Tips for managing work and a busy family life

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF MEG FENN, DESIGNER AND AUTHOR:

tips for working parents
I’m a designer. I’m also a company co-owner and co-director and have been running design businesses since 2003 when my second child was born. I have three children; two teenagers and a seven year old. I’m originally from the States and wrote a book about what it’s like to raise children in a different country and culture to the one you grew up in. I work full time from a home based office surrounded by the chaos of a busy family of five. I am the main carer in our family. That means I do the school runs, activities and meetings. Many of our clients, colleagues and business associates are also busy working parents running their own companies.

Here’s a look at my day along with some tips to help you keep on top of running your own business alongside a busy family life.

I get up early. This is so I can get our company’s social media written and scheduled. It also involves creating designs to go with posts and using Hootsuite, Facebook and Linked In for postings and engaging with followers. I use our communications plan as a guide and add in things depending on what’s going on in our industry or with business news. It’s a quiet time in my house which allows me to get a significant chunk of client work done too. I also write email replies ready to send out once back from the school run.
TOP TIP:
Allocate some time each day (every day apart from weekends) for a round-up of your company activities and your social media. Can be at any time, doesn’t have to be in the morning.

Next, it’s time to get the kids up and ready for school, get myself presentable and take care of any school paperwork, lunches, last minute school schedules and after school activity admin. I also do supper prep; getting meat out of the freezer, checking cupboard stock or throwing things in the slow cooker. And of course there’s always the quick tidy of up dishes!
TOP TIPS:
Schedule meals per day/per week so you know what you’re making and you know you have the ingredients. If you have older children, set up a rota for them to help at meals. My eldest makes the evening meal once a week (I taught him how to make a simple pasta meal last year) and my daughter is great at food prep and baking.

The school run takes about 40 minutes round trip and I sometimes tack on a store run to get milk or supplies. I’m normally back at my desk ready for the day by 9:10am. Work for me is usually building websites, creating logos, designing a flyer or brochure, researching solutions, writing client emails and proposals, making client calls etc all the while updating everything on our CRM so there’s a record of everything and so that my business partner is kept up to date on projects, leads and meetings.
TOP TIPS:

  • Have your to do list or work schedule open and in front of you – if you’re out and about, have it on your phone – you can set up alerts as reminders.
  • Chunk work together so less time is wasted and you will be more productive.
  • Turn Facebook off (scheduling business page posts means you don’t need to keep logging into FB during the day).
  • Ensure your office is conducive to high productivity; big table, notice board, proper equipment etc.
  • Don’t get distracted by your kitchen! But do take a break away from your desk for water and to mentally re-charge. Step outside for a few minutes and breathe in the fresh air. Stay in tune with your body and don’t slouch. Some really helpful desk exercises from Gem Yoga can be seen here.

Meetings and events – I always have quite a few of these each week and they are either new client meetings, client project meetings, training or consultations, ShakeItHbub help sessions, or networking events. I love meeting new people, helping businesses and networking in general so this is an enjoyable part of my job. However, it does add to my already busy schedule so I need to plan them carefully and well in advance, if possible.
TOP TIPS:
Schedule meetings back to back where ever possible especially if traveling or using a co-working space. Meetings are time consuming so need to be productive – have clear objectives for them so you come away with action points.

Afternoon school run takes about 35 minutes because I speed walk on the way there. Sometimes I need to tack on an extra drop off or pick up and with additional children in tow. Work between 3:30 and 5pm is limited and some days I’m out ferrying kids around or attending school meetings or running kid related errands. This does get tricky because this is the time my inbox gets filled up with people sending either urgent emails or emails that they needed to get done that day before leaving the office. I also rely on voice mail for incoming calls.
TOP TIP:
Quickly sift through urgent and non urgent emails and voice messages and only deal with urgent ones but deal with them straight away so they don’t take over your evening. If you’re waiting for kids at activities, diarise or use an app such as evernote for making notes or update your CRM on your phone.

Work in the evenings for me is limited to about two hours at the most. I almost never work late because of my morning routine. Plus, there’s the evening hustle and bustle of getting homework done, dealing with teenager dramas, doing household jobs, having family time and getting everyone to bed. My teenagers stay up later than I do these days! If I’m going out to a networking event, then childcare is an issue so that takes extra planning and organisation.

OVERALL TOP TIP:

Act fast and don’t procrastinate. Get the work done, don’t just keep adding things to your to do list. If you do this, your list will become overwhelming and you’ll feel de-motivated.

Do you have a top tip for managing work and a busy family life? We’d love to hear it!

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