I used to think moms with young children had to be superheroes in order to get everything done. So I defined what I considered a superhero to be, and tried my darnedest to keep up with everything I’d put on the list. I tried to be one of them, doing whatever I needed to, taking on one more project or task just to fit it all in.
I’d race to the dry cleaners, stop by an ATM, drop by the grocery store to pick up something from dinner, all before making carpool line. And if I was lucky and got there early, I could answer an email or two while waiting! Those were the good days. (You know, where I actually showed up early, so the teachers’ assistants didn’t glare at me for being one of the last parents to arrive.)
Then middle school happened. Priorities changed. I became busy in a different way. I still raced around doing as many errands as possible along the way. But my daughter had more activities, and spent more time with homework. I could be with her, side by side, and we’d both be working away.
High school came, and my daughter finally got her driver’s license. I spent weeks convincing her driving was the best thing ever. (What is it about this generation that has no desire for a driver’s license? I tried to find a way to get mine at midnight on my sixteenth birthday; she could have cared less if she ever got hers.)
I knew driving would mean self-sufficiency, not just for her, but for me too. Yet somehow, her independence didn’t give me any more time. I just filled it up in different ways. Hello, college planning. For two years, I swore it was my second (or third) full time job. Playdates were so much easier than attending pre-college workshops. The paperwork!
I remember once upon a time thinking to myself that things would be easier … someday. After the holidays. When she was potty trained. When she was in school. When she could drive.
That day never came. And eventually, I recognized that it never would.
I had dreams. And the only way to make my dreams a reality was to give them a priority.
So that’s what I did. And here’s how I did it.
You have to see it to believe it. Ever heard that phrase? As a self-help junkie, I’ve read that in hundreds of ways, from hundreds of gurus, and heard it in just as many classes.
I’ve vision boarded. I’ve goal listed. I’ve tried to find The Secret. I’ve followed so much great advice, I swear at times it flowed out my ears.
No matter how I’ve done it, defining it’s always been the key. Defining it is 80 percent of the battle. The other 20 percent comes from realizing that as a busy person, your dreams matter too.
Especially as women, we get into this “busy” mode where all we do is run after other people’s crises. Your child’s. Your spouse’s. Your mom or your dad’s. Your kids’ school. Your job. And let’s now forget the house – it always needs something.
Your kids will survive without you while you pursue your dream. Your spouse will understand if they believe in your dream too. Your family, your friends – if they really want the best for you, they’ll be ready to help you achieve it in any way they can.
But the first part is all on you. You have to see what you want. Define it. The more detailed the better. And give yourself permission to dream this dream. Allow yourself to open up and become who you want to be.
Chunk it down
Most dreams die because they get lost in translation. I want to write a book – it’s a great goal, but how the heck is that even possible if you’ve never done it before?
I wrote more than a dozen nonfiction books as a part of my photography business. But when I wanted to write a novel, the fear took hold.
How was I going to do it? What were the differences between writing nonfiction and fiction?
It took me two and a half years to get my first novel out. Now I’m on track to write three novels a year. That’s a good number for me. It’s one I’ve set for myself, and I’m comfortable using it as my goal.
Large tasks seem monumental unless you create smaller tasks that seem more achievable. Writing a book will never be completed, unless you chunk it down.
- Decide on the character names.
- Buy Scrivener to make writing easier.
- Outline the plot.
- Read a book on making the story stronger, better.
- Hire someone to create the cover.
I’ve found the smaller I can chunk it down, the more likely I am to get it done. So my desk has lists all over it. I have lists on sticky notes, notebooks, even on my desktop.
If I can get my head around tasks like these. I can complete them easily. And I’m more likely to see them through.
Create the time you need
The thing is we all have just 24 hours of the day. No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to change that in any way. (Trust me, I’ve tried.)
Unfortunately, I was one of the many who thought I could pull from my sleep time to have more time chasing my passion. Nope, it doesn’t work. All I did is create a moody, unhappy person that fell asleep whenever and wherever I sat down for more than a couple of minutes. It gets embarrassing when you fall asleep in a theater watching an action movie, or at the table when a friend invites you over for dinner.
If you take 8 hours out for sleep, that leaves you with 16 hours for everything else. What I’ve found is that if I track what I do during that time, it can be an eyeopener as to where I can make changes.
When I was starting up a new business years ago, my daughter started preschool. When I started tracking my time, I quickly discovered that I spent several hours a week chatting with other moms while dropping her off and picking her up. We’d let the kids play on the playground, or take them to a local restaurant for a mid afternoon snack. It cost me hours – and I tried to make it up late at night.
Once I discovered how much time I was spending in this situation, I made a change. I gave myself permission to spend one day a week with my friends, while spending time on the other four days working on my new idea. It added hours to my week, and made my ideas come to fruition that much faster.
Look for ways to multitask without it impacting your health or your relationships. Like listening to a podcast when you’re working out. If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to put it into your life.
Take the time you need
Let’s also talk about being an overachiever. I’m a classic overachiever. Why write one book a month when two would be twice as good? Overachieving has been my lifelong arch-nemesis.
One day I started noticing that I rarely met my deadlines for goals. And it was mostly because I had too much on my plate, and my intentions were simply unattainable. Given everything that was happening in my life, there was no way to complete my goals. But the worst part about it was it didn’t even bug me when I didn’t reach them.
After attending a conference, I started looking at my nasty little habit. I took another look at my goal list, and reworked it so it was realistic. And voila – I actually completed it on time.
Now, I love the feeling I get when I can check an item off my to-do list. And I do it all the time because I know what I’m capable of doing each day.
I chunk things down to a workable level. I create small enough tasks so that I can see progression and get things done.
If you have a history of rarely completing your tasks, take another look at your to-do lists and chunk those babies down. Create small goals – really small. Like “get a cup of tea” small if you need to do something just for you, to help you relax. (True story, I put that on my to-do list at one point in my life, because it reminded me to take some time – even a minute or two – just for me.)
Realistic goals are life-changing because you can check them off.
(Doesn’t that just make sense? Yet it took me years to figure that out!)
Ask for help
I’m a classic perfectionist. I can do it myself, thank you very much.
But at some point, I started hitting walls. I couldn’t do what I set out to do. I couldn’t move past a certain income level. I was stuck, and I had no idea why. So I went searching for an answer.
It started when I read the classic The e-Myth Revisited book by Michael Gerber way back when I was working on my first business. He spoke of the differences between working on your business and in your business. There’s a big difference.
In your business means you try and do all the work yourself. On your business means you learn to ask for help. The only way to grow a business is if you have time to think big. And the only way you can do that is if other people are helping you out.
It’s a great book for entrepreneurs. But the concept is equally as good for all facets of life.
If you try and do it all yourself, you’ll fail. Maybe not today, or next week, or next year. But eventually, you’ll fall down, burst into tears, have a breakdown, and realize you have health issues because you’ve pushed yourself too hard.
When you ask someone to help with anything – your spouse makes dinner, your kids clean their rooms, an accountant handles your data entry for your new business, or a housecleaner cleans your house – you’re freeing up valuable time for you to do other things. It’s the best way to create the time you need to do with as you please.
Find others to dream with
You won’t get nearly as far with your dream if you don’t have someone dreaming with you too. It might be a spouse. Or a friend. But even that can go only so far.
You need to think big. You need to find people that have achieved all you hope to do. These people are your inspiration. These people are what hold your attention and prove to you once and for all that you are on the right track.
So look for them.
When we were first starting our photography business all those years ago, I joined several different organizations so I could meet people just like me. I joined a local photographers association to meet regularly with people in my area. I joined the chamber of commerce to learn all I could about small business issues.
When you surround yourself with people that get you, you’ll get that fuzzy feeling that goes along with someone saying: Me Too! You can talk out your problems, and share your successes. They’ll be just as happy when your dreams come true as you are for them.
Sometimes you have to look far and wide for your “tribe.” Don’t give up if you don’t find them right away. They do exist, but sometimes it’s difficult finding people that get you. And that’s okay. It makes finding them that much more exciting, because you’ll finally realize you’ve found your way home.
As a writer, I have a different approach to my current business model. I’m not writing one epic novel, or creating one nonfiction book as my calling card. My books are my business model. And I look at what I do as a business, not merely something I’m doing to pass the time.
A lot of writing groups I’ve joined are more for the hobbyist. They teach a little business, but the majority of groups are built around creating the epic book. They’re good groups – a lot of people join them. But they aren’t for me.
So I searched far and wide to find groups that think like me. I have a few buzzwords I look for, and when I find them, I join.
That works for me. But for you, you need to pay attention to who your people are. How do you define your tribe?
These are people that get you. And you get them. You speak the same language, and you want nothing more than to connect with them every day.
You can do that by reading blog posts and subscribing to ezines (like mine, you have joined, haven’t you?) You can do that by buying books and investing in classes. You can attend retreats and invest in coaching.
One step at a time, you find a way to get clearer on who you are, and what you have to give this world while you’re here.