This is the second half of a two-part post. You can read part one here.
Be a good scout.
Sometimes one kid has to be dropped off at school a bit early, or another has to tag along to his brother’s hockey practice with a sack dinner because he’s too young to be left alone. Keep a stash of nutritious snacks (granola bars, dried fruit, single-pack peanut butter and pre-packed apple slices, etc.) on hand for the inevitable dash out the door. Also, keep the iPod charged and up to date with academic games like Top-It for math. Here’s another good idea if you primarily work from a home office: use a slow cooker and those handy plastic liners (no mess!) to “make” dinner, even on the days where you can’t be in the kitchen around dinnertime.
Oh, and if you’re doing some waiting yourself (I’m foursquare mayor of our ice rink, if that gives you a clue), keep a backpack ready to go with an extra charger, portable mouse and USB cord for your phone so you can workshift wherever. (You never know when the Wi-Fi will go wonky and you’ll have to Bluetooth that important report using your phone’s connection.) I also keep a pack of gum, a light fleece zip-up, a few dollars for the vending machine and earphones in my “go” bag. I don’t own a netbook or tablet, so I still schlep my laptop around.
Get it together.
There are a ton of ways to keep your roles and duties on the forefront and even in view of others. (Remember, sometimes it makes more sense to tap others than tackle it all yourself; martyrdom helps no one.) Here are a few useful methods for keeping tasks top of mind:
- Whiteboards: I have two whiteboards hanging in my office. The surfaces are divided into grids with blue low-tack painter’s tape. Most cells represent a client and contain a list of tasks to be done. Another cell is where I jot down business-related items, both maintenance and growth activities. These visual reminders are a way to keep my head wrapped around the whole of my work.
- Paper and pen: I admit it – I love colored Paper Mate felt-tip markers. I keep a small notebook (again, broken into grids) with lists of to-do items for clients and the business. This list is portable, so it fits in my purse or backpack (hello, ice rink). And for times when I’m feeling obsessive – like Friday at 5 PM when I just want to close up shop like the worker bees of the world – I can clean off my desk and close up the notebook, stowing it away. There’s something valuable about physically writing down the items – the process of thinking what to write in the small spaces breaks down the tasks themselves, often leading to better, more complete work products.
- Project management apps: I’ve used Basecamp, Asana, GET IT DONE, DeskAway and Do. Kellye Crane and I wrote a blog post series covering free and paid collaboration and project management apps, so I recommend you check them out before you choose. Information that’s organized and centrally available will help ensure you and others (subcontractors, clients, teammates) are empowered and capable of moving projects along.
- Time management: It’s easy to get sucked into a time-draining vortex of commitments. Being able to maintain appropriate scope at work and at home (when did 24 cupcakes for next Thursday’s class party turn into a once-a-week Teacher’s Aide duty?) is critical to incrementally achieving the daily objectives that support your top priority. Try the Pomodoro technique or other methods of time management to ensure you don’t take on more than you can manage (or spend too much time going for great when good will do).
As a marketer, I make good use of several other productivity tools, too. Be sure to share your favorites in the comments.
Fall back and regroup.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the flurry of roles and expectations placed on us, it’s that our work and lives aren’t linear or static. Our society will never revert to the well-defined, gender-based roles our parents (or theirs) led, so what can we do to prepare for the uncertain?
- Re-assess priorities quarterly. We’re not doing this stuff in a vacuum, folks. And your kids? They grow. They start driving themselves to practice. (My oldest disappeared down the driveway a week ago herself, and I’ve yet to loosen my grip on the bottle of sedatives I found in the back of the medicine cabinet.)
- Make priorities public, or as public and visible as you’re comfortable. Accountability is your friend. Plus, it sends good signals to the little people learning a strong work ethic by your example.
- Ask other productive, busy professionals for their tips or secrets. You may get an idea you never would have had on your own. Plus, you’re networking.
- Stay alert to new products or service introductions on the market. Smart techy engineers are taking away pain we never knew we had until someone pointed it out.
You can do it!
This year I added a new hat to my myriad roles: member of our hockey association’s board of directors. Yep, small business owner, mother of 3, wife, contributing author and volunteer – that’s me! Although I still get overwhelmed sometimes by all the requirements of these roles, I’m committed to making business and family work, so I give things my best effort and try to learn from the successful people around me.
I bet you can make family and solopreneurism work, too!