Tips and insights from Elinor Wilde, The Working Mum’s Coach
‘helping you be the mum you want to be’
Starting a business – you can’t do it all
One of the biggest mistakes is to underestimate how doing everything in your business can slow down your success. Doing tasks you don’t have the skills for, don’t enjoy and are just a downright hassle are putting the brakes on your progress.
Decide which tasks are going to save you money or are too complicated for you to learn to do and outsource them – getting an accountant can tick both these boxes.
Starting a business – then just start already
Research is so important in starting a business. Whether it’s a service or product based business, you have to know what your potential customers want. But beware – it is so easy to get stuck in the development phase. You can find yourself delaying getting going until you read the next book, get the website just right, get business cards printed. The excuses are endless and are a reflection of perfectionism and fear.
Don’t wait until everything is perfect. Go for good enough. Set yourself a start date and stick to it. You will learn nothing if you don’t get going. When you start learning you will then adapt what and how you do things.
So what are you waiting for?
Starting a business – find your passion
When work, commitment, and pleasure all become one and you reach that deep well where passion lives, nothing is impossible- Unknown
When you are thinking of starting a business take some time to reflect on what you feel passionate about. Try imagining yourself with 1 minute in front of an audience who have come to listen just to you – what’s the one thing you want to say? Don’t overthink it just say the first thing that comes to mind.
If you feel uncertain or panicky then there is a danger you will become stuck and paralysed with indecision. Work with a mentor or coach but whatever you do don’t rush into something you are half-hearted about or you will find it so much harder to get it off the ground and keep going.
Working from home? – get a grip on your gremlins
Your gremlins of self-doubt can jump in at the most unexpected times to trip you up – “I’m not good enough, I don’t have enough experience, I might fail”. When your gremlins pop up they can get a grip and really take you off your plan. Here’s the thing – this stops you moving forward, making money and having the business and life you want. Keep a journal where you record 3 daily achievements as a positive gremlin buster. Still struggling? Don’t waste time on this one- get a mentor to help you.
Working from home? – get organised
There are way too many distractions to take you off task at home. Find what works for you to be as productive as you can in the time you have allocated.
My tips are write your to-do list the night before with the big old nasty jobs first, plan how long the tasks will take and do a rough time plan, schedule your email checking and limit your time on this, take breaks from the laptop and ideally get some fresh air.
Working from home? – combat isolation
Working from home can be a great option for flexibility and freedom; however, you can very quickly feel isolated. This is no fun and no good for your business or your family and can be a downward spiral.
The tip is simple – get out and meet some like-minded people who are going to support you. Link up on social media with others and share. We all know what it’s like, just don’t suffer in silence.
Working from home? – look after yourself
Looking after you is crucial to looking after your business. You know this of course but are you doing it?
You have to be a well-oiled machine to grow your business and don’t forget you don’t get sick pay.
It can seem a luxury to give yourself permission to go to the gym, take a walk or go for a swim but successful business owners working from home make it a priority. What will you prioritise today?
Working free-lance? – Get Support
The very nature of free-lance work means you don’t have a team structure so finding support is so helpful.
This can be networks, professional organisations and forums. Draw on the support of friends who are really positive about your decision to go free-lance. Remember real friends ask how things are going and actually wait for the answer without butting in with what they wanted to say next.
Surround yourself with positive people.
Working free-lance? – Know your signs of stress
Working free-lance can be stressful as you can be concerned about the feast and famine scenario.
“Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response TO what happens. And RESPONSE is something we can choose” - Maureen Killoran.
Great, you might think, but that’s not how it works with me, as once you are stressed it’s hard to step out. That’s why you need to get good at noticing your signs of stress and need to know what helps you cope.
Start now to keep a stress diary for a week. Notice: What are my reactions to stress? What do I do that helps me cope? What do I do that makes it worse? Who can help me and who makes it worse?
Knowing your reactions to stress helps you to be able to do something about it before there is a significant impact on you and those around you. Get started now and choose your response!
Going free-lance? – remember to set your boundaries
Working for yourself is a big boundary tester. There is no one telling you to get started, no one telling you what to do or when it should be finished. And, especially when you are just starting, you have to initiate all work. It’s easy to go for a cuppa and start work later. It’s easy to work late night or all weekend to get something finished, and it’s happened to all of us.
Decide from the off what your ideal working week looks like and decide how many hours you want to work and when you are going to do them. This gives you a template to stick to. I’m not saying you won’t compromise sometimes but checking in with your template gives a measure of how on track you are. Start today! What is your template?
‘The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing’ Stephen Covey
If you are thinking of going free-lance this means you need to decide what the main reason is for wanting this. What is yours, is it flexibility, spending more time with your family, freedom to choose your own projects, greater job satisfaction?
I invite you to write your reasons down, and then go deeper and ask: ‘why are these important to me?’. This will be a great motivator for the times when the going gets tough. That’s when you need a reminder of the main thing, so you can keep your focus firmly on what is the main thing for you.
Are you overcompensating at work?
When you return to work after having children you might worry that colleagues won’t think you are up to the job. So you could be tempted to overcompensate by letting work drift out of work hours. You can easily fall into the trap of checking e-mails and finishing off things at home in an effort to appear competent and the danger is it becomes a habit. This is a slippery slope.
I invite you to consider the long term implications to you and your family if you let work seep into your time – is this indeed a picture you want?
So once you are clear on the cost to you and your family then make sure you stick to the boundaries. Set ruthless work-priorities, learn to delegate more to others and ask others to help you if need be.
Lacking confidence? – act it
You know that everyone else feels worried and nervous when they return to work after a gap but that’s little consolation when you feel sick at the thought of failing. One trick is to ‘act as if’ you feel confident –walk tall and smile . I’m not suggesting that you cockily bluff your way through things pretending you know exactly what is going on and understand the jargon – ask when you need clarification and explanation.
There is a huge difference between confidently asserting yourself rather than being uncertain, apologetic and timid. So come on dress for the part and walk tall – practice in the mirror. You CAN do this.
Choose passion over convenience
When re-launching your career it can be tempting to focus on what fits around your family. The danger is that you can end up doing something out of convenience and that is certainly no recipe for job satisfaction and fulfilment.
Instead think about what excites you and what you are passionate about. Then consider how that job could ideally fit around your family and lifestyle. Now you have a picture of the work package you want which is your starting point for negotiating your flexible work conditions when you are offered a job or you may even decide to go self-employed to get the package you really want.
So what is your dream package?
Do check out the Mum & Career article with fun and creative with of finding your passion, if you need some help.
Returning to work? – Do talk about your expectations at home
When you go back to work you will not have enough time to do everything you want and need to do – take it as a given.
One of the most helpful things to do is to talk to your partner about expectations. Just because you may have done certain chores whilst at home doesn’t mean that you carry on like this. So get down to the nitty gritty, make a list of all the jobs you do (yes, all of them) and decide who cooks when, who does the shopping, who picks up the children, how tidy the house needs to be and when it gets done. Ideally do this before you go back to work – it’s amazing how quickly resentment can kick in and can make you feel overwhelmed if you do it later.
www.theworkingmumscoach.co.uk - if you are struggling to find time
Primary children’s childcare – ask for help
After school clubs are great if your school has them AND if your child enjoys them but what are the alternatives? Ask for help from family and friends. This is the time to get creative and find ways to organise childcare that you and your children are happy with. If you work full-time don’t reject the possibility of asking friends for help just because you feel you can’t reciprocate the childcare. I invite you to offer alternative ways to reciprocate – I know someone who does her friend’s accounts in exchange for after school childcare; another who babysits 2 Saturdays a month in exchange for her child being dropped off at school 3 days a week.
If you are looking for ways to manage your time then check out my new bootcamp for more support.
Starting school – reinforce routine
When your child starts school it’s obviously a huge change. As well as dealing with school itself there may also be a whole new routine of after school arrangements – school club, swimming, gymnastics, football, grandparents, friend’s house. You may find your child seeking reassurance by repeatedly asking the same questions of what is happening, where they are going and who with. This can increase anxiety for you and them.
One tip is to make a fun timetable to keep in their bookbag with a photo or symbol for each activity. Using this prompt to talk through the coming day can help stop repeated questioning and reinforce the routine.
How to cope with separation anxiety – theirs and yours!
If you are a working mum and your child gets upset when you leave them at a childcare setting it’s generally not because they don’t enjoy being there it’s just that they don’t like separating from you and want reassurance you’re coming back. Here’s what you can do to help:
- Smile, be firm but gentle and tell them you look forward to hearing all about their day after tea/storytime – a concrete activity they can relate to gives them a marker to be reassured by
- Don’t apologise, don’t say you wish you could stay or prolong the goodbye
- Stick to a routine as much as possible – even if you leave work early resist the temptation to turn up early to pick them up
You need reassurance too so get feedback from staff about what your child has been up to. If you want more detail then ask for it. And my biggest tip – keep tissues in the car!
Top tips to get the most out of your nursery/childminder pre-visit
When you visit a prospective nursery or childminder it can be a bit like visiting the doctor –you can leave kicking yourself for the things you forgot to ask or mention.
The key is to prepare:
- Write a list of questions in advance concentrating on what is really important to you
- Take your partner or friend as it’s difficult to pick up on everything whilst having a conversation at the same time
- Notice – are the children relaxed and enjoying themselves?
- It is also really important to notice the staff – do they look miserable and how do they interact with the children and each other? Ask them how long they’ve worked there and what they enjoy about it. If you are visiting a childminder ask her why they wanted to be a childminder and what they enjoy about it.
Change of career? – Are you motivated or inspired?
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” — C.G. Jung
Have you decided on a new career path? Fantastic. Don’t rush into this without doing a reality-check, ask yourself: “am I motivated or inspired?”
You can be highly motivated but it doesn’t mean you are going to be inspired and fulfilled in your career. You could be motivated to avoid failure, to live up to others’ expectations, to avoid fear. You might even find you have just swapped one job for another which is too similar to what you’ve done before or has the same pressures which make you miserable. Oops!
I invite you to write 2 lists this week – on one list write all aspects of your current or most recent job and on the other list everything that the new career will involve. Mark all the similarities. Have good hard look – does the new career still tick the inspiring box?
You can find more help on finding your passions, interests, skills, values, abilities and personality types at our returning to work page.
Change of career? – But what to do next?
“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
What is it you want to do? Don’t jump into applying for any old job that looks appealing, just because you want a new challenge. Do your homework first and find your passions, interests, skills, values, abilities and personality type.
I invite you to start (yes, now!) with a graph of your work history so far – with time along the horizontal axis and a happiness/satisfaction scale of 1-10 (10 = fabulously happy/satisfied) on the vertical axis. Chart your history in terms of when you felt most happy/satisfied (whichever word you prefer). This is not about how successful you’ve been – they are not the same thing.
Look closely at the really positive moments and ask yourself what was so great about those times? You may start to see patterns which can really help with refining your next steps.
You can find more help on finding your passions, interests, skills, values, abilities and personality types at Mum & Career- Returning to work. My personal favourite link mentioned is the Personality Page with a version of the MBTI-test for less than £6,-.
Enjoy pulling together as much info about yourself as you can this week!
Change of career? – Ditch the worries and be a role model
“The greatest tragedy of the family is the unlived lives of the parents.” — C.G. Jung
Considering a change of career? What are your worries?
As a working mum it’s bound to be childcare, seeing your children less or other negative impacts on your children. Now, may I ask you to take a good look at your worries – are they really impossible to overcome or are they possibly excuses to hold you back from taking that scary leap?
I would like you to remember: “Nothing has a stronger – negative – influence on a child than the unlived life of a parent”. If you know deep down that it’s time to make a change then give yourself permission, think of the fantastic role model you are being to your children. Instead of worrying about the negatives make a list of 10 ways your children will benefit. Then you can plan ahead to overcome the obstacles.