How working moms find childcare that works for them

This week will be my kids’ last day of preschool.

Of course, Henry will return this fall, probably with his baby sister Audrey in tow. Daphne will head off to Kindergarten.

For the first time in their lives, they will be home for summer.

find childcare

The funny thing is, neither of them are exactly sure what this means. They don’t understand what taking a break from school is, because they’ve been in childcare for as long as they can remember.

As a working mom, I’ve always had to drop my kids off in someone else’s care so that I could go to work. Even when I made the decision to go out on my own a few years ago, I still relied on part time care in order to build my business with some kid-free time.

Since we’re counting down the months until Daphne starts “real deal” school, I thought it was about time my kids experienced a “real deal” summer. I want their skin to wrinkle from so much pool time. For them to lose track of what day of the week it is. And to {hopefully} sleep in, wear pajamas at lunchtime, and feel what it’s like to be bored from time to time.

That’s not to say that I won’t still need help.

This summer, we’ve hired a nanny who will come over every day so that I can keep consistent office hours. I’m thankful that we found a sweet college girl who can offer my kids a fun summer, while allowing me to get my work done and spend more time with them. After all, that with my motivation for working from home in the first place!

Over the years we’ve used daycare centers, in-home care, traditional preschools, grandparents, and now a nanny. Each of them have had their benefits and challenges, ranging from affordability, stimulation and personal attention. I’ve learned that childcare is hardly one size fits all!

Finding help with my first was one of the most stressful parenting decisions I’ve ever had to make. But over the years, I’ve uncovered several resources and tips that make choosing a childcare solution much simpler.

I’m going to share some of my best ideas on how to find childcare that works for you now.

The hybrid

When you begin your childcare search, you may think that a Monday through Friday option is the only way to go. But when we first had Daphne, we were super fortunate to find some part time care at an in-home facility that we loved.

To fill some of the gaps in our full-time work schedules, we had help from family, which was wonderful. My mom watched both Daphne and Henry at least one day a week for the first several years of their lives. Not only were we able to save a little bit of money by relying on family, but the bonding that my mom was able to do with her grandchildren was invaluable to them all!

This left us with one additional day to find help. I turned to care.com where I was able to research people online, look at their references, and narrow down the search pool. I got several candidates on the phone and luckily we found someone that we felt like would be a wonderful fit for our family.

By using a variety of resources to meet our childcare needs, we could save money, spend additional time with family, and know our children were in trusted hands getting one on one attention. It did take extra attention to detail to remember the different daily routines.

Ask for exactly what you want

We’re living in the age of influence marketing, and what better way to review testimonials than from other moms we know and trust!

I found my kids’ latest preschool from word of mouth. After touring, I felt like it would become a good fit for our children. I told them that full time care Monday through Friday was simply too much for us. By telling them what would work for us, we were able to negotiate a schedule that met our needs.

If you don’t have anyone to ask in person, there’s tremendous support to be found in local Facebook groups. When we moved to Texas, I immediately joined several neighborhood Facebook groups so that I could ask for recommendations on everything from pediatricians to repair man to things to do when it’s raining. If you aren’t already a part of some, try searching for the name of your neighborhood or city in the search bar and set the results to groups only.

When we decided to pull our kids out of preschool for the summer, this was just where I turned to find our summer nanny. In a local Facebook group, I posted an “ad” for exactly what our family was looking for – I listed our pay range, the hours needed, and even described our family and what I’d like the nanny to be doing with my kids this summer. In a matter of hours I had over a dozen people interested. I was able to narrow the inquiries by requesting that they follow up with resumes and referrals to my email. From there I interviewed a handful in person until we found the best fit for our family.

By setting the expectations up front, I only interacted with serious candidates who were willing to go above and beyond our family’s needs for a predetermined pay. While we are shelling out a little more cash per hour, I no longer have to worry about getting my kids ready for school or preparing meals in the morning. Plus, I know they’re having a blast doing fun activities planned just for them!

Think outside the childcare center

One of the things that was frustrating for me when we switched to a more traditional childcare facility was the lack of flexibility. I had to pay for the full day and the full week regardless of my intent to use this full time. And any working mom knows, childcare is expensive!

If you’re struggling to find exactly what you need from a preschool or daycare, consider setting up a co-op with friends, family or neighbors. This sort of arrangement is perfect for moms who work from home or work part-time. It’s a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” agreement in which both moms take turns watching each others’ kids while the other one works.

No matter what route you go with your childcare needs, it’s important to remember two things: trust your gut, and you can always change your situation.

Finally, try to remember that your child will be just fine. This is probably the hardest one to get over as a working mom, but it’s true! You are a fabulous mother and you are doing wonderful things for your family by working.

How did you find childcare that worked for you?

The top 7 apps & websites making a working mom’s life easier

Moms are busy. Really busy.

Add a JOB to the mix and it’s a wonder we get anything accomplished each day. {Ignore that pile of laundry in the corner.}

I’m always looking out for the best resources for working moms that make my life just a little bit easier. That means fewer to-dos, and more time back in my day for the things I really care about.

I’ve rounded up the top seven apps and websites that all working moms need to know about to rock it at work and at home all from your smart phone.

theSkimm

online resources for working moms theskimm

As someone with an interest in current events, but very little time to actually stay current, I rely on theSkimm. Their tagline promises to “make it easier to be smarter” and it does just that. In the time it takes me to nurse Audrey in my bed in the morning, I get briefed – and entertained – on the latest happenings around the globe. If time allows, I can dive in deeper to the news stories via the links theSkimm provides. If I have a hungry toddler begging for breakfast or a pressing work issue, I can come back to it later or wait until the next day.

Target

online resources for working moms target

There’s a reason moms are known for loving Target. Affordable prices, cute items, a Starbucks by the front door? Yes, please. But as much as I love the store, going there with all three kids in tow is pretty stressful. So I’ve turned to the Target & Cartwheel app. After I had Audrey, I was feeling a little down about not fitting in my usual clothes. Using the Target app I was able to skip the store, order a variety of items in a variety of sizes and try them on in my own home. Read: without the unforgiving lighting of a department store dressing room! I scored free shipping, and an easy in-store return that I completed with only one baby and no toddlers {and picked up my latte on the way out}.

Amazon

online resources for working moms amazon

When I went on bedrest with Audrey I knew I was going to need help when it came to errands. It was right before the holidays and I needed to do all of the Christmas shopping for our family. I quickly turned to online shopping and fell in love with the convenience of Amazon Prime. I was officially converted into an online shopper.  The real game changer was when my husband gave me the Amazon Echo Dot a few months later. This product tells me the weather so I don’t have to track down my phone, confirms my calendar appointments, adds things to my shopping and to-do lists, and even orders stuff through my Amazon Prime account all with simple voice commands. Plus, Daphne has learned how to ask for some pretty fun family dance parties. “Alexa, play the Trolls soundtrack…”

InstaCart

online resources for working moms instacart

The other thing I had to figure out while I was on bedrest was the groceries. Luckily, I found the InstaCart app. It’s like the Uber of groceries. Pick your local store, select your food items, and schedule a delivery time that works for you. The app even has great features that allows messaging back and forth, like if you have really picky eaters who only eat a certain ripeness of banana {Henry}, or if the store is out of an item. It’s so simple and convenient, that I was able to order groceries for my family while still in the hospital after giving birth. Someone took care of the shopping, and delivered the groceries my husband at home with our older two.

76th & Newbury

We didn’t find out the gender with our last baby, which made setting up a nursery a bit of a challenge. I knew our new bundle would be in our room for the first few months, so I didn’t worry…until she was born! I realized I was crazy to think I would be able to go out and shop for her room with three kids. And I was already feeling badly that she didn’t have a beautiful room to come home to like the others did. Luckily, 76th & Newbury provides completely custom artwork for the home without leaving the house. I was able to create prints just for Audrey that matched her bedding perfectly. I was super impressed with their customer service. Through my many rounds of edits to make sure it was just right, they always made me feel like the project wasn’t done until I was completely happy.

Poshmark

online resources for working moms poshmark

My husband discovered this app after cleaning out his closet and uncovering a bunch of hardly worn clothes and accessories. Poshmark keeps the clutter at bay while earning a few bucks! Since becoming a mom, I’ve always been into shopping at Consignment events like Just Between Friends. But now that I’m on the other side with some of our items, the cleaning, sorting, tagging, dropping off, etc. overwhelms me. In the Poshmark app, you snap a pic from your phone, add a description and price. Once the items sells, you simply print the shipping label and drop it off at a nearby UPS and wait to collect your cash. My husband has sold random things from jerseys to watches, and I’ve already had great luck in the maternity and children’s sections!

Greetabl

Greetabl calls itself “the total gifting experience made easy.” And I’m totally obsessed. I’ve sent it for every reason you can imagine – babies, birthdays, losses, and just because. I love it for those times when a full blown gift may be a little much, but a card doesn’t seem to say quite enough. With each box I’ve sent, I was able to customize with photos and patterns, and add a small gift -such as chocolate or handmade soap – with just a few clicks from my phone. It’s the perfect gesture for letting friends and family know I’m thinking about them even when life gets in the way.

Best Resources for Working Moms

What are your favorite online resources? How do they help you keep your life organized and simplified as a working mom? Tell me in the comments!


The links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

12 mompreneur tips for thriving {not just surviving} during the holidays

Holidays are such a special time to spend with family and friends. I love the lights, the traditions, the food, and the extra time at home with my loved ones. Yet, just because my kids get off from school, doesn’t mean my business stops – or even slows down.

So I took to the experts…fellow business owners and mamas who juggle their careers and their kiddos….to ask what tips they suggest for not just surviving, but thriving while working from home during the holidays. Keep reading to find out what I learned!
mompreneur tips

Plan ahead & stay organized.

 

Schedule out your days! While the holidays can often throw routine into chaos, take the time NOW to actually schedule out what needs to be done and by when; don’t just make a “to do” list and expect it’ll get done. Just because there’s only a few days left in the year doesn’t mean it’s time to slack off; get ready to rock 2017!

-Amber,  Thrifty Guardian and Embracing Temerity

 

 

Plan ahead! Make a schedule of play and working blocks, and have a few activities in your back pocket to keep the kids busy while you stay on your grind. Don’t forget to give your clients the heads up, too – send out an email outlining your holiday availability, noting any alterations to your office hours and reminding them of your preferred contact method.

-Resa, Eye Heart Creative

 

I use Trello during the holidays (especially my holiday gift and card planning board which helps me to brainstorm gifts and makes sure I’m mailing presents out on time.) I also use Trello to keep track of what is happening with my business and household, including recipes and meal plans, which takes a lot of stress off of me. Trello gives me confidence and allows the holidays to be more fun this year, since I’m in it all the time for my business anyway. It’s easy and fun.

-Dana Malstaff, Boss Mom

 

Find the time{r} to work with your kids.

 

Working with kids in the home is challenging. The one tip that keeps me focused and productive – and this has worked from 3 years old to the teen years – has been a timer and working in time blocks. My young children were able to watch a timer and keep themselves busy for 20 minutes in the other room while I did a deep focus block. I worked the way up to 45 minute blocks as they got older. I have found that with 2-4 focus blocks a day, I can conquer most of the heavy lifting.

– Cecily, Cecily: Nutrition, Love and Transformation

 

I use a pomodoro timer. I set it for 20 minute increments and I can only work during that time. No checking email, no social media, no attending to house work. You would be amazed how much you get done when the time is ticking…literally!

-Kristin, Pond Photography

 

 

During school vacations, I move my work from the home office to the kitchen. This way, I am literally running a command center within reach of everyone and everything we need. If there is a stretch of time coming up when I know that I need to be engaged with work, I try to have a ‘favorite’ on hand for the girls. Homemade play-doh is a double whammy, because we make it together which takes about 10 minutes, but then they have an open ended activity that – after a good raid of the junk drawer – can literally last hours!

-Jenna, Rodan + Fields Independent Consultant

Set boundaries for yourself

The holidays are my busiest season and I have to be very intentional about setting boundaries. When it’s Family Cookie-Baking Night, I don’t worry about Christmas shopping or work. When I’m working, I’m don’t feel guilt over the millions of Pinterest holiday crafts I could be doing with my kids. Peace is attainable if we fully engage in the task at hand and look for joy in the process.

– Jillian, Jillian Jones Music

 

Without a clearly defined schedule, it’s easy to lose yourself in work and totally miss out on family time. After all, isn’t the ability to be more present with our loved ones a big reason many of us work from home? Mark your off times in a calendaring system (I use Acuity Scheduling’s free plan) for your clients, put your hours on your website and in your email signature, and send your clients a note letting them know your hours. Block off personal time and guard it with your life. I promise, this Spring you won’t look back and regret having spent a little less time on your business and a little more with your kids during the holiday season

-Becky, Becky Mollenkamp, LLC

 

Take some time out for you. It sounds like a near impossible task with everything going on during the holidays, with work, the kids, and holiday commitments. Find some time to allow yourself to check out from your business, even if for a night after the kiddos are in bed, to Netflix binge, take a relaxing bubble bath, or enjoy a glass of wine to let your mind take a holiday, too!

-Britt, Home Sweet Hyatt

 

And finally, don’t forget what the season is really about….

 

The key to thriving in the holiday season is maintaining a place of rest and refreshment in your home for you and your family. Simply put, it’s about less stuff. In our culture we live and breathe a constant flash of discounts, sales, and good deals. And because of that, our homes can easily be filled with all of those things. Keep the season focused on enjoying your loved ones and experiencing life with them, let the new year ring in with memories, not overload of things that were accumulated through the month of December.

-Amy, Simplified Home

 

I think the holiday season is all about giving grace and savoring the moments.  As working moms we need to really allow ourselves the opportunity to fully enjoy those memories we’re creating with loved ones, but it’s also a lucrative time for many of us professionally.  Doing our best with what is truly important and forgetting the rest {for me it’s Christmas cards this year} is what makes thriving this season possible.

-Gwen, The Makerista

 

The holidays are all about spending time with loved ones and making good memories. My tip for working mamas is to plan what you can & let go of the rest. Plan/schedule out your work times and your fun times – be realistic knowing that you will want to let your hair down a bit in this season. Also, know that not everything will go according to plan, and that’s okay too.

-Veronica, Radiant Life Consulting

 

 


What tips would you add to the list to up your efficiency while working from home during the holidays? Share them in the comments!

Leap Day: 24 things you should do with your extra 24 hours

Leap Day too busy

How often do you claim to be too busy to take on a new project at work, join another committee, meet up with a friend, indulge in a pedicure, or even just finish simple household chores?

I know I’m guilty of dropping the “I don’t have enough time” excuse more often than I’d care to admit.

But that’s exactly what it is: an excuse. The reality is that we do make time for the things that we value the most at the moment.

What we really mean when we say “I don’t have enough time” is that the thing we’re too busy to do simply isn’t a priority.

We’ve all wished for just a few more hours in the day, but have you ever thought about how you’d spend that time if you actually had it?

Well, every four years we get our wish on February 29. Leap Day quite literally boosts our year with an extra twenty-four hours. Are you making the most of your bonus day?

Here are 24 things I’m going to do today that in a typical 365-day calendar year would probably fall off of my to-do list. {Hint: saying, “I don’t have enough time” isn’t one of them.}

1. Wake up early

If I’ve got an extra 24 hours to get things done, I’m certainly not going to waste it sleeping. As my husband would say, “Carpe Diem.”

2. Meditate

If you know me, being still and quiet takes some serious focus. It means clearing some time in my schedule when I can be by myself. While I rarely create time and space for this, the reality is that it leaves me more calm and more creative.

3. Research a house project

Neither my husband nor myself are super handy when it comes to housework, plus it would take us triple the time it would take a professional. So for today, I’m going to prioritize which project needs to come next {likely freshening up our exterior paint job} and start researching the man {or woman} for the job.

4. Listen to a podcast

I love Podcasts. I think it’s a great way to sneak in some professional development. If I’m honest, I actually do this most days anyway, but I’m typically multitasking while I listen {either cooking dinner or jumping on the elliptical}. Today I’m going to sit back and relax while I check out this new podcast a friend recommended.

5. Read a book

My husband loves to read. He works much longer hours than I do outside of our home. Then he has to pay bills, take out the trash, help with bath time, play with the kids, fix the broken toys, etc. when he gets home. But he always makes time to read. Because for him, it’s a priority. I, on the other hand, am the worst at making a date with a good book. I’m going to snuggle up with a new read {it was a Christmas present I have yet to begin} with my extra 24 hours today.

6. Go out for lunch

I’ve always been guilty of eating lunch at my desk. While this is a habit I will likely return to tomorrow for productivity’s sake, today I’m heading out to a restaurant and fully intend to enjoy my time away from my computer.

7. Put laundry away

Based on conversations with other moms, I’m doing okay in this category. Regardless, my lag time from dryer to laundry basket to dresser drawers is still about 1.8 days. Some families do just fine ditching the drawers altogether, but this mom is going to set aside some time to put the laundry away while the kids are at school.

8. Enjoy a cup of coffee outside

If you live in Kansas City, you know the weather has been absolutely gorgeous lately. With another cold front on the way; however, this morning I’m going to soak up the sunshine with a cup o’ joe on my back deck.

9. Take a bath

I love to take baths, yet I probably only do it a handful of times a year. Maybe it’s because our children use our bathtub and so it’s filled with toys and God knows what else, but today I’m going to light a candle, grab a glass of wine and relax with some bubble bath.

10. Drink a glass of wine

See No. 9. {Sauvignon blanc, please.}

11. Light a candle

See No. 9. {I usually only light a candle when we have company coming over and I want our house to smell cleaner than it really is.}

12. Support a cause

I mailed a gift to a local charity that’s close to my heart. It wasn’t the hands on approach I wish I’d planned for today, but having worked for a not-for-profit, I know that every gift matters.

13. Call a friend

I got a jump start on this over the weekend, but plan to follow up today. If you have a friend who lives in a different city than you, it’s time to pick up the phone and call them. Leave a voicemail. Follow up with an email if you need to. Just remind them how important they are in your life with something a little more personal than an emoji text or Facebook post like.

14. Stretch

Whether I pop in a yoga video or just do some simple stretches, this activity brings me the same calming benefits as meditation while making my body feel stronger and more bendy. While stretching is something I know is good for my body, it almost always gets overlooked.

15. Throw a dance party

Kind of like the podcasts, this is something my family does almost everyday anyway. We love to turn up the music and just be silly together. It gets us moving, interacting with each other and having fun. Every family should throw a dance part every single day!

16. Give a compliment to a stranger

The great thing about making other people feel good about themselves is that it has the powerful ability to make you feel better, too. I plan to fill my extra 24 hours with a lot more warm and fuzzies.

17. Take a different route

Driving down the same road everyday is incredibly mundane. My children’s school, dance class and grandparent’s house are all down the exact same road. Today I’m going to switch it up, even if it takes a bit longer. Plus, it’s actually good for your brain to take different paths!

18. Paint my nails

I don’t typically splurge on pedicures. The problem is that I also rarely take the time to properly self groom. With spring just around the corner, I’m going to spend some time polishing my piggies before someone notices the same coat of paint from the last time I wore sandals.

19. Try something new

I’m not exactly sure where I’m going to squeeze this in today {maybe I’ll order something I’ve never had before at my lunch out today?!}, but getting this extra time seems like the perfect opportunity to try something new.

20. Plan a vacation

I have a jump start on this one. My husband and I are heading to California this May for a close friend’s wedding. The plane tickets have been bought, but that’s about it. Oh, and we’re flying out of a completely different state than we’re flying into. Road trip! Time to start working through some of those details…

21. Learn about my city

Kansas City is an amazing place to live. Because I’m from here, I’ve always told my coastal friends what a great city we have here in the “flyover states,” but the truth is that I’ve only experienced a fraction of what KC has to offer. I’m going to spend some time researching my hometown and plotting our next date night or family outing.

22. Get involved

That’s right. This blog post started with me saying how busy I am, but I’m going to get more involved. Let me explain. My husband and I joined the Kansas City Chamber last fall, and I’ve only been to one event. What a waste! As an overly involved individual, I should know first hand that you get out of any organization what you put into it. It’s time to get involved.

23. Get ahead

I love to-do lists. I’m going to pick something that I hadn’t planned to work on until later this week and tackle it today. Man it feels good to get ahead!

24. Reflect on the day

I’m excited to find out if any of these activities make such an impact today that they stop being something I’m too busy to do moving forward.

Well, I’ve got a lot on my plate so I better get started. I want to know, how do you plan to spend your extra 24 hours today?

3 things to remember when your little ones get sick

sick kids

Last week was a long, runny-nose-filled sick one. In fact, I can’t recall a day when someone in my family wasn’t feeling a little {or a lot} under the weather since Thanksgiving.

Remember when the school called me last Monday about Henry’s fever? Well, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday came and went, and poor Henry still wasn’t quite looking ready to go back to school. I spent Friday morning taking him the pediatrician and the afternoon snuggling with him on the couch.

While he was incredibly cute and cuddly, I couldn’t help but feel distracted by the huge amount of work I had originally planned to do that day. And then I felt guilty that I felt so distracted. And then I felt stressed.

I mean, just as you cannot {or should not} bundle up your sweet sniffling toddler and send him off to daycare sick, you also cannot {or should not} neglect your work responsibilities, right?

My husband and I are incredibly lucky when it comes to sick days. We’re both self-employed, which means we don’t have anyone to call to request time off and we don’t have to eat away at our vacation time in order to be there for our children. This definitely is not the case for many parents.

But with this great flexibility, also comes an enormous amount of pressure.

My husband is fortunate that he has some great employees who can temporarily pick up the slack in his absence. I, on the other hand, am a one-woman show. If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.

Fortunately, I’m a planner and typically schedule out my clients’ needs days if not weeks in advance. But what about those emails? What about that meeting? What about this blog post?

Here’s what I want all working moms to know when their little ones gets sick:

1. Keep your guilt in check

The reality is that there are times when you will need to get work done in order to meet an important deadline and there are meetings that you absolutely cannot miss. But there are also times when you will need to be better at letting it go to be there for your child who needs you. No matter which situation you’re in when your little one gets sick, try to remember that you’re exactly where you need to be. Let the guilt go – whether it’s about the kids or work.

2. Know when to call for back up

We live in a society that assumes that mom will stay home. Maybe this is still true for some families, but that doesn’t mean it will always be true for you. Know who your alternates are ahead of time, because that nasty cold likely won’t call you in advance to schedule a babysitter. When you wake up in the morning with an unexpected sick kid and cannot be the one to stay home, you need to know who may be able to help you.

For me, it’s usually a matter of my husband and I comparing schedules. Can we trade off throughout the day? Does he need to stay home today so that I can be at that event and then we will switch tomorrow? I’m also incredibly lucky to have my parents just down the street as a plan B {although they too work}, as well as some fabulous neighbors.

3. Life happens

My kids coming down with a fever has hardly been the only reason for a work day gone awry. I’ve had my car break down on my way to work {before dropping my kids off}, inclement weather {I remember spending hours in the basement of the building I worked in during a tornado in the middle of an incredibly important meeting}, power/internet outages at the office, and on and on.

A sick kid is hardly the only thing that gets in the way of a productive work day. As working moms, we make adjustments all the time. {See? This blog post still got written.}

At the end of the day, someone has got to take care of the little one when he’s not feeling well. And I, for one, am glad it was me.

5 ways to actually achieve your goals this year

tips for accomplishing your goals

Monday is February 1st, which marks one month since you blissfully resolved to make this the best year yet. How are you doing on your resolutions or goals thus far?

I recently read that by Super Bowl weekend only 20% of goal-setters are still on track. And by Christmas? Only 5% will waive a victory flag.

But I’m here to tell you that I believe you’re a five percenter. The thing about goals is, if you do them right they can be an amazingly powerful tool to inspire and guide you! Plus, you’re in control of your own success {or failure}. We’ve already 1/12th of the way there, so let’s not waste anymore time.

1. Set smarter goals

We’ve all heard of SMART goals, but thanks to a fashion blog I follow I’m not making my goals SMARTER. If you know me personally, you know I’m probably not following it for the style tips {I live in yoga pants} but for their incredible business savvy. They put the “er” in “smarter” and I think it adds an extra dose of motivation. Who doesn’t want to be excited by their goals and rewarded for reaching them?!

Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timely, Exciting, Rewarded

Example: By December 31, 2016 (T), we will have 100 (M, R) new business members (S) join Femfessionals Kansas City (A). This goal excites me, because I’m passionate about growing a community of working women (E). When I achieve this goal, I’m going to throw a free event for all of our members (R)!

2. Look at it

A goal you can see is massively more powerful than a goal you keep hidden like a secret. Are you the creative type? Try making a vision board using magazine clippings. Now that you can literally see your goals, it’s time to tell someone else about them. Making yourself accountable to your friends and family is one of the best ways to stay on track.

3. Break it up

Many people abandon goals because they’re just too dang big. If you’ve done this to yourself, stop now. Change your game plan.
Select mini-milestones that all work toward your main goal. Let’s say your goal is to gain 100 new clients this year. That sounds a bit intimidating, doesn’t it? But if you break it into a monthly goal of 8-10 clients per month or about 2 a week, it becomes a more manageable goal. Split your big goals into bite size chunks and conquer it one sweet victory at a time.

4. Commit to yourself

There’s only one person in this goal-setting process that matters. You. Commit to yourself now and be prepared to recommit over and over again. The thing about achieving goals is that it’s a bit like riding a horse. You’re bound to get thrown off a few times. Commit to yourself so that you’ll climb right back on that saddle.

5. Start now

You know the saying, “Never put off for tomorrow, what you can do today.” They weren’t talking about folding your laundry {but don’t procrastinate there either or your clothes will be all wrinkled}. When it comes to going after what you want, you have to start now. So if you haven’t figured out what you want to accomplish this year, this month or this week, it’s time to go for it.

Big growth is just around the corner. What is your number one goal for this year?

How I’m cleaning up my work from home life

Friday is here which means I’ve survived my second week working from home. While I managed to stay on task and get my work complete, I cannot say that I was a role model for establishing some healthy work habits.

Earlier this week, I panicked. My sweet darlings are home with me on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which means I work quite a bit in the evenings. {A trade off I welcomed in exchange for more time with my family.}

Tuesday morning went all right. We painted and built race car tracks and played school bus. We kept busy, which kept the peace.

By mid-morning; however, things took a turn for the worse. I got anxious about my looming list of things to do before the kids returned to school on Thursday morning. I constantly felt pulled to respond to emails or do just one little thing that would earn a check mark of accomplishment on my to-dos. But my obviously distracted parenting led my children into one of the hardest places to come back from in our house.

Boredom.

When my nearly four-year-old daughter gets bored, she turns into a whining, lethargic television magnet. She won’t play. She won’t read. She won’t color. {But she will repeatedly tell you that she won’t play, read or color.} My husband and I try to limit the amount of TV time she gets, but she eagerly cashed in her 30 minutes with Mickey Mouse for the day by 10 a.m.

My toddler actually plays really well by himself most of the time. He loves his cars and books and trains. But when he gets bored, he throws stuff. He punches stuff. Or breaks stuff. Sometimes all three at once. He sure knows how to liven up this bore-fest.

That is when it hit me. Literally. My son hit me with a cardboard book as if to say “hey, read this to me NOW!” Daphne looked up from the hot dog dance. Henry flashed his innocent doe-eyes at me as if he hadn’t just chucked Little Blue Truck at my head. I was so preoccupied reading through emails during what was supposed to be family time that I probably hadn’t even noticed my son’s non-violent attempts at getting me to read to him.

It was time to set some boundaries. For myself.

Email Overhaul

I decided right then and there before my new book bump had even finished forging onto my noggin that if I couldn’t be strong-willed enough to not check my emails, then I just had to get rid of them altogether.

For Christmas, my husband gifted me an old, broken iPhone of mine that he had restored so that my 1,500+ photos and videos could be salvaged. I’d been using it as an iPod the last few weeks since it still carried all my old music on it, too.

I retrieved the iPhone and got out my current Samsung Galaxy. I quickly removed all work-related email accounts from my current phone and uploaded them all into the iPhone. Ta da! Work phone, personal phone. My work phone stays tucked away on family days and {so far} has been enforced just as tightly as Daphne’s TV time.

Invest in Efficiency

Two things you should know about me if you don’t already. 1. I’m pretty frugal. 2. I’m an extremely efficient worker. With that being said, there are so many resources out there these days to streamline work flow, particularly for marketing and advertising agencies. I’ve always resisted the urge to take advantage of them, or would only utilize the services that were offered for free, because being a boutique agency I’m able to serve all of my clients in what I felt was a reasonable amount of time anyway.

But if by week two I was freaking out about getting everything done and subsequently hindering family time, it was time to loosen the purse strings to make an investment in my new business. While I may be incredibly quick and accurate at doing my work, why wouldn’t I want to couple that with a program that would continue to work for me on my days off?

First, I did a lot of research on programs that would assist me with the social media management component of my business. After a lot of comparisons – from price, to ability, to interface – I decided to sign up with Sendible. The best part? They offer a 1-month free trial, phone support, and training webinars.

Second, I signed up for QuickBooks Self-Employed. I’m already familiar with QuickBooks online from doing the books for my husband’s business a few years ago. It’s incredibly user-friendly and because it syncs directly to my bank account, I don’t have to remember to make any entries myself. Taxes are no joke and there are so many ways for small business owners to make mistakes. Investing in this online program allows me to work more closely with our CPA and track my income and expenses without being responsible for the initial recording of them.

Finally, I upgraded to Canva for Work. Canva is a great online resources for non-designers to pretend to be designers. While I’m fairly literate in InDesign and other Adobe products, I am not a trained graphic designer and have wasted quite a bit of time attempting to be one. I have used Canva for over a year to make really quality images to use for social media, signage, invitations and more. The reason I decided to up the ante from the free version is to save myself time. Canva for Work has the added benefit of saving everything you need for your brand{s}. You can save a color palettes, logos, templates, fonts and more. This investment was the hardest for me, because it seems like a luxury when it offers a great version at no cost. With that being said, I have huge plans for all of that time I intend to save not having to type in my hex colors each and every time I design an image.

I feel less stressed and less distracted already. These three investments were definitely worth it.

{Note: For print pieces and particular projects, there is absolutely NO substitute to a good graphic designer.}

Be the Teacher

I had to help oversee a work event for my former employer last week,  and while I was there someone said something that really resonated with me. She asked how winter break was and I mentioned that the dreaded ‘B’ word had sneaked its way into our house during the second week my kids were home from school. I added that they were looking forward to going back to school {mom included} because of the structure and plethora of activities coordinated by their teachers. She just looked at me and said, “you can be the teacher.”

Once I got past the idea of me standing in front of them singing songs about the weather in an attempt to replicate circle time, I realized that she probably meant that I could incorporate the things that my children respond to at school into our home. For my daughter in particular, I concluded that was the constant flow of predictable activity.

When it comes to my business, I plan. I schedule out my time for meetings, projects and emails. In order to be a teacher to my kids, I needed to apply these same principles to my household like a lesson plan.

I kept the entire family in mind as I lesson-planned. We all get stir-crazy, especially during these winter months, so I first looked for indoor activities that wouldn’t break the bank if we did them every week. My mom got us a family membership to Wonderscope Children’s Museum for Christmas, so {purely because they both start with the letter ‘W’} Wonderscope Wednesdays was born. It was easy to get both of my kids excited to pack up snacks and head out to play and learn.

Coming up with something to do on Tuesdays was a bit more challenging. While Kansas City has a ton to offer, I was determined to create some habits for our family to build some consistency in our new days-at-home schedule. After all, me being home with the kids isn’t just new and challenging for me. My daughter downsized from full-time 5 days a week pre-school, as well, and she’s had an equally difficult time adjusting to the unpredictability of each day.

This week I decided we’d go check out the Johnson County Library, something I thought was a luxury for stay-at-home parents. Well, we had a great experience and I learned a lot. {You can check out 150 books at a time. Everything is DYI with a library card. They have movies and video games. What?!} The best part? A 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning story time kicks off next week. Jackpot! We’ve read the 4 books we checked out 1 million times and both kids are already asking when we get to go back and pick out more books. While I will continue to look for other free opportunities in town, it’s safe to say that Library Tuesday will become a thing. {Catchier name ideas are welcomed.}

It’s only been a week, but everything went swimmingly. I was more engaged with my children, didn’t spend any money, and honestly didn’t even think twice about my iPhone pinging away with emails at home. The best part? No one got bored.

5 New Year’s resolutions for a successful 2016

New Year Oprah

It’s hard to believe 2016 is a day away. When I was a kid it sounded so obnoxious to hear older people talk about how time seems to speed up each year, but now that I’m a parent I am starting to see some truth to it. With a one and three-year-old the days can seem {painfully} long at times, but I seem to have blinked and here I am at another year. With an almost four-year-old. Which can’t be right since I was practically just in college. Until I realize that it’s almost 2016 and I graduated nearly eight years ago. How did that happen?

While a new year makes me feel a bit sad that my kids are growing up so quickly, it’s also a great time to do some self reflection. My husband and I are big into setting goals, making resolutions and adding things to our bucket lists. We actually sit down once a year and write each of these into a Google Doc that we share so we can check in from time to time. This process has been a great road map for our life together. In fact, both this blog and my husband’s business were dreamed up in goal-setting sessions and become our reality!

We aren’t getting any younger, which means {if the old people are right} that time isn’t getting any slower either. With time passing so quickly, you may miss the chance to get what you want out of your life if you don’t take time to figure out {and write down} what those things are.

Here’s my list for 2016. Do you share any of the same resolutions? Tell me about yours in the comments.

1. Say yes more

When you have young kids, it is so easy to become a total home-body. A night out with friends or lunch with an old classmate seems like so much work when you have to align a baby sitter or just muster up the energy to change out of your yoga pants and take a shower. The problem with acting like a recluse is that you may actually start to lose touch with some of those friends when they stop inviting you out when you always stay in. 2016 will be a year of yes as long as you aren’t asking me to stay out too late {some of us still have to get up at 6 a.m. with the toddlers, k?}.

2. Put down the cell phone

I hope my husband adds this one to his list, but I’m not exactly proud of the hours I’ve clocked tuned into technology during family-time either. It’s so tempting to get look at your cell phone each time you hear an email arrive in your inbox. This year I hope to stay true to my time blocked working hours and save the social scrolling until after the kiddos are in bed so I never have to hear my daughter say, “mommy, please get off your phone” again.

3. Build my girl squad

As the president of our Kansas City chapter of Femfessionals, I have huge goals for our new community to flourish in 2016. Selfishly, one of these goals is to build my own power network, as well. I’m entering 2016 as a first-time, full-fledged business owner and I see the women in this group as a wealth of support and information. But like most things in life, you only get out what you put in. I can’t wait to get to know the women in this network better.

4. Quit comparing

Women spend an enormous amount of time comparing themselves to others. I have two thoughts on this. First, sometimes what you see isn’t even reality. Think about it, do you put your really embarrassing or sad or angry self on social media? Probably not. Neither does she. So when her life looks perfect, just remember everyone is going through something. Second, we aren’t all looking for the same things on this journey through life and that’s okay. Sometimes I see pictures of my stay-at-home-mom friends with their children throughout the day and I wonder what the heck I’m doing in the office. But then I remember I chose to do this work that I love and my children are thriving in their preschool. In 2016, I’m going to stop wasting my time worrying about how your life compares to mine and make sure I’m doing my personal best instead.

5. Get political

In case you’ve been living under a rock, 2016 is an election year and things are bound to be interesting. Sometimes it’s easy to sit back and coast on your political affiliations or stay out of it altogether, but as someone less than impressed with all of our presidential candidates, I really want to take the initiative to learn more on the national and local level this year and maybe even get involved. {Heck, even my husband joined our local HOA Board for 2016.} It really does matter, so I hope you’ll get inspired and join me.

Get more done by adopting this one habit

After a week at home for the holidays, my kiddos are finally out of the house. My coffee is hot. My desk is organized. The day is young. I finally sit down to work.

I know I need to write another blog post, but first I think I will open up Facebook and schedule a few social media posts I’ve planned for a few of my clients for the New Year.

Then my phone pings. Someone liked my most recent Insta post about working on my business goals and plans for 2016. It’s so exciting to see new followers {strangers even!} finding my blog and corresponding social pages.

Back to Facebook. Okay, one post scheduled.

I better check my Femfessionals email. I haven’t checked it since before Christmas and I really need to finish my plan for our community in 2016. I fire off a few emails to fellow Kansas City business owners about some event ideas.

I return to the browser with my Facebook page open. I scroll through my news feed, just once, and an article called “21 Annoying Facebook Status Updates that Need to Stop” pops up. That looks interesting, and I definitely need to find out what those things are {to make sure I’m not an annoying Facebook status poster}, so I click on it.

I skim the article and go back to my news feed, fully confident that all of my friends totally are not annoyed with my posts. Cute pictures of my friend’s baby’s first Christmases rotate with puppies and snow and more click-worthy articles from Buzzfeed and the Huff Post.

And then I glance in the upper right corner and realize an hour has gone by already. And I haven’t even started this blog post yet.

I’m not much of a gambler, but I’m willing to bet some version of this has happened to you before. Our phones and computers have become major time sucks thanks in large part to social media. But it isn’t just mindless scrolling that can cause us to lose track of time and productivity. I didn’t have a plan. I sat down to accomplish one task, but immediately moved on to other things on my to-do list and then became distracted. While my email sending and social media managing still chipped away at my overall workload, I lost valuable time and creative energy bouncing between tasks. Not carving out specific time for particular projects prevents us from packing in a fully efficient work sesh. So what should I have done differently?

Start each day with not only a list of top work priorities, but a schedule for accomplishing them. This technique is called time blocking and it is a powerful tool that can truly help you get more done if you make it a habit. So how can you {we} become better at time blocking a get stuff done? Try these 4 tips to time block like a pro.

1. Block time to time block

You shouldn’t spend your freshest moments of a new day mapping out your time blocks, so plan them in advance. Carve out time on one of your least productive day, typically a Monday or Friday or even the weekend, to evaluate what you need to get done for the upcoming week. I use Google Calendar for everything, both work and personal, because it actually looks like little colorful blocks that can be shared with others so they know when you’re time blocking a.k.a unavailable.

2. The early block catches the worm

I’m a morning person. I’d say 80% of what I get done in a day happens before 1 p.m. Be sure to schedule your time blocks when you work your hardest so they don’t fizzle into a procrastination period. Just keep in mind that you should aim to get your highest priority work accomplished before you move on to things like meetings and emails. So if you’re a rare breed who perks up after lunch time, don’t over commit in the morning or meetings may intrude on your precious time block.

3. Tune out to block in

When it’s time to time block and you’re ready to dig in to that super top priority thing to do, eliminate distractions. No social media. No emails. No phone calls. No office visits. It’s go time.

4. Don’t over block

When you schedule out your time blocks, it’s important to keep windows in your day. Projects may come up that you weren’t anticipating and certain jobs make take longer to accomplish than you originally thought. No need to fret if you’ve left some holes in your day to work on these things, as well as catching up on any outstanding emails or phone calls {although I do recommend carving out an email time block if you receive a high volume of them}. Finish that important task before your time block was over?

Do you time block to reach maximum productivity during your work day and make sure important tasks get done first? What works or doesn’t work for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Happy time blocking!

 

 

7 tips to help working moms become more efficient

Have you ever left a conversation with a friend, colleague or even someone you just met and wondered “how the heck does she do it?” As a young mom, entrepreneur, and generally energetic person, I must admit I get asked that a lot. I usually shrug it off with something like, “oh, I just like to keep busy!” But lately I’ve taken some time to think about how I should really answer the question. I think what I’m actually being asked is “how are you so efficient?” So, I’m going to let you in on my seven tips to improve your efficiency. Soon everyone will be asking you how you do it!

1. Multitask

Multitasking, in my opinion, is a bit of an art. You have to know which activities to clump together so that you don’t sacrifice quality. For example, scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed during family time or catching up on important work emails while watching last night’s Bachelor Pad is a no-no.

My favorite example is my morning routine. I am an early to bed and early to rise kind of gal, but not too early. My alarm goes off at 6 a.m., which gives me a happy balance of clocking enough Zs while successfully getting our 1 and 3 year olds out of the house by 7:15. Here’s a play by play of how we do it:

6:00AM – Alarm goes off – NO snooze! Hit the shower…most days.

6:10AM – This is where it gets good. I read the news (I prefer theSkimm), while doing my hair and makeup, while nursing or pumping. My husband is all ready for the day and heading downstairs to make breakfast for the family…smell the bacon, eggs and coffee!

6:30AM – Divide and conquer! My husband gets one child up and dressed and I tackle the other one.

6:45AM – We all sit down and eat breakfast as a family.

7:00AM – Shoes on (kept in the laundry room), teeth brushed (a set of toothbrushes in the downstairs bathroom), and an impromptu dance party in the kitchen.

7:15AM – Load up and head out.

I’m particularly proud of that 6:10 window. Feeding another human and learning about world events while primping really gets me excited to take on the day.

2. Ask for help

Notice how earlier I said, “this is how we do it.” That’s because I don’t even pretend like mornings run this smoothly when my husband is traveling for work. One way to master efficiency is to know when to ask for help. Early on in our marriage, I told my husband it would really help both of us make it to work on time if he made breakfast. We woke up at the same time each day, but I took about 20 minutes longer to get ready than he did. About the same amount of time it takes to cook the full breakfast we’re both accustomed to. He totally got it and was willing to step up in the morning, something that became even more important when we added two toddlers to the routine.

Bottom line: if someone else can do something better or quicker than you can, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

3. Plan Ahead

Let’s go back to the morning routine again. Did you notice how I didn’t mention packing lunches or getting bags together? It’s because I do it all the night before. I’ve found it’s quickest to pack lunches either while making dinner or putting away any leftovers since you’re already in and out of the fridge and handling Tupperware. I lay out my kids’ outfits before bedtime. Heck, I still lay out my clothes. By planning ahead whenever you can, you eliminate unpleasant surprises (where is that library book?) and create the illusion of more time (dance party, anyone?).

4. Get Organized

I know this looks a little bit different for everyone. I’m a bit of a self proclaimed neat freak myself, and while I won’t project my tidy ways on you, I do urge you to get organized at home and at work if you want to improve your efficiency. The reality is, if you know where things are you will get to them faster. Keep your home and your office cleared of clutter. Pick up the toys on the floor before you go to bed; I promise you’ll feel better about it when you come downstairs the next morning! If this isn’t your strong suit, please refer to tip #2 and have someone help you file those papers.

5. Prioritize

I am a list-maker. Give me a post-it, some stationary, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s clean and I can write on it. Who doesn’t like to draw a giant check mark next to a completed task? Other than that fleeting sense of achievement, lists help you visualize the things you need to get done. I suggest separating work things from family things from errands or shopping lists since prerogatives change from a Monday to a Saturday.

When it comes to your business, make a list at the end of each work day for the following day. Write each task in the order they’ll need to be accomplished and then when it comes time to work on them, do not bounce around! Tackle them one by one and watch your efficiency improve and your to-dos decrease.

For my family and home, I have a giant to-do that includes long term projects like finally painting the outside of the house or getting around to our family photo album.

Make one list or ten, either way be sure to commit to getting things done and don’t procrastinate!

6. Move

Remember how you weren’t supposed to Facebook stalk or watch your guilty pleasure television shows while working or family time? You know the perfect time to do these things? While exercising! Not only will you benefit from shutting off your responsibilities for a bit, but you’ll have the added perk of those endorphins. So sneak away from the kiddos already to get in some quality me-time and get fit while you Netflix.

7. Slow down

This is really important to remember, especially for working moms.  While I pride myself in being incredibly efficient both in my business and at running my household, I sometimes have to remind myself to stop and smell the roses. Women are so incredibly hard on themselves and parents who work outside of the home are constantly on the go. So join me after the alarm sounds at 6 a.m. tomorrow in taking a deep breath and counting your blessings before tackling that to-do list.