Why business owning parents never have enough time (And how to find some)

- August 17, 2023 4 MIN READ

Business owners often feel like they never have enough time in the day – now imagine you run a business but also juggle family commitments too. Business coach Kate Toon, author of Six Figures in School Hours, shares how you can claw back some time in this extract from her book.

Lack of time is the single biggest issue most business-owning parents talk to me about:

‘There aren’t enough hours in the day.’

‘My to-do list never ends.’

‘I’m just bloody exhausted all the time.’

And yet so often these same humans have few time management strategies in place.
So, I want to share some of my favourite productivity tips and tricks, that help me truly squeeze the juice of the day.

Why is understanding time important?

Most of us are fully aware that we face time limitations as business owning parents. I mean, duh!? But rather than take a calm rational approach to this reality, we frantically try to jam as much as possible into the pathetic amount of time we have.

We fall into a pattern of dramatically overestimating what we can achieve and failing miserably to get everything done. This leaves us constantly feeling like we’re underperforming, when the truth is we were never going to tick off all those things on our to-do list anyway.

Time as an investment

A great way reframe your attitude to time is to think less about ‘spending’ it and more about ‘investing’ it.

Spending feels frivolous, like you’re splashing your time about with no thought for the consequences.

Investing feels more solid, like you’re laying down the foundations for the future.

For a long time, I had a Post-it Note on my screen that said:

‘Is this the best use of my time?’

I can’t tell you the number of times this caught my eye before I fell into a pit of social media time wasting and it pulled me back from the brink.

My partner has little Post-it Notes in strategic places in his house (my favourite is the one on the back of the loo door!) saying:

‘What’s important now?’

It helps him refocus and think about priorities in his day.

Thinking of your time as an investment helps you stop and think before starting an activity. Ask yourself, ‘Is what I’m about to do intentional or mindless?’

Are you choosing to watch 73 reels about pimple popping for customer research, or are you using it as a tactic to avoid starting that important task?

Do you really need to load the dishwasher at this exact moment, or could it wait until after school pick-up?

The world will wait

The second biggest struggle for business parents is an extreme lack of patience: we want it all now (or, ideally, last Tuesday).

We’re fed a barrage of ‘hustle culture’ messages. We see ‘successful’ male business types lying on Porsches counting their wads of cash, or kaftan-wearing females in clean, white kitchens sharing their million-dollar strategies.

The reality rarely compares with the cold, hard truth: building success takes time.

Now, that may feel depressing as you watch others climb the success ladder faster than you and achieve the things you wish you were achieving. But do you want the good news?

You have time. Oodles of it. Gallons. Bags full.

Of course, you could be eaten by an overeager toad tomorrow but, barring that, you have plenty of time to get things done. You just need to be patient.

I used to long for a week when there were no dramas. No sick child. No cupcakes to make for cake sale day. No random tradie turning up at my door. A beautiful, clear week of 32 hours (or so I believed) when I could just work, work, work.

‘Imagine what I could do with 32 hours!’ I said to my partner.

Of course, that clear week never came. There was always something. And there always will be.

But here’s the rub: I did have those 32 hours; they just weren’t consecutive. They were often spread out over two or three weeks rather than one, but they were still there.

Still usable. Still productive. If I was patient.

Right now, maybe you can’t work 10-hour days. Right now, maybe you struggle to get more than 20 minutes of work done without interruption. But it won’t always be that way. Soon enough, your children will be grown and gone. Too soon. And you’ll genuinely miss someone shouting ‘Mum!’ or ‘Dad!’ or leaving sticky fingerprints on your laptop.

Don’t compare

There’s absolutely no point continuously comparing yourself to a 40-hour-a-week human (or 38 hours, as is the general legal limit in Australia). It’s just plain daft to compare yourself to people who have no kids, or can afford a daily nanny, or have oodles of family help.

Of course they have more time. And there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.

I mean, we’re often told we should never compare ourselves to anyone about anything, but apparently time isn’t one of these things. If I hear one more person say, ‘You have the same number of hours in a day as Beyoncé’, it will break my soul. (This is incredibly witty because Beyoncé has a popular song called ‘Break my soul’.)

Clearly Beyoncé is loaded, has an army of helpers and is a multi-talented, gorgeous goddess. I am none of these things. And I suspect you aren’t either.

So, let’s not play the comparison game. It’s not the length of your time but rather how you use it that matters.

Over to you

Here are some exercises to help you think about your time:

  1. Conduct a time inventory: For a week or so, keep a journal or use a free tool like Toggl Track to track how you invest your time. Ensure you track everything you do in a given day: work, social media, faffing, wees, lunch breaks. I fully expect you to be vaguely horrified by the results.
  2. Map out your working hours time grid, including billable time.
  3. Ask yourself some tough questions:
  • At what times of the day were you most productive?
  • At what times did you feel the least productive?
  • What were the biggest time sucks?
  • What did you do quickly and effectively?
  • When could you use your time more intelligently?

Thinking about your time as a valuable resource and something that you need to invest wisely will help you work out the true amount of time you have to work in a week; this might make you more realistic about what you can achieve.Because let’s face it without a proper understanding of how much time you have and how you invest it, you’ll never feel truly in control of your working day, and this will lead to stress in your family time and free time.

Like what you read? Why not grab a copy of Kate’s book:  ‘Six Figures in School Hours: How to run a successful business and still be a good parent’ on Amazon, Booktopia and all major bookstores.

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