When I first found out I was pregnant, I was absolutely thrilled. I could barely hold in the excitement.
I immediately told my husband and my cousin.
And after the very first appointment when the doctor assured us with a blood test that we weren’t dreaming, we told our close family members.
Once the initial round of people are told, thoughts start to settle in.
Where are we going to put this thing?
How are we going to dress it?
Where will it go to school?
I remember my google search history being absolutely epic with all the questions.
Is being this tired normal?
Should I be eating sushi?
That’s something I’ve learned about being a mom– thoughts are constant. The flow of assessing risks, situations, hopes, dreams, and aspirations.
And, of course…
What’s for dinner?
Is that blanket clean?
Did he eat enough today?
When was the last time she pooped?
Dang, that’s a lot of snot, I wonder if he’s getting sick.
The list goes on and on.
The minute we settled in with the news we were going to be parents, my thought faucet has been uncontrollable.
Add all that to the constant flow of tasks that you have running through your head around running your business.
Did I respond to that email?
I wonder what the status of that task is.
I should really reach out to that person.
When I started my business, I worked constantly.
Nights, weekends, holidays.
I burned the midnight oil more times than I could count.
And I loved what it did for my business. We were growing, the team was doing great and overall I had an excellent finger on the pulse of what was happening.
Thankfully I had great systems and great people, and my maternity leave was a good experience.
But then I began transitioning back.
I decided to do the early mornings and late nights thing.
I would wake up before my son, go to bed after my son, grab my computer, and hammer out some work.
It wasn’t long before I was totally burnt out.
I felt like I was constantly disrupted when my son woke up in the morning.
Even if he gave me an extra 15 minutes, I was always sort of ticked off when I was pulled out of my zone and was forced to tend to his morning routine.
In the evenings, I was tired and ready to be done with the day so work was mostly reactive: I answered emails and tended to client and team needs instead of doing meaningful work like creating content and managing the business.
My epic fail was not giving myself good real estate on my day to actually do some meaningful, uninterrupted work.
I floundered for a while until I realized that I could structure my day in a way that helped me focus more during the day.
Instead of burning the midnight oil or waking up at the crack of dawn to deliver crappy work while my son slept.
Here are the three things I did:
- Create a schedule.
Seems simple enough. But, I learned that we need to not only create a schedule for ourselves but constantly work and re-work the schedule based on new information.
For example, my first schedule had me working out at 3 pm after all my work was done.
After working through that schedule for a while, I realized frequently missed my afternoon workout because it was so late in the day and I was, frankly, already exhausted.
When we (my husband and I) reworked the schedule, we added workouts first to ensure this critical element had been hit.
- Go somewhere (preferably with a door).
Create a space where you work. Not at the kitchen table or in your bedroom or living room. Nowhere where you can be distracted by reminders of family to-dos or baby needs.
It’s important that you are able to separate from the schedule your baby has for a short time to get some work done even if it’s just for a 90-minute focused work session.
When my son Frank was born, we had my office up in our loft.
We had converted my old office into his nursery.
It was a great space.
The only problem is it was open to the living room where my son did most of his playing.
Constantly my mind was pulled away from my work when I heard him cry or laugh or when he began babbling ‘dada’.
I was torn.
I needed a door. Or at least a great pair of noise-canceling headphones.
- Make your to-do list ahead of time.
This is probably the most important tip. Plan your list of things to do at the end of your working session so that you can sit back down and pick up where you left off.
So many times we tend to the urgent and let it crowd out the essential.
If we sit down to work with no list of focus items, we are way more likely to open our email, slack or project management tool and get bombarded with all the things we feel like need our attention right now.
Instead, make a list of things that are going to push your business forward, and create habits that will get you closer to your quarterly and annual goals.
So, you won’t be able to completely crowd out all the thoughts and the ‘squirrel’ moments.
You may also constantly feel like you’re being torn in half.
But at least with these boundaries, you’ll be able to inch your way toward balance.
If you are looking for some guidance transitioning back into work after maternity leave head here to find out more.