Ah. Life as a freelancing parent. I thought I was busy before but then add a small, wriggling, jiggling, movin’, shakin’ baby to the mix and everything becomes amplified.
My partner and I are both freelancers. When life is easy breezy and smooth, this feels like the best thing in the world. We can both spend chunks of time with each other and our son; We can both earn, contribute and spend freely; We can do what we love. In those moments we have balance. We have equality. We have the solution nailed.
And then… we don’t. It takes just one last minute audition, a teething, non-napping baby, an unexpected filming job away from home or a delayed train to promptly take us from Smugsville, London, to the ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ motorway.
So to try and add some kind of predictability to an otherwise unpredictable existence, I try to have a plan. Err, bugger off ‘The Five-Year Plan’, I look at my life week-by-week. As a coach I give this advice to my clients all the time but as a naturally creative and somewhat spontaneous person, it has taken a while to hone this system for myself. But since doing so, it has genuinely elevated every part of my life. My productivity, my finances, my stress levels…
So here are a few planning things that I do, that may work for you too.
They sound simple but they make life so much easier.
(1) Create a shared calendar so everyone knows where they are and at what time.
(2) Actually put things in said calendar! I have started to get fit again (slowly but surely) so I even add in my yoga sessions so they are non-negotiable and I actually go.
(3) Automate your bills.
(4) Setup a weekly online shop.
(5) Communicate what’s going in your head to those around you. Never presume they know your plans or what you’re thinking or feeling.
Sunday Night Planning
Hopefully you will have some sofa / bath / telly time on a Sunday night — and I hate to give you yet another job to do — but if you invest a maximum of half an hour on a Sunday night to this, it will save you so much time in the week. You will earn more money as you will work smarter, not just hard. And as a sleep-deprived parent who wants to feel like you are always working hard?!
Firstly then, look at the shape of your week.
What’s happening? What are you all doing? Anything to consider? What is still TBC?
If you figure out the shape of your week you will be able to plan your tasks more effectively. For example, if I know I have something challenging and brain exhausting to do, I’ll schedule it to one of the mornings that week because that’s when I’m most productive. It is really about knowing yourself; how you work best and making the most of the time you have.
Your To-Do List
Have you ever wasted a two hour work window because you arsed around as you didn’t have a plan of action? Write your work to-do list and create categories that work for you. If you are lucky enough to have a child-free window then do those tasks that require maximum concentration. Social media or emails on the other hand could be completed on the fly (if you catch a random nap in the park or whilst your little one plays / watches the telly for 17 and a half minutes. My kid loves The Chase — random I know).
Make Time For Self-care
I know if I run around all day and don’t have a measly sandwich until 3:15pm, I am not helpful to anyone. I can’t imagine you have huge chunks of time to go and meditate in an orange grove in Morocco for a week so just focus on the little things you can do. e.g making sure you are drinking loads of water. Take ten minutes a day to yourself to just be quiet. Get outside. Eat fresh food. Celebrate and reward yourself when you have a win, don’t just brush it off because you are too busy. You may need to ask for help to make these things happen. Don’t assume it’s obvious to people around you or wait until you are really stressed and in melt down mode — try to make time for self-care now and catch any stress before it gets out of control.
Get It Out Of Your Head
Don’t carry loads of stuff in your head. Write it down and communicate. If you don’t write stuff down, everything feels cluttered and overwhelming and you will give yourself a headache. And if you’re the only one who knows something, then you’ll spend your whole life repeating yourself.
Ask Great Questions
Someone will know how to do what you want to do. It could be something as simple as getting to grips with Instagram stories or, on a larger scale, helping you to bring your business idea to fruition. Never stop asking questions, looking for the answers or asking for help. As Hugh Grant wisely said in a wax jacket with newly cut hair in About a Boy — “No man is an island”.
Photograph by Nicky Raby.