourself up for failure. Make a list of the top three priorities for the day, and then a list of secondary tasks. If you are anything like me, I love checking things off my to-do list, I find it so validating. You better believe that the first things on my list are my non-negotiables and they get checked off before most people are even out of bed!
5. Time Blocking and Batching.
As an entrepreneur, I wear many hats and sometimes it can get overwhelming. When I sit down to work, I have found I am most successful if I time block and batch my tasks to prevent information overload and maximize the time I have. If you are in a zone of writing then interrupting your flow with phone calls or meetings is only going to frustrate you. Batch similar tasks together and block the time in your schedule. I will go into more detail on this in an upcoming blog.
6. Schedule Time For You.
This is perhaps the most important point, but the one that I will hazard to guess is the last thing to happen. I can say that because I've been there. I know this is cliché, but you can’t pour from an empty cup ladies. Ditch the guilt and schedule in a little self-care, and a shower isn’t self-care, that’s personal hygiene. Want to get in a workout? Put it in your calendar. Need to get a blowout (shameless plug), nails done or an upper lip wax? Schedule it!! And I don’t mean, adding it to a pending section for if there is time let in the day, schedule it and lock it down!
7. Meal Planning & Prepping.
I think the saying goes something like, fail to plan and prepare to fail. I know you can relate when we don't plan our meals or have the ingredients on hand for healthy meals we make bad decisions that don’t serve us and are damaging for the bank account. With both my husband and I working busy jobs and three kids who are all in extracurricular activities, our evenings are often running around, so there is no time for whipping up a dinner on the fly. Tip: online grocery shopping is a huge timesaver and you only buy what you need.
8. Regular Family Meetings.
This is where the magic happens. If I am being totally transparent, my teenage boys hate this, but they are 50% of the reason this activity is imperative. This is a scheduled block of time on Sundays where we sit down as a family and discuss the week ahead, what we all have on the go. This way we can make sure our calendars are up to date, we can minimize the unexpected and let each other know where we might need some support. For example, if I know one of my kids needs to be driven somewhere we can make those arrangements in advance, if I have a deadline I am working towards, then my family knows that I may need an extra hand around the house, or if my husband is on a work assignment that is going to require overtime, then I know the things I have to be around for. We also discuss our meals for the week and put those in the schedule too!
Communication is key and dedicating time to discuss the week ahead ensures our family of five is all on the same page and helps us avoid the unexpected.
9. Establish a Night Time Routine.
You can’t have a successful morning without a solid night routine. Plan today for tomorrow ... makes sense right! This doesn't have to be complicated, for me I shut down all devices an hour before bed, I lay out my workout clothes for the morning, prepare my morning nook with all the things I need for my morning, I make my list for the following day, review the next day's schedule and hop in a hot bubble bath.
10. Be Flexible and Have Grace.
Even the perfect plan can fall apart. Things will without a doubt come up and that is okay, be flexible and shift things around as necessary. Don’t stress and give yourself some grace. We are all just doing our best and sometimes when things go sideways we need to ask for help. It takes a village and from time to time the rhythm of life skips a beat. Take a pause, go back to your non-negotiables and forget the rest. Tomorrow is a fresh start.
I hope this was helpful. Remember this is what works for me, what works for you might be different. The point is to figure out what your system is that works for you in your season of life and always remember #10 to be flexible and give yourself grace. If you have questions, reach out to me via Instagram @im.nataliejames I would be happy to help in any way that I can.