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Alison Howard is a fellow wedding planner (and a wildly successful one!), speaker, coach and mentor and fills a lot of other roles on top of that – among other things, she’s a wife and mother, too. I admire her to no end! How on Earth can she do it all? She lifted her secret on her blog, the Alison Howard Blog, on May 13 of this year. And she was generous enough to let me re-print it.
HOW I DO IT ALL…
First of all, I don’t.
Maybe it’s because you see that I’m a wife, a mom of three, a wedding planner and a business coach, I make videos here and there, I speak at conferences, I cook, I clean my own house, I work out fairly regularly and I occasionally do my hair and make-up that leads you to wonder “How does she do it all?” (Which just so happens to be one of the questions I am asked the most.) But the truth that I hope most of you know deep down in your gut is that no one does it all.
I do all those things listed above, but not all at once and not all the time or nothing would be done well. For example, as I write this, I am in sweats, unshowered, and a general mess. No amount of money would draw me out into public in my current state. But that’s because I chose to spend an hour cleaning my kitchen this morning (which I didn’t have time to clean on Monday – seeeeee…..!!!) instead of getting ready. Also, writing this post doesn’t require that I get ready, so I didn’t. And that’s pretty much what it boils down to. Priorities and choices. Cleaning my kitchen and writing to you trumped vanity today. Tomorrow I am coaching two new wedding planners, so vanity will trump and I will choose to get ready and be presentable for those meetings (you’re welcome Amber and Diana!).
I’ve gotten used to this balancing act in my own life but for those who are new to juggling so much responsibility, here are a few tips that I discovered and clung to when I realized that I had two choices: sink or swim. I hope they help you to keep your head above water as you wear more hats than you thought possible, with a measure of elegance and grace.
Get Up Before The Sun
I absolutely know how difficult this is and how not fun it is to wake up early, but this is a total game changer if you can will yourself to do it – I promise! Most mornings I get up early, around 5am, while everyone else is asleep (except my husband, he gets up early too). Depending on my schedule that day I workout for 30 minutes then read my Bible and pray (and have coffee!) for 30 minutes – my hour of power is what I call that! This helps me get into the right mindset as I prepare for the day. Working out early in the day leaves me with so much energy and just makes me feel positive as I go through the morning routine with the kids. Do I do this every day or perfectly? No. Some mornings it is more beneficial for me to get an extra hour of sleep. On the weekends I don’t get out of bed before 7am unless I have to. But most mornings the early bird thing is my jam and my productivity is so much higher those days.
Ask For Help
I ask for help when I need it. I started my business when my daughter was two years old and I have had two more children in the past 8 years. I juggled and did my best on my own, which is what I think most of us do because when you start a business you’re usually broke as a joke from investing into said business. At least this was the case for me, but I made it work. Emails were answered during naptimes; meetings happened in the evenings when hubby was home, weddings on weekends. For vendor meetings or speaking engagements I’d get a sitter, but I just made it all work because I had to. I was in hustle mode. Honestly, it’s really kind of a blur. ; ) Once things got so busy I didn’t think I could do it on my own I hired a nanny for a period of time because I desperately needed the help. There is zero shame in asking for help. Zero. Whether it’s hiring a nanny for a season, a cleaning lady a few times a month or bartering something you do well (like cooking) with something someone else can do (like carpool). Get creative and make it happen.
Know Your Limits & Just Say NO
My personal rule: no emails or calls after 5pm. This is my family time and that time is so precious to my soul. I need it. It trumps any email or phone call. However, life happens and there have been times when I’d have a big project that required extra time and so, yes, I would work after 8pm when the kids were in bed, but it be wouldn’t answering emails. If you send emails at 10pm that sends the message that you are available for your clients during that time and that is a boundary that I just had to have in place. I never booked more weddings than I thought I could handle (which was 15, 20 max, but my sweetest spot was 10 weddings). I never overcommitted or felt that I had to attend every networking meeting or luncheon that I was invited to. I have said ‘no’ to several opportunities because they didn’t fit in with my life even though they seemed cool. Embrace the fear of missing out professionally so you don’t miss out on your life personally.
Your blog schedule, video schedule, deadlines, kids appointments, date nights, your own appointments (personal and professional), workouts, errands, and even time for rest…get it all on the calendar. I always schedule a few hours a week just to read, get a massage, grab lunch with a friend, paint (painting with watercolors is a fun new thing I’m learning); this gives you some margin to exhale and enjoy something that isn’t work-related. I have two separate calendars; one for work and one for family. They both hang on my wall in my office so that I can glance over and see everything that is going on. It’s also all on my calendar on my phone, but I like being able to see it without opening my phone because we all know how easily we can get sucked down the rabbit hole that is the phone. If it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist for me. Once upon a time I could get away with not being a slave to my calendar but that is not the season I’m in anymore and even though I don’t particularly like it, I know I’m lost without it.
Domesticated Duties Day
Monday’s are my day “off” to get my house in order for the week. I am the person in our family who does all of the cooking and most of the cleaning. Let me be really honest and express that this part of ‘doing it all’ was the hardest for me to embrace mostly because of my ego. That’s right, I said it. I used to struggle with thinking that I was too good to be cleaning the house…I mean, I could be spending my time doing more important things. Other times I’d think that it was unfair that my husband gets to work 8 hours uninterrupted while I cart the kids around, work, cook, clean, AND have to be pretty while I do it all! This is where I had to check myself and adjust my perspective. I am so dang BLESSED to be able to work from home and do all the things I do. And as you already know, I don’t even get ready most days, so there goes the whole pretty thing. : )
Let’s talk cooking first: If cooking for your family is something you do (or want to do), meal planning is essential. I meal plan for the week every Sunday evening and grocery shop every Monday morning. I cook a lot in the beginning of the week so I don’t have to cook Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. As for cleaning: I don’t like cleaning house any more than you do BUT I do love a clean home. Few things feel better than everything being clean, in its place, smelling all good…it’s like jumping into a Pottery Barn mag and it just makes me feel happy. Monday’s I deep clean the bathrooms and kitchen after I grocery shop. Laundry is done daily and the kids have been taught to do their own (praise the Lord). Vacuuming, dusting, mopping, changing bed linens is done Saturday mornings. The kids have been taught to clean their own rooms (yes, we do have to help occasionally and re-teach this as they are just so dang forgetful ; ). We pick up things left out daily so that clutter doesn’t consume us. I really stress teamwork in our home and the kids are (mostly) on-board. I have this part down to a system that works really well for us. Again, if you are not domesticated or don’t have time to be, outsource! There is zero shame in this. Because I work from home and make my own schedule I am able to do it with a (mostly) joyful heart. If you want to know more about meal planning or keeping house just ask in the comments and I’ll share in another blog post.
Be Kind To Yourself
You have to have grace for yourself. I’m sure you have all heard the popular adage “progress, not perfection”, but it’s totally true. Some weeks I’m insanely motivated and do all this really well. Other weeks I’m just off and half of this doesn’t get done. That’s life. Balancing marriage, parenthood, and being an entrepreneur is hard and no one expects you to move mountains. So deep breath and do your best and when you can’t, give yourself permission to stop, recharge, and ask for help. Ultimately, know that you aren’t in those beautiful trenches alone (and that this season won’t last forever). : )