It is no secret that I openly share my struggles juggling momhood and entrepreneurship and the challenges I’ve have had along the way. Today I want to share that I’m now embarking on a new phase of my life and business. . . because I just opened a photography studio! I’m SQUEALING and PUKING SCARED, but excited. It only took six years, so if you are still working from home or have a home studio, don’t feel bad! After all, having a studio is not for everyone.
This post is not about whether or not to have a studio, though. It’s about sharing some steps I’ve taken in the last two years to have more balance in all areas of my life and not lose my mind, or myself, in the process while working from home. Since my big awakening to the fact that I was a slave to my photo business and that my family missed me, I knew I needed to make major changes. But where do we even begin when we are feeling so overwhelmed? Or like a failure all the time? If this speaks to you, too, the good news is that you’re not alone. The other good news is that you’re not a failure, and there is hope! So, read on for actions that have helped me to reach my goals and live a better life.
1. Admit you need help. This is hard for us women. We are mighty, we are the matriarchs, we are superheroes with cape and all. (Remember, I secretly want a Mrs. Google Cape.) It’s okay to be busy and really work your business. It’s pretty much necessary. But, if you are dealing with symptoms such as anxiety, not wanting to leave the house, not wanting to be in social environments, crying easily, feeling as if small tasks are huge mountains, or are experiencing panic attacks…guess what my friend…those are symptoms of depression. You should go get checked out for depression and/or anxiety (they often go hand in hand). Being responsible for one’s own business is very stressful and stress does crazy things to our bodies and our minds. (No wonder they used that photographer in that bipolar commercial…did any one notice that?) All joking aside, this is a very serious and personal matter, as I struggle with depression. I had to get some help because it did become too much. I will not go into deep details on my own ugly battle, but I recommend speaking to a counselor and seeing a doctor if you are experiencing some symptoms. And if you have to take medication, it is not the end of the world. We gotta do what we gotta do. A book I recommend is by my church pastor, Perry Noble, called Overwhelmed. I am super glad churches are stepping up and finally discussing depression and mental illnesses.
2. Pamper yourself. Well, this used to be a bad thing I did, because I used to pamper myself with food…lots of food…as it was a prize for good behavior. Um no! But do take time for yourself with some pampering. It may be a Talenti ice cream, okay oops – food again – but lets call it a delicacy, a pedicure, a spa day, a movie date all by yourself, or maybe dance lessons. I love Lara Casey’s advice to do things that fire you up more and more! I get fired up by being near the ocean and hearing its waves, and also I love to laugh, so my goal is to go to the beach more this year, since I do live in a beach town. So, I ask you: What fires you up? What excites you?
3. Have a morning routine. I had been wanting to get into meditation or something until I stumbled onto SPI’s podcast interview with Hal Elrod. This guy has an amazing story that you should check out. He is the founder of the program and book The Miracle Morning. I found a 6-minute version of his miracle morning, and it has been a game changer in my life. I must confess, it takes me almost half an hour sometimes to complete the 6-minute routine because I am so tired and very easily distracted, but after just a few weeks, I now even wake up by myself at 6:30 am. This alone is a miracle because I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON AT ALL. I also recall Noah Kagan, who I so admire, talking about how he does three things every morning. He asks himself “what would make today great”, he exercises, and he also writes what he is thankful for that day, which you can do right into Evernote, or you can hand write it in a journal. Tim Ferriss, the biggest, most successful person in life and business, like ever, is also a big advocate of morning routines. And as I once heard, success leaves clues, so lets pay attention because there is a reason why these very successful entrepreneurs follow a morning routine.
4. Exercise. Eek! I know you did not want to hear this, but part of having balance and being there more for your family is to take care of your health. The formats will be very different for each person. For me, I found a local moms group bootcamp with a wonderful trainer. I actually just got awarded a 6-months achievement and feel very proud. My body has changed so much, and I am working toward my weight goals by changing my eating habits. Maybe for you it will be Zumba, or kickboxing, or joining your local gym, but take care of yourself. You only live one life, and whining about how you look will get you nowhere. Since I’m out of the house to drop the boys off at school, I have no excuses, and the hardest part is to just show up. I promise. This gives me energy and has even helped fight anxiety and depression.
5. Airplane mode! Airplane mode is your best friend. It is the friend who will tell you don’t look good in a certain outfit, that you have lettuce in your front teeth, and it’s the friend that will tell you the guy is a douche. Basically, airplane mode will keep you on track so you actually live a life between waking up and going to bed. I was so hooked on Twitter back in the day, but then I started following Lara Caseys, and she did a series about uncluttering and unplugging for the weekend. I was surprised because she had been so obsessed with social media and was constantly tweeting, so it got me thinking: maybe I need to do something about my social media habits as well. I read some steps on her blog that helped me tons, and I recommend you check out some of her getting things done blog series. So, I turn my phone to airplane mode in the evening (after a game of candy crush), and I don’t turn it back on until I’ve done my morning routine, like dropping off the kids, exercising and other things. At least I try to stick to this, and I estimate that I’m able to do it 70% of the time. Oh, and eat breakfast without being on your phone checking Facebook notifications, please. I know we have FOMS (fear of missing something), but it will all be there later. That’s the thing with Facebook: you can turn it off for months, and when you go back, the noise is still there. My point is, you are not really missing much… Oh, maybe drama and negativity and unnecessary gossip. So repeat after me: AIRPLANE MODE!
6. Change your ambiance. When I moved my office upstairs it actually felt I was going somewhere else for work. It felt a bit silly, as I was just upstairs, but I felt I had a bit more privacy to separate work from home. And when I came downstairs, I had to be just downstairs, not trying to work at the same time I was with family or cooking or whatever else. So consider moving your office around your house if you work from home to see where you can work better. Now, if this isn’t an option within your living space, or even if it is, I recommend you go and edit or do computer work somewhere else once a week. It can be at Starbucks or another coffee shop or even the library. It is amazing what being around people feels like after working so many years alone at home. It is also good because you actually have to get dressed, put some makeup on, perhaps and wear a bra. (Yes you should. Lol.) When you work from home for so long, you become this loner, and every time I would take my laptop to work somewhere out in the community, it gave me such a boost that I added it to my schedule. You can go insane at home by yourself all the time. And that’s when we waste time browsing on social media because we need connection to the world, and we get nothing done. So give it a try, either a new area of the house or taking your stuff with you somewhere else. After a while, evaluate whether it is working for you.
7. Learn to say NO. This word is going to sound a bit foreign to some of you. The word “no” is not a bad word, it’s just a choice. You can say no to cheap prices, no to extra projects you really shouldn’t take on, no to some bookings in order to spend time with family or time re-energizing, no to workshops sometimes, no to tradeshows or no to spending money on the next shiny object, especially late at night while editing and listening to an inspiring podcast. (No, I have never done such a thing, not me!) I am giving you permission to say no to bad habits, say no to bad customer service, say no to whining online, say no to bad-mouthing your competition, say no to the unnecessary negatives in your life that drag you down.
8. Unfriend and Unfollow online and in real life. Speaking of saying “no” to the negative things, if someone’s media feed does not bring you laughter, joy, or excitement, UNFOLLOW, like ASAP. There are options on Facebook to see less posts from that person, and it is a beautiful thing. But, most importantly, sometimes you have to unfollow in real life. I am 36 now, and the older I get, the more I am intolerant to negativity in my life. I am not talking about friends of yours who may be depressed and need your support, though. You know who is processing hard life circumstances and who is just stuck in victim or drama mode. Life is too short and precious to be angry, mad, and unhappy just to have something to whine about. There is no time for that! And this unpleasant media feed also comes in the form of someone else’s online social life that seems too good to be true and makes you feel bad! You know it happens! Just unfollow. That’s all. And go live your life, the only one you have. Focus on you, your family, your core friendships, and work your business. Before you know it, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t do it sooner.
9. Have a romantic date night. Now that you’re all busy saying “no”, please do a U-turn right here because we’re going to say “yes.” I strongly believe that as a family, we need at least one vacation per year, and as a couple, we need our own vacation once a year, even if it’s just two days. Say yes to that. If you are married or have a significant other, you need time to re-energize and to be stress free. Owning your own business can be a heavy burden on a marriage/relationship, especially if your husband is not in a creative field. When they see you living out your dream, it can cause some friction, so it is important to take this time to check in, to communicate, to laugh and to be romantic. (And if you’re single and working your own business, you deserve a vacation, too!)
11.Have a girls/guys night out. This has become so much harder for me since my husband has been traveling so much for work, but it feels so good to go out with some gals and laugh away. If you are a guy, have a guys night out with some friends to refresh the fun part of your brain.
12. Revisit your workflow. We are now entering the part of the list that’s a little more business-focused, so keep your “yes” face on. If you have not written down all of the steps in your business yet, DO IT. But before you start to stress out, let me explain how doing this extra work will actually help you: These will be your S.O.P.s (standard operating procedures), and you can use the document to train new staff and to build your business plan, too. My major goal this year is to be more efficient, and to achieve that, I am revisiting my whole process and workflow to shave off inefficiencies and save time, which to me equals money because my time is very valuable. It could be something as simple as using a Lightroom plugin to automatically upload images online to be sent to a client, or scheduling blog posts, or setting up Buffer to auto-post to different social media platforms, or saving email templates and using canned responses in Google. Or using a software like Blogstomp to blog faster and better. The more time we can gain back, the more efficiently we can run our photo studios and businesses. That’s why you must write it down. You can’t evaluate it properly if you don’t write it out, sit down and look at it.
13. Buy an alarm clock. Remember those? I heard Sergio the Photographer speak at Wedding Brazil, and he brought up a great point. The light from our phones is very distracting, and he learned that it messes up our sleep, a lot! He said that his sleep improved a lot once he exchanged his phone alarm for an actual alarm clock. I need to take this advice and I’m getting an alarm clock this weekend. After all we are not Frank and Claire Underwood who function on no sleep at all. Side note, do they make alarm clocks where you can play Candy Crush? No??
14. Mental Decluttering. Also thanks to Lara Casey who recommended doing this mental download dump. Basically our brain is filled with so many ideas, worries, problems, events, activities, day dreaming and way too much and it can get clogged. So sit for 10 minutes and write down everything that is on your mind, lay it all out. If you don’t know what to write about, keep on writing. Don’t Stop. This is great to be done before you go to bed as if you can sleep cause your problems are written down and it is not going any where but it does not have to boggle your mind and take away your sleep. This is a great quarterly activity to do.
So that’s a big list. I know things may not look perfect or even “okay” at times, but greater life balance will lead to easier successes. You can pick and choose some things off my list, but only you know what will work for you. Which of these 14 steps can you take today? What has helped you in balancing the art of motherhood and entrepreneurship? I want to hear it from the dads too.