Despite the rigidity that seem to come with the idea of systems, they are actually the means to flexibility and better balance. Without them, chaos can reign supreme, and busy lives end up feeling out of control. Burnout and exhaustion creep in, and it can all feel overwhelming all of the time.
As a busy mum and entrepreneur, systems are essential. They allow me to manage stress and keep within the boundaries that I have set myself, so that bad habits don’t take over, or allow me to feel overwhelmed with so many things to do.
I feel much better when my systems are in place because they bring structure to a crazy busy life. They allow me to compartmentalise when I need to, and reduce the mental clutter of having everything in my head, rolling about at once.
I certainly know when I stop using them, because I end up being ad hoc, procrastinate, feel scattered and more stressed.
Balance is really about feeling happy, managing your time so that you can make progress in your goals, as well as doing things you love. Translation: knowing what to do, efficiently, and when to do it, and that includes the soul-filling aspects of life too – not just the work and chores.
Of course, we all need to make money within that mix too – so time management becomes the real answer here. When we become more efficient, we have more time to do the friends, family and fun part of life!
Here are 5 systems that can help busy mums balance business and family life:
1. System for Clarity
Plan everything – Make the decisions early on, and get a bird’s eye view of how your week and days will pan out. I’m including meal plans, weekly schedules, daily planning, even routines. Have all of these things documented and set out takes a huge load out of your brain and into paper. This is where the clarity comes in, and you can instantly see where the gaps are, where the really busy times are and where you need to make changes, or get help. Without these, you are playing catch up, feeling stressed from trying to remember it all, and less able to be flexible.
2. System for Productivity
An effective To Do List – I think of my time in zones – like chunks. My day is broken up into time zones, but each time zone needs to be effective and productive. This is where a To Do list becomes a Power Player. A To Do List is not just a list. It’s the best way to be productive, so you need to do more than just make a list. It needs to be prioritised, with the hardest one first, and to know what’s important or urgent. Armed with that information will turn your To Do List into a Done list, and the pfaffing around will stop.
3. System for Care
A self care system is essential. Running a business and nurturing your family are all-encompassing, and often suck the energy out of you, because they demand so much of you. Consider how much better you can enjoy your family and give them love when you are happy, after having a walk in the park, or some time to yourself. Consider how many ideas you have about building your business when you have time to step back and see the pig picture.
Both your business and family thrive when you thrive, so make a list of ways you can add some self care into your life, store it in your phone, or Evernote and plan them into your life as non-negotiable essentials. Allocate an action and an amount of time, just like you would exercise or a work task.
4. System for Focus
Staying focused when there are so many things to do is really difficult. I find it hard – especially when the list of things to do is so wide ranging. It’s hard to block out the family list when at work, and vise versa. Using tools like the Pomodoro Timer (for short bursts of laser focus) and Strict Workflow (to block access to certain time and energy sucking social media sites) can be really helpful to work through the list.
Additional to this, I highly recommend using social media as a reward, once a day, like chocolate. Otherwise the endless snacking (5 minutes here are there throughout the day) can really detract from focused work, which impacts on your sense of balance.
5. System for Managing Information
I use Evernote to keep everything I possibly can for my business, family life and personal life, and it has helped me so much I’ve created a done-for-you service so that you can have it too. The Freedom Framework is specifically designed to help busy mums reduce mental and paper clutter, store EVERYTHING in one place, and help manage life. It helps me feel more in control, and when I feel like I’m on top of everything, life is so much easier.
Some quick examples of what I keep in my Freedom Framework: Show and Tell Schedule, Christmas planner, recipes for meal planning, photos of artwork from my children, business planning ideas, business research, social media planning and references, passwords….get the picture – everything!
Aerlie Wildy is a Balance Coach for Online Business Mums. She focuses on everyday systems business mums need to stay organised, be productive during work sessions, and manage time so that they can enjoy the benefits of running a business and spending time with family. She designed the Freedom Framework – a Done-For-You service to set up and manage the overwhelming amount of information in our busy lives using Evernote. For more information, go to http://aerliewildy.com/freedom