This post is based on episode 148 of the ProBlogger Podcast.
One of the things that attracted me to blogging was the flexibility it offered. I’d be able to work and still be involved in my family and raising my kids.
Before we had kids, my wife Vanessa and I planned for us both to work part-time and look after the kids together.
But we had no idea what blogging would lead to. And as it turned out things didn’t quite turn out the way we expected. I ended up blogging full time, and Vanessa became the primary caregiver along with doing some part-time work.
The Advantages of Blogging When You Have a Family
Although I work full time on my blogging, I can still be very involved with our family life. I’m here when the kids leave for school. And when they return I try to greet them at the door and connect with them for at least a few minutes.
It also means I can:
- drop them off and pick them up when needed
- volunteer in the classroom from time to time
- make it to mid-week school concerts and activities.
I love that.
Fridays are a good example. For years I’ve been taking one of my three boys to a local cafe before school every Friday for some one-on-one time to do homework, share a reading book, and have a chat over hot chocolate.
Blogging also lets us travel a lot as a family. We can be on the road for a month, and I can still get some work done.
Many people start blogging during a time of transition within their family. They might be home with small children for the first time after having a professional career, and want to use some of their skills in a way that fits around their family.
So there are lots of advantages to blogging when it comes to family. But there are challenges too.
I’m no expert at this. At times my family life and work life get out of balance one way or the other. But here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Lesson #1: Set Aside Time for Your Business and Time for Your Family
It can be tempting to blog while doing family stuff. And sometimes that’s necessary. Maybe you’re blogging while the kids are watching a movie, or while you’re supervising them. But I’ve discovered I’m a much better parent when I’m 100% focused on my kids. And I’m a much better blogger when I’m 100% focused on my blog.
Even if you can’t be 100% focused on one or the other all the time, try to carve out some times for total focus.
Ultimately, my family is my top priority. But to provide for them need an income. That means my business also needs to be a high priority for me. And it’s something I enjoy doing as well.
My schedule has shifted at different times and at different life stages, but here’s how it’s typically looked for me.
- Before 9am I’m 100% focused on my family.
- Between 9am and 5pm I’m 100% focused on my business.
- From 5pm to 7.30/8pm I’m 100% focused on my family, particularly the kids.
- After 7.30/8pm I spend time with Vanessa. (That being said, two or three nights a week we’ll sit on the couch next to each other and work, and maybe have the television on in the background.)
My time on the weekends is pretty much dedicated to family.
That’s how it works for us. But sometimes things run a little differently day to day, and we’re flexible depending on what else is happening.
Lesson #2: Be As Organised As You Possibly Can Be
During the times when you’re 100% focused on your work, it’s important to be organised and focused. I often get more done when I only have a half day than when I have a whole day because I have to focus on what really matters.
I could share loads of different tips about organisation. But for me it really boils down to working out what’s important, making a list, and ticking off those things.
If you have to juggle kids and work, think through what activities you can do at different times. I find creating content really hard when the kids are in the room with me. But I might do some administrative things such as email or social media while they’re watching TV or playing happily.
Lesson #3: Talk About Your Work Boundaries
Your schedule will only work if you communicate it with those around you. In our family, Vanessa and I normally work out the boundaries of how our family will run. Sometimes we ask our kids and involve them when we can on making those decisions.
As my kids get older, I’m trying to have more conversations about my business and what my work involves. I tell them about the podcast episode I’ve been recording, or the work I’ve been doing.
I also talk about why I work. I tell them that I enjoy it, that I’m trying to help other people, and that it makes money for our family.
Lesson #4: Set Up Signals to Show You’re Focusing
I try to have signals and reminders for the kids, particularly about when I’m focused on my work. At home, I work in my office. And if I’m there, it’s a signal to the kids that I’m at work. (I sometimes work on the couch at night once they’re in bed.)
This helps me for a couple of reasons. First, it eliminates some of the distractions that come with working in family areas. Second, it lets me shut the door so the kids know not to interrupt unless it’s an emergency. I keep the door open quite a bit when they’re home and I’m happy for them to disturb me.
Occasionally they ignore it and burst in while I’m doing a webinar in front of a thousand people. (It’s happened a few times.) But most of the time it works.
I know people who have other signals for their family. A friend of mine puts on a shirt and tie when he’s working. He has to work in a family area because they have a small house, and so this is a signal to his family that he’s trying to work.
Another person I know puts a sign on their office door that will either say “I’m at work” or “Come and say Hi”.
Lesson #5: Work Outside the Home At Times
Over the years, I’ve found there are times when it’s hard to work at home. For a long time I worked in cafes. I liked the white noise and the semi-social nature of having other people around. I’ve also found our local library a nice environment to work in.
More recently, I hired a room in a local church for me and my team to work in, mostly on Friday mornings. I also have a nearby co-working space where I can use the wifi, printer, coffee machine, and so on.
Mixing up my working environment gets me away from some of the distractions at home and helps me be more creative, particularly if I’m working on a big project such as an ebook or a keynote.
Lesson #6: Capture Ideas on the Run
While I try to separate blogging and family times, II get all kinds of ideas and inspiration while I’m with the family. I used to carry a little notebook around to record these, but now I use Evernote and other apps on my phone.
If I don’t capture ideas straight away, I forget about them. But once I’ve recorded them I can focus on my family and retrieve them once I’m back in work mode.
Lesson #7: Take Extended Time Away from Blogging
While it’s great to be able to blog on the road or while taking a long vacation, it’s also important to have extended periods where you can dedicate yourself to family and other things in life.
I try to have three or four weeks a year when I don’t check my blog at all. Two of those weeks are usually over the Christmas break, which is in the summer here in Australia. We usually go down to the beach for a couple of weeks. Not only do I get to enjoy time with my family and unwind, I also come back fresher, which is good for my business.
This can be especially important if you blog about travel or your family. There can be a tension around this, where every experience gets turned into content. But it’s important to create memories as well as content when you’re away.
Lesson #8: Delegate and Outsource
Over the past few years I’ve been able to involve other people in some of the work in my business. This has taken time, and you obviously need some income before you can start hiring people. But if you’re at that point, consider paying people to help you.
For many years – probably the first eight or so years of my blogging – I tried to do it all. I had to be online constantly — monitoring comments, and even receiving alerts in the middle of the night if my server went down.
One of the best things I ever did was to start getting other people to help me with my blogging. In episode 147 of the podcast I talked about hiring my brother-in-law Simon to help me with customer support emails. This freed up a lot of my timeto focus on the things I’m best at in my business.
As well as getting help with your blog, you might consider getting help in other areas of your life. That might mean paying for childcare, a cleaner, or someone to help with the garden. Things that could help you find more time to not only work on your business but also spend with your family.
Lesson #9: Make Peace With the Tension Between Blogging and Family Life
It’s probably healthy to feel a sense of tension. We have a limited amount of time, and it’s good to be mindful about how we spend it.
The key for me is to keep my priorities in mind and communicate them. There will be times when things are out of balance. That can potentially be a good thing, so long as you are aware of it and can find ways to rectify it.
How do you juggle your business, family life, and everything else? Even if you don’t have kids, it can be a struggle. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Image credit: Mike Scheid