BUILD YOUR BUSINESS DURING NAPTIME

Sometimes, the only time we have to get anything done is while our kids are napping. Check out the 9 tasks that will help you leverage this precious time, as well as 13 ways to keep older (or more stubborn) kids occupied.

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Running a Business With Toddlers: Busy Boxes

Running a Business With a Toddle

For the month of February, I’ll be chatting about different ways to run a business when you’ve got kiddos. The first week was running a business with a baby, next week will be school-aged kids, and today I’ll be talking about running a business with toddlers.

Last week I gave 14 tips for running a business with a baby around. Many of those tips translate to running a business with toddlers, but I want to talk about something specifically for this age group.

Recently I’ve started reading up on busy boxes/bags. I don’t even recall where I ran across the term, but the concept is pretty simple. It’s a box (or bag) of toys/games/etc., to keep little hands occupied. When I see work at home mom’s talking about it, they have a box or boxes that are for use only when they’re working. Especially for things like conference calls, when you might need a little extra help keeping them entertained.

Since I’ve only just started looking into this myself, I can’t give you any cool photos of the ones I’ve created. But I promise to do a follow up post with what I come up with. For now, here’s a quick round up of some places where you can get some amazing ideas!

Teaching Mama – Busy Bags 101

Powerful Mothering – Ultimate Guide of Busy Bag Ideas – 100+ Ideas Sorted by Category

Little Bins For Little Hands – 25 Low Prep Busy Boxes or Busy Bags Activities

Intentional By Grace – Why I Use Busy Boxes For My Toddler & Baby

The Domestic Four – DIY Quiet Time Busy Boxes

Some children are more tactile than others, and some children have trouble properly processing their senses (SPD). For these children, sensory bins are a great twist on the busy boxes/bags concept.

Love Play and Learn – Sensory Bin 101

Kids Activities Blog – Over 200 Sensory Bins For Tactile Fun

Play At Home Mom LLC – 50 Sensory Bin Ideas

 

Have you ever used busy boxes/bags for your children? What were some of your favorite items for those boxes?

 

 

14 Tips For Running a Business With a Baby

 

Abigail - 1 Day Old
Abigail – 1 Day Old

For the month of February, I’ll be chatting about different ways to run a business when you’ve got kiddos. Next week I’ll cover working around toddlers, week after will be school-aged kids, and today I’ll be talking about running a business with a baby.

2 weeks before Christmas 2014, I was told that the sonographer might have miscalculated my due date, and I might in fact be having the baby on Christmas Day. She didn’t end up arriving until the 2nd week of January (my originally calculated due date), but the lesson is clear: Make sure you’re ready, well before the baby actually arrives.

It’s human nature… there’s 9 months to prep for a baby’s arrival, but rarely do we feel prepared when it’s go-time. So if you’ve got a sweet bundle on the way, try to be as ready as possible before their arrival.

Tools

Every baby responds differently, so your mileage with each of these may vary.

1. Baby swing

Just like any tech, these have come a long way over the years. When I was a baby, the swings were a bit noisy, and they’d run through batteries pretty quickly. I remember younger siblings being manually pushed periodically as the battery’s drain caused the swing to go slower, and slower.

Now they last longer than ever, some of them can be plugged into the wall with an AC adaptor, and my very favorites swing 2 ways. They can sing forward/backward like traditional baby swings, but also side-to-side.

Of course, the cooler the swing, the more spendy it is, but you can get one with all of the above features for just under $150.*

 

2. Cradle

Cradles are super portable, and this allows you to work but still have the baby near you. Sometimes all they want is to be able to see Mama, and hear her voice.

These have a very limited time that they can be used, because as they get bigger and begin rolling over, the cradle is no longer a safe option. So if you can get one on sale, or just pass it on when you’re done so it continues to be useful, that would be a great way to go.

3. Baby wrap

I’m definitely not an expert on this topic, so I’ll link you to some resources for this.

What I can tell you is that there are tons of options for baby-wearing. You can use sling wraps, stretch wraps, woven wraps… you’re sure to find one that will work for you and your baby.

Also, you can often find local babywearing groups, many of which have a “lending library” so you can test out different baby wraps/carriers.

Babywearing 101

Babywearing Safety

Kinds of Carriers

Systems

4. Flexible (but set) hours

Okay so now you’re probably wondering… how can you have set hours, but still be flexible? Okay… what I mean by this is, be prepared to work around your baby (and if you have other kids, then be prepared to work around all of their individual needs).

But while you’re working around your baby’s feeding/sleeping/clingy schedule, make sure that you’re not working 24/7. Set parameters to work within. Hours that you will not be working.

If you wake up at 3am to feed the baby, don’t try to check your email. You might be awake enough to read it, but you run the risk of not being awake enough to answer it clearly. Make your off-work hours sacred for baby snuggles, kid cuddles, husband-time, Netflix binging, and (hopefully) sleep.

5. Batching

One simple way to be super productive, is to batch your tasks. For example, if you get ready to schedule your social media posts for the day, go ahead and schedule your posts for the week (or the next 2 days, or however much you have time for).

6. Work in Cycles

If you (like a lot of creatives) like to bounce around from project to project, a good way to make sure you stay focused is to use an app like 30/30.

Based on the Pomodoro technique, this app lets you create a set of tasks (and allot an amount of time that you want to spend). I also schedule in fun things like dance breaks, or a coloring break, and I schedule in Facebook time.

If I schedule in fun time, and social media breaks, I’m more like to stay on focus for the rest of my tasks.

7. Maximum Impact/Minimum Time

If you’ve only got a short time amount of time (which isn’t unusual for moms) figure out what will give you the biggest result for the least amount of time.

Here’s a hint for figuring out your most likely focus: what are your money makers? Answering emails is quick, but probably not your biggest bang for your buck.

If you’re an author, then put that small spot of time into writing. You may not be able to write a whole chapter, but if you get a page or two done, that’s one step closer than you were. If you’re a photographer, work on editing a session, or create an ad for your next season.

8. Automate

This works really well in coordination with batching. Write a bunch of blog posts over a weekend, and schedule them out for the rest of the month. Write up your social media posts over an hour, and schedule them out for the next week.

The more you can batch/automate, the more time you’ll have for focusing on your maximum impact activities… painting, editing, writing, etc.

9. Discuss Family Roles

Having a family meeting before the baby arrives can help answer questions, and set minds at ease. This gives you the opportunity to reassure your older children that they’re still important, and discuss with your husband what a good schedule will be.

You can use family meetings to plan out set days off, or make everyone aware of upcoming calls/appointments/creative sessions. These are also a great time to discuss plans for your next family day… will it be a game night? Movie night? Are you ordering pizza?

 

Self Care

10. Plenty of Sleep

It should go without saying, but we’re Moms. So it bears repeating. Less sleep doesn’t just mean less energy. It means slower reflexes, reduced logical thinking, and less patience. All of these are vital for a business owner, but they’re extremely important for a mom.

I tell my kids… “Mommy needs a nap so she won’t be cranky later”. Simple, but true.

11. Accept Help

Some people accept help readily.

I am NOT one of those people. I’m stubborn, and fiercely independent to my own detriment at times.

But especially when the baby arrives, you need all the help you can get. So if someone offers to bring food, LET THEM. Soon enough everyone will go their own way and you’ll find yourself staring at the clock, wishing the pizza fairy would stop by your house.

And if your husband or older kids want to help around the house, LET THEM.

I have a bad habit of wanting to go back behind my kids and re-do what they’ve done. I used to do this to my husband too… he has his own style when it comes to folding the laundry.

But when I redo what they’ve done, they notice. And they think they shouldn’t even try… why bother, Mom’s just going to redo it anyway. I don’t want to foster an atmosphere where my children (or husband) no longer feel like their efforts are appreciated.

I also don’t want my children to be come extreme perfectionists either.

12. Don’t Start Back TOO Soon

If this is your first baby, this advice goes triple for you. Babies take more time than you’ve probably even considered. And this isn’t bad at all… these are precious times, and if you dive fullbore into your business, you can miss some amazing times with your little snugglebug.

Feel free to ease yourself back into work. This isn’t a 12-week maternity leave job. And your business doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

13. Time For You

Sometimes we over complicate this one… “Oh I’ve got a full day, there’s just no time for me.”

Alexandra Stoddard* talks a lot about creating little moments throughout your day… making things (even mundane things) as pleasant as they can possibly be.

So maybe you don’t have time to go get your hair done, or have coffee with a friend, but you can create moments…

  • Get handcrafted soap and turn your showers into an experience
  • Turn email into an experience by having your favorite tea while you go through it
  • Buy a wonderful coloring book, and some nice pencils, and pause periodically for a coloring break (you don’t have to color an entire page… you can do pieces at a time)
  • Pause for a dance break!

14. Support Network

I can’t underline this one enough. Having a support network can be a serious lifeline.

Some people don’t have supportive husbands, and I hate that, because mine is wonderfully supportive. He’s more supportive of me, than I am. Ha! Seriously though…

But even if your husband is awesome, one person doesn’t create a network. So you need to have several peeps that you can go to. Try having one or two people for different areas of your life… a family member that you can vent to, a business associate who can give you perspective (or feedback on a new project), a friend you can go on coffee dates with…. your network can be as big as you need it to be.

I’d love to hear you from YOU now. What are your go-to tips for running a biz with a wee one around?

*anything with an asterisk indicates an affiliate link. Money received from affiliate purchases goes towards coffee, books, and world domination. 

 

Why I Use More Than One Calendar (and Some of My Favorites)

In recent videos, it’s been mentioned that I have more than one calendar. Of course, when I make a video I can’t see the viewers faces, but I always imagine that my viewers are a bit amused upon hearing this.

Multiple calendars?

Isn’t that kind of crazy?

Isn’t it hard enough to keep up with one?

Life is Messy Planners
Life is Messy Planner

So here’s how I do it. I have an annual calendar that’s on my wall. My favorite at the moment is NeuYear*. It’s a pretty decent size, so the squares are large enough for me to write down a holiday, topic to blog on. I can also use the little rectangular post-its on the calendar. This is my overall view of upcoming posts, so I can glance at it, and know what I’m doing on my blog.

I have my calendar pages that I’ve printed out…. simple ones from CoSchedule get used for plotting my editorial calendar. Yes, I know I just mentioned blog posts on my NeuYear calendar, but I intensely dislike doing the actual planning on the great big calendar. I like to plan, chilling on my bed, with a big glass of peach sweet tea… and then transfer those to the big calendar.

My pretty calendar pages are from Mayi Carles’ Life Is Messy Planners* (seen above), and I use those for mapping out birthdays, crochet projects, and basically anything that’s not my editorial calendar.

Another pretty calendar printable I’ve recently come across are these gorgeous floral calendar pages from FTD. And then can be printed either in horizontal (desktop) or vertical (wall) format.

Printable Floral Calendar - FTD
Printable Floral Calendar – FTD

Last of all, I use Google calendars. Any coaching goes here, regardless of whether I’m coaching or being coached. Any Skype/Google Hangout dates go here. Any webinars go here. Any Twitter chats that I attend on a recurring basis go here. My church’s calendar is also synced up to Google calendars, so I know if I have a choir meeting coming up, or any other kind of team meeting.

So at the beginning of the week, I quickly scan each calendar… I acquaint myself with any appointments, birthdays, or blog posts that I need to be aware of. Then as each night closes out, I write up my to-do list, and usually I recall the big things I needed to remember. But I do quickly peruse my calendars just to make sure.

I also make sure that those meetings on my Google calendars alert me the day before (comes in handy for my to-do lists), and 30 minutes before the actual event (perfect for busy moms).

*Anything with an asterisk next to it, means that it’s a referral link, so yes I get a wee bit pitched back my way, which of course towards gummy bears & world domination.

What are your favorite calendars?

 

I Guest Posted Over At: One Woman Shop

Come hang out with me over on One Woman Shop where I talked about 5 steps for creating a routine that works for you. (Getting up at 5am is NOT on the list)

So one week ago, I guest posted over at One Woman Shop, but I was super sick and feeling very muddle-y. I’ve still got the dreadful bronchitis cough (goodness why does that stick around so long?) but I’m blending traditional and alternative medicine to try and take this beast down.

I gave 5 super simple steps for creating a routine that will work for you… and guess what the best part is? Nowhere in there do I say that you should get up at 5am! Isn’t that fantastic? 😀

Click here to check out my post (and leave a friendly comment… they’re like Scooby snacks for us bloggers!)

4 Business Lessons from a Crappy Amazon Review

Ever run across a bad review on Amazon? I don’t mean a poorly written review, but a review that shreds the product into pieces leaving it whimpering in the corner.

I ran across one of those reviews today. I didn’t set it out to find it. I actually started off on someone’s Facebook profile. They talked so much about how delighted everyone was by their book that I just had to check it out. It takes up most of their Facebook profile. Updates about their fans, and fan mail, and raving reviews.

So out of curiosity, I checked out their book on Amazon (which I suppose was the point of all of their posts, so mission accomplished). Imagine my shock when I saw that it only had 5 reviews.

Just kidding. I wasn’t surprised at all. When someone talks that much about their own stuff it often means they’re overcompensating.

Here are 4 quick takeaways from a crappy Amazon review, and how you can apply them to your business:

1. Don’t be the only one talking about your product/service

When you’re the only one talking about your stuff it diminishes your authority, and when your stuff is all you talk about, frankly it smacks of desperation. This is why testimonials are so helpful for your business. They help show that you’ve made a difference in someone else’s life.

2. Don’t just have reviews from friends & family

Okay so you may have read the line about testimonials and thought “but Amanda, you were reading reviews! Isn’t that like testimonials?” Sure. But it was very obvious that all 4 of the favorable reviews were from friends or family. One of which gave it a 5 star review after only reading the prelude.

When it comes to books it may be an accepted practice to get a round of reviews from friends and family, but if all they’re going to do is spit out an automatic 5 star review then you wind up with the written equivalent of someone who’s on American Idol because of all their family and friends said they were an amazing singer.

3. Nobody is above proofing/editing

I don’t care how good a writer you think you are, you’re not above proofreading. And it’s never a bad idea to get a second pair of eyes on your product. Make sure you pick someone whose grammar/spelling are impeccable. And if you’re going to put a book on Amazon, consider hiring an editor.

Fun fact: When I wrote this, I accidentally wrote “I don’t care how good a singer you think you are”, because I still had “singer” on the brain from the previous paragraph. That is exactly why proofreading is a must.

4. If you must respond to bad press, do it with integrity

Don’t get a friend to write a counter review. Don’t create a fake account and write a counter review. If you absolutely feel like you need to counter the bad press, do it under your own name on your own blog. Make sure that you’re not making a snap judgement. Bad reviews hurt, but it doesn’t automatically mean they’re wrong.

Ten Minute Tutorial: Periscope

Does people talking about Periscope leave you feeling more out of touch than your Dad trying to use “hip” slang?Periscope is a super new platform (less than a year old), so a lot of people are just now discovering it. And others are hesitant to jump on board to a new social media, in case it’s just a trend that fizzles out pretty quickly. The good news is that there’s plenty of room, and it’s the perfect platform for creatives!

I’ve recorded a quick (just under 10 minute) video for you, and I made it nice and simple, with no crazy jargon. 🙂

So one of the things that scares people away from Periscope is it’s unedited nature. Some people like everything to be super polished, and for those people Periscope isn’t a match. But if you like to be more spontaneous, or you’re unsure how to edit, Periscope can be a great fit for you!

One thing I forgot to mention: Periscopes were initially created to broadcast in a vertical/portrait format. People protested because it’s different than any other video platform, so now you can broadcast in vertical/portrait or horizontal/landscape.

Are you on Periscope? If you’re on Periscope, or you’re looking to try it out I’ve got a page of goodies just for you!