I am a mother to an adorable little five month old baby, whom I raise at home myself. I am also an entrepreneur with an online business. I ALSO do part-time consulting work for an entirely separate business. Needless to say, I am a very busy woman!
My friends ask me all the time how I do it, and I always answer with “I don’t know.” Which is the truth. But not really the whole truth, because I do know some things that help me balance motherhood and entrepreneurship. And the number one helpful tool is something so simple, it’s almost ridiculous (which is probably why I don’t really talk about it!). It’s the good ole handy-dandy, to-do list. This little thing is a LIFESAVER and there is no way I could function without it.
The simple to-do list
When my baby was born, I was in tears almost every other day for a whole month. I had tears of joy when I saw that little face staring back at me. I had tears of stress when I thought about all the things I had to do. And I had tears of pain because my boobs hurt so much from all that breastfeeding and pumping!
I was a mess, and I needed to get my life in order. My first inclination was to create a schedule, and plan out every minute of every day. That was a failure. Babies do not understand schedules, and inevitably, mommy’s work time will be interrupted by baby’s feeding time or poopy time. It actually created more stress for me when I had to care for the baby when I was “supposed” to be working. And then I would feel guilty for even feeling stressed about it. What did work for me however, was a simple list of things I needed to do. I just put them down, and they got done whenever I could do them. This way, my baby’s needs came first, and then when she was napping or contently playing by herself, I checked out my to-do list to see what I could tackle.
Find a list that works for you
There are tons of ways to organize your to-do’s, and you can probably spend your whole life searching for the perfect tool. But obviously you don’t have time for that, so I’ll tell you about a few things I’ve tried myself. I’ve tried some online to-do lists, but I found it annoying to have to log in all the time. Something that seems like no big deal became a deal breaker for me. I’ve also tried some iPhone apps, and even just that Notes app that comes with the phone (which I still use on occasion). I realized that I just don’t like using my phone, because I’m such a slow typer on it, and that screen is just so darn small.
What works for me is a simple Excel spreadsheet to-do list. I am constantly on my computer (and I’m also an Excel freak but that’s a bit off topic), so this was the perfect solution for me. If you don’t use a computer that much, then you might prefer to write on a paper list. There a zillion gorgeous printable to-do lists on Etsy. Sometimes just a pen and paper is better than some snazzy new app. The point is that you need something that works for you. Something that you will use every single day. If you stop using it after a week, it’s useless.
Use your list every day
I use my very own Cheery Checklists Excel template every day. I saved it right onto my desktop, so it’s in my face as soon as I turn on my laptop. I changed the list headings to reflect five areas where I have a lot to do. The first list is for my business, “Savvy Spreadsheets,” because that has by far the most to-do’s. The other lists are for “Consulting,” “Baby,” “Personal,” and “Home.”
I am constantly thinking about all the things that I need to do. If I don’t put them down somewhere, mommy brain gives me about a 90% chance of forgetting about them. As soon as I think of something, I do it right then and there, or I put it on my to-do list. It takes about a second to enter it in. I like a simple checklist, with no due dates or sorting by priority. These things take extra time to think about, and I don’t have extra time.
When I’m able to tackle something my list, which is about every couple of hours when the little one sleeps 😉 , I simply check the box to cross it off the list.
When there are a few items checked, I give myself a pat on the back, and then click “Clear Done” at the top of the list. This clears the done items to make room for more. My checklist is a living document, that I am constantly updating.
That’s really it! It’s a crazy easy concept, but an absolute necessity for anyone trying to balance motherhood and working on your business. A to-do list keeps your mind and your life organized, so you don’t have to spend precious time trying to remember everything you have to do. Whatever you choose – an online tool, a phone app, a spreadsheet, or even a piece of paper – just make sure it takes hardly any time to update, and that you actually use it!