Every week, I ask people to think about what they’ll do on Thursday and Friday in order to have a more spacious weekend. I ask every week because we all forget every week.
As a mom entrepreneur, that’s probably a pretty tall order, as its natural for business to consume a full week (and then some) and that leaves the weekend to catch up on everything that wasn’t done during the week. By the time you catch up, the week starts again, and you didn’t have time for your family or yourself.
You’ve probably experienced that you can make time when you have to – it’s not like it makes itself. In a similar way, you can make your weekend more spacious if you set your mind to it, but it also won’t make itself more spacious.
Here are five ways to do it:
1. Put some limits on email
I tend to start with email because so many small businesses are drowning in it, and there’s a natural tendency to want to handle email on the weekend when you’re not getting as much of it. What usually happens, though, is that we start an email ping-pong on the weekend because the recipients are now checking email on the weekend, too.
A way around this is to triage your email on Thursday and Friday so the stuff that actually matters gets done and the rest can sit until Monday. If you really take a look at it, there’s probably only 10-15% of your email that requires a response before the next week, so focus on them first. Create a folder or label for Next Week and put everything else in there and plan for a time to process them next week.
Trust me, the others can wait. Would you rather your kids wait?
2. Be less social on Social Media
Think about your own behaviors on Social Media. Are you really “business-minded” there during the weekend? Are your customers hanging out and being “business-minded” on Saturday night?
Probably not. The limit of their social media activities is probably uploading pictures of them drinking margaritas with their girlfriends, but many people naturally check out during the weekend. I was half-joking with a few friends last weekend when I said that Facebook participation drops so heavily during the weekend because people aren’t at work trying to pass the time on Facebook. I was only half-joking because it’s true.
When your peeps aren’t online, it doesn’t make much sense for you to spend a lot of time there anyway – unless, of course, you have a principled strategy about that. Most of us end up there out of habit more than intention.
Rather than worrying about sharing and seeing what everyone’s up to, go do something worth doing in the first place. You can catch up Monday.
3. Separate capturing and processing
Some business ideas are like lost keys – as soon as you stop looking for them, you find them. A lot of ideas happen during the weekend for several reasons:
1) you have some distance away from the problems,
2) you probably talk about and thus socially process what’s going on, and
3) switching physical contexts generally switches thought patterns.
The problem, of course, is that that killer idea gets you back in your office or on the kitchen table with your laptop open as your kids are finding novel ways to color your walls with ketchup.
What many of us do is smoosh capturing and processing activities together, when in fact they can be effectively separated. For instance, you could have a stack of notecards on your table or in your purse ready to capture an idea, but you can process that idea during the next week. It’s even better if your capture medium is separate from your process medium, as it’s too easy to wind up checking email when you meant to be dropping a note in Evernote.
There’s a hidden secret to capturing ideas this way: your mind works on them while you’re off doing other things. By the time you come back to process that idea, you’ll have a good idea of whether it’s really good or whether it just seemed good. And, in the meantime, your conscious experience is that you’ve had some away time. You get to have your ideas and the weekend, too.
4. Make time for planning
A consistent issue that my clients have is that they’re not intentionally making time to plan. My moms are the worst, not because they don’t think about it, but because they are so swamped with other things all the time and invisible tasks get the best of them.
I know we have to fix the plane while flying it more than anyone else, but we also need to take a bit to figure out where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. If you don’t see the weekend coming, it’s hard to know you need to downscale your business operations for a bit. If you don’t make time to process the new inputs from the weekend and figure out what you’re going to do for the week, you won’t trust that you can be away from it. Everything will have to be Right Now! because there’s no firm time in the future in which it could be handled.
It’s about like a kid who yells constantly because he doesn’t ever think he’ll be heard. When he understands and believes there will be time for him, he won’t yell as much.
Monday morning is a great time to plan, but that doesn’t work for a lot of moms. You might need to do it Tuesday morning after you’ve managed to get the kids back in the week’s routine and have handled whatever urgent stuff happened over the weekend. The exact time doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that there is a dedicated time.
5. Be specific about how you’ll use the open time
This one is probably the most important, so please slow down here. Most of us are terrible at using “open” time wisely – we have a tendency to fill it up because it’s awkward. Unfortunately, how we fill it on the fly usually doesn’t really cut to the things that matter.
For instance, we’re more likely to pop in a movie and watch it with our kids rather than go to the park, even when the park is a few blocks away and the weather is nice. It’s only after the fact that we recognized we could have done something different.
So, rather than leaving yourself open space to fill, be specific about how you’re going to use the time. Instead of “hang out with the kids,” try “take the kids to the zoo.” The latter is actionable and imposes some real boundaries on you, and it also makes it a lot easier to get away from the things that get you back into business by accident.
Furthermore, if you make a plan on Tuesday to go to the park on Saturday, you know you have three days to get all the other household or family duties done, as well as a manifest reason why it needs to get done a head of time. Rather than leaving the laundry for Saturday or Sunday, you could do a bit of task layering and mix in a load while you’re cooking dinner or watching TV. Come Saturday morning, it’s done and you can go out with your kids.
There’s one other trick here: you can strategically place items relevant to the activity around the house so it makes you think about it. For instance, if your goal was to play softball with your daughter on Saturday afternoon, you could place your glove on your keyboard at the end of the workday Friday. The next morning, you’d have to move that glove and would probably be jarred into remembering what you intended to do. It’s sneakily simple, but it works.
No, You Don’t Have To Do Them All At Once…
Interrupting patterns and developing new habits is a matter of practice, and while these five suggestion work excellently together, you don’t have to do them all at once. It’s better to work in one area, steadily and intentionally, than get overwhelmed by making so many changes at once.
We could have shared 22 tips or secrets about how to do to work on one at a time, but, honestly, you’re smart, savvy, and powerful enough to figure that out on your own. I’d much rather you think about how to apply some of these in a way that actually works for you since those small tweaks and adjustments are easier to incorporate and you’ll stick with it.
So, which one are you going to start with? And what do you want to do with the space you make available?