When 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. 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 women 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.
My name is Emma Rose, I'm a photographer and graphic designer based out of Southwest Washington. I'm a city girl turned country after following my Husband's dream of working for the family cattle ranching business. My passion for photography started when I had my daughter, Riley. At that time I picked up a camera in hopes of taking better pictures of her... you know, those pictures that aren't an iPhone shot! I quickly realized that it was more than a hobby and I actually loved doing it. I took a hundred pictures, then hundreds more. That camera was an extension of my body for over a year as I practiced and practiced some more. Before I knew it I was taking family pictures, senior portraits and I even booked my first wedding. I also rekindled a fascination with graphic design and started offering those services to clients. I primarily work with fellow photographers but I've also worked with florists, event planners, and other creative types. It is one of my passions to help other business owners reach their full potential and I believe a lot of that starts with developing and establishing a strong branding foundation.
Truth be told, the adventure continues daily - whether it’s adjusting to my new life as a “ranch wife” or traversing the uncharted territory of motherhood or developing beautiful brand strategies for my amazing clients. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I believe I was put on this earth to be an amazing mother, but also a leader. I am hosting my first photography workshop next summer on our family cattle ranch and I'm beyond excited about this next phase of my life and becoming an educator in the photography community. When I left my career in accounting, I was scared of the unknown. However, I continued to pursue my passions and was left with not only more time with my little girl, but finding something that finally made sense in my life when it came to work. I don't even consider what I do work because I love it that much.
Take us through your typical day and your main daily responsibilities.
I typically wake up about an hour or two before my daughter to check emails and respond. She wakes up around 8 AM so I love my quiet routine with a cup of coffee before the day begins. I also like to get myself showered and ready for the day before she's even up because I not only work better when I'm "put together" but I just feel more ready for the day ahead. When she's up we snuggle, make breakfast, and play. She has about an hour window in the morning where she will happily play in her room by herself. I use that time to either work on client tasks or overall business admin tasks like reconciling a bank statement, updating something on my website or working on a blog post. Other mornings I don't do anything at the computer and we go do something fun all morning before nap time. She sleeps every day from 1-4 PM so that is my window to really get work done. I try to do a super quick clean while she's eating lunch around noon so that when she does go down for nap time I am not stressing about the dishes in the sink or meal prep for dinner time. I have found that I do my best work when I focus on one thing at a time. I used to pride myself on being an excellent multi-tasker but quickly learned when it came to my own business that I had to shift gears and change the way I work.
Nap time is definitely my most productive window because I know that I have a solid chunk of time to work and be productive. On the flip side, there have been some days when she's not feeling good or things are just off and she doesn't nap well so I have to be flexible but for the most part, she's an excellent sleeper which helps me successfully work from home.
Once she's up we play and wait for Dad to get home. Evenings are my favorite getting dinner together and hanging out as a family. My Husband Shaun and I try to hang out for at least an hour alone after she's gone to bed at 8 but there are times that I say to him, "It's a work night!" and I'm at my computer all night and barely talk to him! I don't like those nights, but they do happen.
I'm guilty of staying up a little too late but I do try to get down by 11PM. I find that I do best on about 7 hours of sleep. When I go over that I feel groggy. Sometimes I'm up until 1 AM if I have a deadline but I'm usually in bed by 11.
In summary I would say my daily responsibilities are:
-Feeding and bathing my daughter
-Keeping up with the messes (I try to wait until the end of the day to worry about them, but toddlers are destructive)
-Responding to emails
-Keeping up with current client projects
What do you wish you had more time for?
I wish I had more time to read. I love reading and have not made it a priority. I read a lot when we go on vacation, but I wish I did it more when I'm home. I get lost in books and have always been an avid reader. It is something that weighs on me because reading for me is escaping reality and regrouping with the real life things that are happening around me in real-time.
What is one thing you always make time for?
I always make time for getting Riley out of the house every day (unless it's pouring down rain). However, even when it rains I try to take her out to the front yard for some puddle jumping because she loves doing that. I think it's important for kids to get outside and we live close to the park so I take her there a lot to run around and play on the toys. Even if it's just one hour, I know she looks forward to that time of the day when I say, "Ok, let's get our shoes on!" She loves to be outside and because of the nature of my work, it's easy to get lost on the computer and stuck inside so I make a conscious effort to shut it off and get fresh air.
How do you manage your schedule?
I was having a very hard time with my schedule before I finally reached out and asked for help from those around me. That started with my Husband and helping him understand what I do, what I'm struggling with and explaining to him exactly how he can better help me juggle the madness. Since then, he's stepped up a lot more for me when it comes to the little things that might not seem like much, but help me out big time. He has certain nights of the week where he is in charge of dinner. We have a dinner already planned, but he is in charge of executing it. He loves to BBQ and be in charge of the protein, whatever we are eating! I enjoy putting together the sides like a yummy salad or grilled veggies. He also has his "chores" that are all on him to stay on top of now. Before we sat down and talked about house duties, I felt like I was doing so much on my own and drowning but once we talked it through and broke it all down, he now helps so much more and I don't have to hound him anymore. We are both much happier!
I also manage my schedule with google calendars! I have one for my photography, graphic design, and a family calendar that is shared with my Husband. We put everything on our calendars because schedules are crazy around here we depend on it to know what the other has going on at any given time. When he adds something I get a notification and vise versa. If I don't add things to my calendar, I will most likely forget about it. I have too many things going on now to just make a mental note, I have to have it locked in and saved on my iPhone. I also use 17hats to manage my calendar and client schedules. This has helped me stay very organized with the backend of my business.
How do you find the balance between w ork and home?
I learned early on that in order for me to run and manage a successful business, I had to start outsourcing pieces of my life. I have a babysitter that I use once a week and sometimes more if I have a busy stretch and need more help. She comes every Thursday and it's been a savior for me! I hide upstairs in my office and get to hear my daughter laughing and having fun. It makes me so happy because even though she can't see me, I still feel so close. I never would have had this experience if I still worked at at office.
I love coffee. Before I left to college my parents purchased an espresso machine that I still use to this day, nearly 10 years later. I might buy a coffee when I'm out and about or traveling, but I don't spend what some spend on their daily coffee addiction. So, I made a decision to bring in a house cleaner. I justify the expense because I don't spend $5 every day on coffee like many do! Hiring a house cleaner was the best thing I've ever done for myself and my business! I'm a neat freak but I've had to learn how to let things go. I realized I was spending too much time stressing over the little things like dishes in the sink or laundry piling up. Bringing in a house cleaner to help me with the deep cleaning has helped me stay on top of the little chores so much more easily.
Finding balance is a constant struggle but I have to check in with myself and remember why I got into working for myself in the first place. That reason was to spend more time with my family. Sometimes the work just has to wait and I have to turn it off. Sometimes my daughter is having an off day and it's impossible for me to accomplish anything and that's okay. Other days I have enough time to work, but the house is a mess and I have to just let it go. I tell myself that eventually the clothes will be put away, the bathrooms will be clean again, and the sink won't have an entire day of dishes stacked in it. I find balance by learning how to be more productive with the time I do have to work. I'm not perfect and sometimes when I sit down to work on the blog, I have writers block and have to shift gears and work on something else. I just know that spending time with the people I love is crucial, and the work can wait. It will get done, I always get it done, but flexibility is important.
Tell us one thing that you have learned about managing a busy life.
I have learned that it's okay to ask for help. Before my business exploded, I felt like I had to do it on my own. I'm less scared to pick up the phone to call my mother in law now and ask her if she's willing to hang with Riley on a Sunday so I can get some work done. I've learned that communication with your spouse is crucial. If I had not sat down with mine to discuss areas where I need more help, I think tension would have risen and resentment would have filled that empty space. However, because I was able to ask for more help in a way that he could actually hear me, we are a successful team. He steps up when I'm overwhelmed and I am learning to give him more of my time to just be together and be present in the moment. We try really hard to get out every other week for a date night or at least have a nice dinner at home and watch a Netflix together. Asking for help has never been my strong suite but now that I know the people around me are willing to help, I'm not afraid anymore. Because I'm able to ask for more help, I'm a better business woman, wife, and mother.
What is one piece of advice you would give readers about managing their own schedule?
I would say the best advice that I can give is to give yourself grace. Running a business from home is not easy, it is really hard. Be kind to yourself. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've felt like I'm failing, but to correct those thoughts I have to have a little mental check-in and tell myself that it's okay to not be perfect. It's okay to fall down but it's not okay to give up on myself. If I had it all figured out, life would be really boring. Even when it feels like the odds are stacked against me, I remind myself that I'm doing the best that I can and that by giving myself more grace will make me a better person in the long run. You got this and remember, you are not alone!