Finding balance with Shannon Cornelius

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about how I schedule my work week and how I get it all done as a stay at home mom of a toddler and business owner of a growing, thriving business. The response was overwhelming, and I quickly realized how many of you needed guidance for creating your own schedule and finding balance between work and life. I realized that we all want a glimpse of how others are making it work so we can better structure our own lives.

Because of this, I was inspired to start this series featuring other busy moms and business owners sharing how they manage their schedules and work towards work/life balance. My hope in everything I do is that we can make our lives less busy and more intentional so that we find more room for joy. I hope that this series will inspire you in your own life and help you find just the right combination of work and play so you can make it happen too. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business or work

I’m Shannon, owner of Plum Street Prints. I grew up in Seattle with a love for art, design, marketing, and business. I attended BYU where I double-majored in Advertising & English. During college I spent a semester abroad in London, studying English literature & art – one of the best experiences in my life. I am still inspired by the beauty of new places & cultures. After college I worked in Advertising as a brand planner while also earning a master’s degree in Humanities. You could say I have a lot of interests!

I left my career in advertising to be home when I had my first baby (best decision I ever made!), but I was itching to start something creative. Plum Street Prints is an online shop specializing in phone cases, notebooks, journals, notepads, prints, & art. We were originally known for our phone cases which have been featured in print and across the web, specifically by many fashion icons + bloggers, like Blair Eadie of the popular Atlantic-Pacific blog (Merchandise Manager for Tory Burch) and Suze Yalof-Schwartz (former Fashion Editor for Glamour magazine), plus Amber Fillerup of The Barefoot Blonde & many others. We have also been featured on MSNBC's "The Look" on the Today Show. And we now have ventured into lots of other products like high quality canvas art paintings, notebooks, journals, and planning notepads.

We sell our products primarily on our site but also have several partnerships with other brands and shops. Many of our customers are repeat customers because we work hard to ensure a good quality yet lovely product, and superior customer service!

What are your main daily responsibilities? 

My primary daily responsibilities include responding to customer and business inquiry requests, discussing products and upcoming projects with our manufacturers and partner vendors, fulfilling orders, and working on new products and designs.

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What time does your typical day start?

My typical day starts between 5:30 and 6am.

Take us through your typical day

I wake up, exercise, and then spend a about 30 minutes catching up on any emails or quick business requests. I get ready for the day, then get my kids up. From this point I have to put work issues on hold until the afternoon and switch into mom mode. We have breakfast, do our chores, do reading time, and then head out for the day's activities. These range from swimming lessons to soccer practice to preschool and playdates with friends. We get home and have lunch and then my kids have an afternoon quiet time. My younger two nap and my almost-kindergartner plays Legos, colors, makes projects, and even helps me with work (he now wants to start his own business!). 

This quiet time is a great respite from the craziness of the day with 3 kids and it's always so fun for me to switch gears into work mode. Just before I work I take a little time to read my scriptures and write in my journal. Then I get going on my to-do list for my business. This includes answering emails, if needed working with my web developer on any site issues, working on collaborations, talking with suppliers, and fulfilling orders.

After our quiet time I switch gears yet again - time to get dinner ready, play in the backyard with my kids, and get anything planned for the evening. This is our family time, when my husband gets home from work, we eat dinner together, clean up, have books and bath time and bed.

After the kids are down, I'm back in my office working again for the night. I designate certain evenings of my work to different tasks. On Monday I work solely on fulfilling orders because I usually have a lot to catch up on from the weekend (I don't work on my computer on Sundays); on Tuesday evenings I spend time away from work, first with the youth of my church and then with my husband; on Wednesdays I work on new products and new design; on Thursdays I work on all my "boring business tasks" including updating cash flow reports, preparing and paying invoices, updating spreadsheets, etc.; on Friday evening I don't work (date night!); and on Saturday evening I catch up on all the missed items from the week. Sometimes on Sundays I'll paint a little but I try to keep this day away from my computer. 

Before bed I take 5-10 minutes to plan out my schedule, tasks, and must-do items for the next day. This helps my life so much! I quickly realized as a mom you can't plan for everything, but if you plan for what you can it makes everything run more smoothly.

What do you wish you had more time for?

I wish I had endless amounts of time to work on designs and new ideas. As a business owner you have so many ideas running through your mind, but not the time to execute everything. This is hard for me!

I wish I had more time to be a relaxed mom. I play with my kids a lot but most of the time I've scheduled that time in my mind to play with them, rather than having it be a spontaneous adventure. When you're a business owner and a mom you have to schedule your time really well to get a lot accomplished. I sometimes wish I was more carefree!

What is one thing you always make time for?

I always make time for family dinner. We have a busy family life with kids activities and lessons, my husband's busy career, my business, and our church, but we always make time for dinner as a family. I love to cook so this is fun for me, but even on the nights when we just have sandwiches, we still eat together.

How do you manage your schedule?

I use a daily planner religiously! Every night I take time to plan out the next day. Writing things down really takes the stress of it out of my mind. We also use a shared family calendar on our iPhones to sync our family activities so my husband and I both have them on our calendar.

How do you find the work/life balance?

Planning my days to each be for different emphases has helped so much. I love working on business so much I would do it day every day if I could! But planning my day into buckets of time for different activities really helps me to have time with my family and my business, in a balanced way. Of course there are many late nights when launching a new product or website or collaboration where I'm up much too late and probably cranky the next day, but luckily I can plan my own business schedule as to when these happen.

What brings you joy in your day to day life?

I often joke that my kids are hard but also bring me the most joy in life. Children have a way of putting everything in perspective for us. They are endlessly forgiving and loving and know how to find joy in ordinary moments. They are the most important thing I'll ever do. I am so thankful for them, and for my husband. We are coming up on ten years of marriage and I'm so grateful for our friendship, love, and laughter.

In my business, it brings me joy to reach milestones that in the past seemed like a distant dream. The best part about owning your own business is that when you reach a success or achievement you can look back and say "wow, I did that." I do have a help from a couple great people but to spearhead something and see it succeed is really satisfying.

Tell us one thing you learned about managing a busy life

There's an old saying that a "change is as good as rest." This is the mantra of my life. Because I'm changing back and forth between so many things daily (work, then mom time, work again, then family time, then work again), it keeps me from being burned out. This might not work for everyone, but I've learned this works best for me! 

I have also learned that if I don't plan for something, it doesn't get done (or it doesn't get done the way I want it to). I really need to work constantly as a mom to be planning in reading time and park time so that those moments don't pass us by. In my business I need to plan in time to keep on track of the backend sides of the business (which I don't love) or those don't get done as well as I'd like. 

I've also learned that you have to let some things go. Sometimes I have to step away from business opportunities for my family, sometimes I realize that I cannot sew a baby blanket for every friend having a baby, or make a from-scratch meal every night, or sew handmade costumes for my kids every Halloween. I have a deep-seeded desire to write a card to every friend for every moment of their life, send homemade gifts to friends in need, and make restaurant level meals for my family every night. Ha! 90% of this doesn't happen so I've had to just be okay with not doing everything at my best, but taking time to do a few things at my best.

What is one piece of advice you would give readers about managing their own schedule?

I would say do what works for you. I have a mind that is always changing gears so taking several chunks of time for various activities each day works well for me. If it works best for you to spend a really long chunk of time working every day, and then putting work away for the other half of the day, do that. If it works best for you to only spend one day a week responding to customers, do that. If you need to be creating new posts or products every day, then find time to make that a priority. I've found in business time and time again, not just with planning, when I'm true to what works for me, it will be successful. Don't do what works best for anyone else just because you feel like you should. Try it out and if it works great, but if not, find what works for you. 

Lastly, really be strict with yourself on social media time. As soon as I started doing this I saw my business grow a lot because I was more focused. I don't scroll through my feeds anymore. When I want to look up a friend or a business, I just go to that page. When I post, I take the time for that and then get off. I also turned off my notifications on my phone. Sometimes I just put my phone in a drawer or upstairs to have some time without it. Of course I always respond to questions and requests, but making my time more planned in social media has helped my business a lot. Not only does it free up time, but I think creatively when we spend all our time focused on what others are doing it's hard for us to find our own voice or talent. Just focus on you! Be deliberate about posting and about your time.


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If you are interested in contributing to this series, or know of someone you would like to see featured, send me an email at rachel@intentionally-designed.com and let me know!