My second baby was very sick. When Marcus finally came home from the NICU, I was pumping night and day, running back and forth to doctor’s appointments, and tending to his worrisome respiratory attacks, which generally came on right about 1am. By day, I was wrangling a toddler, Jack, who was born angry at the world. He grew angrier at the vulnerable age of 18 months when I disappeared into the hospital for 6 weeks, then spent another 4 weeks traveling back and forth to Johns Hopkins to advocate for his little brother. (That angry toddler has turned into an exceptionally pleasant 10 year old, by the way). I was suffering from symptoms of undiagnosed hypothyroidism, and more than a touch of post-partum depression. I just couldn’t do… anything. Every day, I felt more and more like a failure. Finally, I made a list of everything I was “supposed” to do in a day. John and I sat down to decide what was most important. At the time, I set the bar for myself very low. I told myself that if I could do those few things, I would be successful. Forget about everything else.
One of the things that I put on the list was reading to Jack, then about 20 months old, for 20 minutes every day. Reading is something I love and highly value. I had great memories of reading with my own mom and became an avid reader because I had such positive feelings associated with books. Ten years later, it’s Joshua, instead of Jack, that I share reading time with every day because both Jack and Marcus have graduated to bookworms whose favorite day of the week is library day.
I’m at a vastly different point in my life now, thankfully. Post-partum issues have long since resolved (obviously) and my hypothyroidism is totally controlled with medication. My 4 boys only have “normal” kid issues and are on the healthier end of the spectrum. My third and fourth babies were easy. I have a super helpful 10 and 9 year olds. John’s business is up and running and, thanks to his employees, his hours are more flexible.
But I took some things away from that experience that I try to apply to this stage of life, every single day.
1. Consistency is powerful. One of my most cherished hopes for my kids was that they would love reading as much as I do… and so far, I’ve been lucky enough for that to happen simply because of a 20-minute-a-day investment. What is one consistent thing you can do for your business every single day that you’d look back on in 5 years and say, “THAT’S what built my business”? We cannot do it all, and more to the point, on some crazy days in this WAH-SAHM balance, you’ll only be able to do ONE thing for your business. On those days when nothing goes right, what should that one thing be? Tending to every client email? Blogging? Taking a picture for your 365 series? Whatever it is, do that one thing, do it every day, and on your craziest days with kids, applaud yourself for doing it – EVEN IF you do nothing else.
2. It is SO important to FEEL productive. The feeling of success breeds motivation to be more and more disciplined and action-oriented! Because of that, it is critically important to define productivity and success in a reasonable way.
3. Make sure your everyday to-do list reflects your actual priorities. Only you can determine those priorities, but be intentional about it. As I mentioned last week, one day last year I wrote “be flexible” as the only action item on my to-do list. It was going to be the kind of day that demanded flexibility, and there was a very real possibility that I wasn’t going to get much done no matter how hard I tried – or that if I did, it was going to be at the cost of yelling at my kids and frustrating both them and myself. I knew that when I reviewed my day’s work, I had to have something written down remind myself of what I really believed – that to be flexible was truly to have had a successful day.
3. Determining priorities and goals for a day has to be done objectively. The best time to define success is at the onset of the day – or better, the night before. So every day, I take my checklist and put on the specific non-routine goals for the day. I have sections for errands, cleaning, personal correspondence, and several categories for work. I think carefully about what HAS to be done for the next day and limit everything else. For instance, if I know I have to edit a wedding… not much else goes on the list!
I’m super curious what you guys have found are your “must do, no matter what, every single day” items!!! Please share!
Previous posts in this series:
1. The Challenges of Being a Work-at-Home-Stay-At-Home-Mom
3. Today: Winning the Worst Days
4. Next week – “You Can Do A Lot in 10 Minutes”