Lessons Learned Running A Business In The School Holidays

This year the summer holidays were a new challenge for me.

In previous years I had my mum help with caring for my little girl a few afternoons each week so that I could work on my business. However, earlier this year that arrangement had to come to an end when she went from working part time to full time.

This presented a whole host of challenges for me in that I only had the time my daughter was at nursery (2 days per week) to be able to work and the rest has been let’s say, a juggling act!

Over here in the UK we’re very lucky we get funding for those 2 days at nursery from the government. However, in school holidays this funding doesn’t apply meaning you have extra bills to pay in what can be a quiet time of year for business! With a tight budget putting my daughter in nursery throughout the holidays just wasn’t going to happen. We decided we could fund 5 hours per week in nursery but this was still a big drop from the 15 hours she normally has.

With no real plan of action I set off into the summer holidays full of determination to get just as much work done (with my little one at home) as I could before. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, it didn’t quite work out the way I imagined it would!

Here are the lessons I learned running a business in the school holidays:

You need a plan of action!

With no real plan of action” – that was my first mistake right there! I just figured I would jump on my laptop when I could manage to in between Peppa Pig and trips out. In short, it didn’t work. Sure I’d occasionally get the odd bit of time here and there but it was usually full of interruptions or led to my little girl getting frustrated and acting out.

What I’ll do differently next time: I’ll draft a rough schedule of what I need to get done, allocate time to it (as well as time for family etc) and resist the urge to keep adding more and more to my to do list that week. I’ll also use this great trick for prioritising my tasks (courtesy of the fabulous Amber McCue from NiceOps) so they actually get checked off my list! It’s based on the Stephen Covey method but super simple and quick to do!

Take your list of tasks for the day and categorise them as follows:
A= Must be done today
B= Would be nice to do today
C= Not really that pressing
D= Something you can ditch altogether or delegate to somebody else to do

Try to make sure that all your tasks aren’t in category A! Then for each task in a category give it a number in order of importance (1 being the most important task). Then all you have to do is start with the A’s – work through them starting with number 1 and then move on to the B’s and so on! It’s made a huge difference in getting stuff done for me!

Accept that it won’t be “business as usual”

For the first part of the holidays I was so cranky and frustrated that I couldn’t operate my business at the same level – it was not a fun time! I constantly felt stressed and under pressure to achieve. I’d love to tell you I had a huge epiphany over this but honestly I think I just got so fed up of feeling that way that I decided to accept that things were going to be different for the summer holidays and just go with it. My daughter was at home with me every day except for one morning per week and it was quite frankly, insane to think I could get the same amount of work done in 1/3 of the time!

What I’ll do differently next time: I’m going to look at holidays with a completely different attitude. Instead of being time where I can’t get anything done I’m going to use them either as breaks away from my business (for the short holidays) or a time to scale back and maybe focus on reviewing and reworking my business. I’ll put more time into planning ahead and making sure my workload isn’t stacked during these times.

You’ve got to get creative!

As I mentioned earlier – jumping on the laptop at home and trying to occupy my little girl with her toys just wasn’t working. She’s a really social child (quite like I was) and doesn’t often like playing alone. So when mummy jumped on the laptop she felt I should instead sit and watch what she was doing (what can I say she loves an audience haha!).

On one trip out to a soft play area I stumbled on an idea. Now that she’s bigger (she turned 4 earlier this week!) most of the time at these places she will just run off to play and leave me sat at a table with my cup of tea. She’ll occasionally shout me to wave at her up on the top level or just before she goes down the slide but pretty much I’m sat there for a couple of hours entertaining myself.

At one of the play areas I noticed they had free wifi so I figured next time I’d take my iPad and do some odd tasks that didn’t require a lot of constant focus. I’d start drafting blog posts, clear out my inbox, respond to emails, action emails, schedule some social media updates – anything that didn’t require total uninterrupted focused time. It worked like a dream as I could easily break off in between a paragraph or an update and check on my daughter and it also occupied me whilst she was burning off some excess energy!

What I’ll do differently next time: I’ll plan my workload and batch all my tasks together so that way I have my workload planned for when we take our trips to the play area. I’ll have plenty of blogs to write or lots of social media I can schedule and leave the tasks that require a lot of concentration for the times when I have somebody watching my little girl. I’ve also got plenty of data allowance on my iPhone that if the play area doesn’t have wifi I can just tether the iPad to my phone!

Don’t try to soldier on alone

I think this one is the downfall for a lot of mamas – we like to think we can do everything and usually burn ourselves out trying! I was so determined to keep going as normal and manage to care for my child as well – after all the mamas that run businesses and home school manage it so why can’t I?? The fact is – I’m not a home school mama entrepreneur (take my hat off to you ladies!) and every kid is different. I’m sure there are some of you sat reading this now thinking I’m nuts and that it’s not that difficult and those of you who are right there with me. There’s no one rule for us all!

I finally relinquished some control and started asking for help from other family members who could take my daughter for a couple of hours a day. It gave me time to work, it gave me a break and more importantly it gave my little one something fun and different to do!

What I’ll do differently next time: I’ll make arrangements with family members in advance to watch her for the day so I can plan ahead in my calendar.

Remember to have some fun and enjoy being with your kiddies!

When you’re overwhelmed and struggling it’s so easy to forget to enjoy the time off with your kids and have some fun with them. After all one of the reasons I run my business and work from home is because I don’t want to have a 9-5 job barely seeing my little girl.

What I’ll do differently next time: In the midst of all my planning for my business I’ll make sure there is plenty of space for fun activities with my daughter and embrace a little break from the business!

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How did you find juggling your business and your kids in the school holidays? Would you do anything differently the next time the holidays hit? Let’s share our best tips in the comments below!