Fairy Godmother, Heather Ledeboer writes: I have given birth four times. Without fail, the umbilical cord has always been cut. This severing act ends one part of our mother/child journey and begins another. While we are no longer connected physically, we are indeed bonded to each other. Over time, my children grow more independent. It is my job to see that process through in the best way I can and with as much love and wisdom possible.
In many ways, being a business owner has proven to be very similar to that process. Learning when and how to let Mom 4 Life grow and in what ways to step back and let others step in to help has taken time. However, cutting the umbilical cord of my business has been much different than it was with my children–It has been more of a process rather than an event. This year I committed to do all that I could to “cut the cord” and run my business rather than allowing it to run me.
Operation “Don’t work all day” had a soft launch last fall when I first carved out an office space for myself in our home. Given the fact that I have been a business owner since 2003, I figured it was really about time that I took control of my time and set some boundaries so that I had more time for myself and my family. The formal implementation of my plan took shape about a month ago and I am determined to see it through.
This plan has taken much longer for me to act on than it should. Because I enjoy what I do and have a tendency to be a perfectionist, I try to stay on top of work around the clock. However, I have discovered that no matter how much I work, there is ALWAYS more to be done. I have come to accept that I will never be fully “caught up”. Every time I hit send/receive I am “behind” again. In fact, in the area of emails, the more work I do, the more work I create for myself because most emails elicit a reply which in turn requires a reply from me and so on. I have decided that even if I can’t be entirely caught up, I can certainly be on top of my priorities and structure my day in a way that will encourage professional progress. Here are the three steps I have taken to “cut the cord”:
Step #1: Set office hours
- I have a home office (that is also part of my laundry room:). It isn’t glamorous but it has gotten my lap top off of my kitchen table which is a key part of cutting the umbilical cord to my work.
- I have worked out a schedule with my husband that allows me to work in the morning for 45 minutes while he takes my son to school and again in the afternoon for about an hour while he picks my son up from school (taking our two other children with him each time). This has become my work time.
Step #2: Take control of my inbox
- I have set my emails to only send (but not receive) unless I specifically hit the “send/receive” button (which I only do at the start of each work period). This allows my responses to get out in a timely manner but prevents me from even seeing the emails that are consistently coming in. This allows me to have an “end in sight” that I can work toward in catching up for the time being.
- I have set up an email automatic reply alerting others of my work schedule. It says,
“Thank you for your email! In order to spend the most time with my family (and not answering emails), I only answer emails 1-2 times a day M-F. You can typically expect to get a reply from me in 24-48 hours.
If your need is urgent and related to Mom 4 Life you can call our toll free number 800-928-4905 and Angela (our customer service assistant) can help you. Otherwise you can try me on my home number 208-683-3076.
Thank you for your understanding!”
This gives me peace of mind that those contacting me are not only aware of my schedule but expecting me to abide by it. I also know that if something is urgent I have provided a way to be contacted.
- I set up a separate “personal” email account and gave it to my close friends and family members letting them know it is to be used for non-work emails. Knowing that I won’t find work related content in these emails allows me to check this email account as desired without worrying that I will get sucked into working during non hours. This is also the only email account that I have access to via my phone.
Step #3: Create a system for my to-do list
- If something comes to mind during my off hours that I need to remember to do I email myself a reminder from my non work email and then breathe easy knowing that I will see the reminder the next time I sit down to work. Another service that can be used for the purpose of sending an email to your inbox via a voice message is Jott.
- I have a spiral binder on my desk that has my to-do list. There is an urgent and non urgent column. Each day I check my list and make sure that the urgent list is caught up. If I finish my emails early then I will tackle a non urgent item on my list.
Perhaps you have a cord that needs to be cut or have successfully installed your own “don’t work all day” plan. I would love to hear what you have done or plan to do to reach your business goals this year. Let’s run our businesses (not the other way around) together!
Heather Ledeboer, Mom4Life, Heather Ledeboer is passionate about helping other moms succeed in business. Her passion is directed at finding mom invented products (such as LilyPadz breast pads, WubbaNub plush toy pacifiers, Hooter Hider nursing covers, and BabyLegs leg warmers) and offering them on her website, http://www.mom4life.com with free shipping to all US locations. She also enjoys writing on the topic of business and has a particular pet peeve about providing excellent customer service. Twitter @mom4lifecom