In 2009, my entrepreneurial journey began, inspired by the planning of a rustic-style wedding at my family’s summer home in Northern Wisconsin. When I decided to chronicle the experience with a blog, I had no idea that the same blog would eventually become the number one online resource for rustic and country weddings.
I was a teacher at the time, and I started to blog because I couldn’t find the resources I wanted when I was looking for rustic wedding inspiration online. At the same time, the rustic wedding trend was blowing up. I quickly found myself with over 1.5 million monthly visitors, thousands of social media followers, interest from retailers, and a three-book deal.
I was able to quit my day job. I was also pregnant. In 2010, when my first son Jack was born, my business was busier than ever. Time and energy were at a premium. On the outside, it looked like I was working on my business full time, but in reality, like a lot of entrepreneurs, I already had one full-time hustle: motherhood.
Becoming a mom at the same time as becoming a business owner sounds crazy—and it is—but I believe it was also my greatest advantage. Like a lot of people who are trying to grow a business with limited time, I had to get really focused. I called it Naptime Entrepreneurship, and over time I was able to pin down some strategies that helped me find the balance I needed
The naptime entrepreneur mind-set is simple: Work when it’s work time, stay on task, focus on what will really drive your business forward, and be prepared to adapt to any changes that may come your way. Whether you’re juggling parenthood, another full-time job, or just a lot of responsibilities coming at you, this type of philosophy moves the needle.
If you’re anything like I was when I was first starting out, then you’ll probably try to tackle everything at once. I thought that sneaking emails at the playground or the occasional business call during family time meant I was a crafty multitasker, but I quickly learned that doing two things at once meant I was only giving my half best in both areas. Kids can tell when you’re not fully focused on them, and business associates can tell when you respond to their emails on the fly. Both deserve attention, but not at the same time. So work when it’s work time, and give your all when you do.
Staying on task is a simple concept to grasp. The hard part is the execution. We all know how easy it is to get distracted in this multimedia world. The key is to remember just how precious your time is—it’s already limited to begin with, so wasting any more of it on social media, online shopping, or surfing the web would not be a smart move. Think: If it doesn’t have to do with your business, it can wait.
Staying on task is only useful if the task at hand is actually helping you to advance your business. Returning all of the emails in your inbox is a nice goal, but maybe not as important as developing a 12-month strategy for your business. You don’t have time to waste on nonessential tasks. So ask yourself what will make the biggest impact on your business, and focus on that. Everything else is secondary.
At any moment, life can throw you a curveball. For me, the curveball was having a second baby late last year. Suddenly, I had two separate schedules to keep track of. I couldn’t work while my oldest son napped because my youngest still needed my attention. Rather than letting the change throw my parenthood-entrepreneurship balance off kilter, I readjusted. I had to reevaluate how I budgeted my time and enlist help from others, but eventually I found my groove again.
Life forcing flexibility on you is one of the best things you can learn in business. I’m truly able to quickly adapt to changes to my business plan, last-minute deadlines, or strategic changes in direction because flexibility is ingrained in me, thanks to the unpredictability of children.
Many people allow their limited time to stop them from their entrepreneurial dreams. Whether it’s caring for a child, other life obligations or a full-time job that you’re not able or ready to give up yet, it’s easy to make excuses. But by taking a different mind-set, I was able to take that limited time and make it work for my business, which I am not sure would have been as successful as fast if I hadn’t been so focused.
–Maggie Lord is the founder and editor of Rustic Wedding Chic and the author of The Rustic Wedding Handbook (Gibbs Smith Publishing 2014), Barn Weddings (Gibbs Smith Publishing 2013), and Rustic Wedding Chic (Gibbs Smith Publishing 2012).