“You will never have this day with your children again. Tomorrow, they’ll be a little older than they were today. This day is a gift, breathe and notice, smell and touch them; study their faces and little feet and pay attention. Relish the charms of the present. Enjoy today, Mama, it will be over before you know it.” – Jen Hatmaker
As working mothers, we are constantly trying to find the balance between raising happy, well-rounded children and having a career that we’re passionate about that is worth taking the time away from our kids. It is impossible to always have the best of both worlds 100% of the time. However, it IS possible to find that balance and to not sacrifice either.
The first step in creating this idyllic scenario, is to step back and understand your personality, work style, priorities and limitations, as well as your children’s. There isn’t a perfect solution that works for every mom, but there are plenty of things you can try until you find something that fits! As you try these different styles of juggling, know that your children will love you, even if you drop a few balls from time to time.
Before giving you my “solution” to this never ending dilemma, I just want to say that I do not have it all figured out. There are days when I’m at my wits end, stressed with finding that balance and feeling guilty for not accomplishing everything or “choosing work over the kids”. However, most often, surprisingly I feel in control of my time and am genuinely happy. So this may not be perfect – but it feels pretty close.
How to Keep Yourself Organized
There are three programs that I use to accomplish this seemingly daunting task of staying organized.
– Google Calendar – I use this for our every day schedule (color coded for different categories of activities) with events for that day up top (scheduled as “all day”) and time specific activities in their appropriate spots.
– Evernote – I use this app to keep track of things with my voiceover stand-up partner, Kelley Huston. We meet for 15 minutes every morning Monday-Thursday and 30 minutes on Friday, for a more extensive “parking-lot discussion”. We discuss what we’ve done yesterday, what we’re planning to do today, what we’re planning for tomorrow & what, if anything, is standing in our way. Then we figure out a way to work around it. It’s amazing how having someone to hold you accountable really adds to your productivity and your feeling of accomplishment when you reach your goals!
– Stickies – I use this app for my actual schedule each day. I love this program because I have it set up as a small vertical window on the side of my screen so I can see it when I have other things open. I color code this as well to make it easy to see. If it’s something that takes me out of the house, I make it bold, so it catches my eye. Now obviously, things come up- auditions, the baby doesn’t nap that day, a last minute meeting, etc. When that happens, I simply adjust the schedule and continue on. The more specific I can be in my daily schedule- the more likely I am to complete the tasks. If it’s too general, there’s a greater risk it’s not going to get done. Once I’ve accomplished the task, I italicize so I can visually see things as they’re being completed. You’d be surprised how “checking” something off your to-do list mentally prepares you to move on to the next task.
Creating a Schedule
There are general VO tasks that I designate for each day. This gives me an overview of what I’ll be putting my focus on, in addition to auditions that come in, jobs that I book, etc. – the unknown that we always have to happily plan for.
– Monday is the day I work on research. This is when I research new companies that I want to contact for potential work.
– Tuesday is the day I contact prospective clients. On this day I send out emails, phone calls or postcards to the new companies I’ve researched and I introduce myself.
– Wednesday is the day I spend following-up. I’ll reach out to prospective clients I’ve previously contacted (after an appropriate amount of time has passed). I may also touch base with prospective clients I’ve been in communication with, just to say hi as well as current clients to remind them that I’m here.
– Thursday is my writing day. This may be a blog article, a newsletter, a marketing campaign or a press release.
– Friday is my invoicing day. On Fridays I spend time invoicing my clients, as well as following-up on overdue payments. When time allows, I also use this day to update my VO budget, year-to date income and business expenses.
– Weekends I like to reserve for family time and very little work. However, I will take a couple of hours and prepare for my upcoming week. This is incredibly important for my success and to keep me stress-free. This includes scheduling my weekly tweets, planning my kid’s activities for the week and creating an outline of the goals I need to reach by the end of that week.
Every day my schedule is different- that’s the fun of it! It all depends on my workload, my kid’s schedules and what I’m in the mood for. Sometimes I start my day at 5 AM and end shortly after the kids go down, while other days I start just before they get up & work until 11 PM. I’m not spending all of that time working, I’m spending that time enjoying a balanced life of work, family and me time (something you mustn’t forget!).
Fitting Everything In
I find that it’s best to work backwards in goal setting. Once I’ve determined what I need to accomplish, then I plan the steps from the end date to present day in order to make that happen. Voice-Over talent and fellow Voxy Lady, Lauren McCullough, taught me that it’s not just about setting goals, but setting SMART goals. If your goals aren’t attainable, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
During the weekdays, I try to schedule a 15 minute activity with my 2 year old, then 30 minutes of work time, then back to my 2 year old and so on. The blocks of uninterrupted time are before the kids wake up in the morning, during nap time and once they go to bed. If my 5 year old is home early, or not in school that day, then I try to plan everything around him.
Now even if you think you have these magical powers and can accomplish everything in a day without breaking a sweat (ha, yea right…), it’s OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP. You have to be okay with realizing you can’t do everything, all the time, by yourself. That’s where you need to prioritize your strengths and the things that are important to you. Outsourcing is a wonderful thing (I am still learning this myself!) You should be spending your time doing what makes you the happiest and where you are the most successful using your skills. You’re a voice talent, not an accountant- so hire one. If your strength isn’t in editing, outsource that too (Karen Souer is definitely someone to keep at the top of your list.) Always keep your eye on the things that matter most to you with a focus on what YOU excel at.
As a VO mom, you need to have a support system in place. I have a handful of people that I love and trust who I can reach out to when I need assistance with childcare. Fortunately I am able to work most VO gigs and auditions around the kids, but when a VO comes in that needs to take priority, I already have everything in place to make it happen without missing out on the job or feeling like I’m letting my kids down.
Now you’re either thinking, WOW that’s awesome, I can’t wait to do that, too. OR, holy cow, this woman is nuts- I couldn’t imagine having such a rigid schedule. Like I said, you have to do what works for you. This, definitely works for me. One thing I can say though, is the schedule I create the night before almost never stays completely as scheduled once the day begins and that’s okay! I adjust the times and activities as needed. By having this outline sketched out in advance, my day goes so much smoother .
Happy voicing Mama!
image credit: http://blueeyedbride.com/2011/08/29/super-mom-whos-that/