As Kim and I are getting busier in the lead up to the end of the year, so we’ve had to do some major rework of our systems to fit in all the extra things that we want and need to achieve to keep our lifestyle thriving.
I’ve now downshifted to a four-day week, now taking every Wednesday off as unpaid leave. This allows us to look after each other, and to fit in more of the things we love to do. I learnt long ago that money isn’t everything and that time spent doing something deeply meaningful far outweighs a reduction in salary.
Kim and I have always worked well together and love each other’s company, which is a good thing . We are married after all (for 18.75 wonderful years, may I add)! However one thing we’ve struggled with in the past has been to co-ordinate our time spent together on tasks and planning important tasks
We often need to collaborate daily to keep our small business going in the right direction as well as family activities to ensure that they don’t clash. We’re not particularly worried about rapid business growth, but our focus is more about sustainable, steady earnings that keep us employed at what we love to do which is sharing skills.
So besides taking the time to support each other emotionally through daily highs and lows, how do we maintain our business separate from our non-work life. Well it’s all about scheduling and knowing when to stop work for the day.
So lets tackle scheduling first.
We have many tasks that need both of us to work together to prepare for simple living workshops like getting the workshop equipment together the day before each event and packing up the car ready for travel in the morning. Likewise, we also have individual tasks that we also need to perform using our own specialist skills.
We utilise simple technology tools like Microsoft Outlook calendar and a couple of Hotmail accounts to cross book each others time.
It works kind of like this; I book something in my calendar and invite Kim via her Hotmail account and send it to her. She accepts the invite and it appears in her calendar as well. When she needs a bit of my time at specific part of the day, then she does the reverse and sends me an invitation.
It requires no backend server technology that we have to maintain, and it is essentially free (after the cost of MS Office), so it suits us well. I also set time aside for personal tasks like recording podcast episodes, video tutorials, and maintaining our veggie patch. I even schedule time to clean out the chook house! If it’s not in the calendar, it doesn’t get done. It’s as simple as that.
It also gives us the flexibility to move events around, by rescheduling. The only thing our little system lacks is a way of checking out each other’s availability via a free/busy mechanism, however all we do there is talk to each other to check before we book something. Good, timely communication is as essential in business as it is in a fruitful and long-lasting marriage!
We have found that this method of scheduling really works well, as we know our work obligations as well as being able to take time to enjoying our personal pursuits. I’ve even managed to synchronise my calendar onto my phone so I can tell at any moment when I am free if receive something crazy like a press call out of the blue which requires an interview.
So our scheduling tells me that tonight I have some soy yoghurt (done!) and greek style yoghurt (moved to tomorrow!) to make to test a few recipes. On Wednesday I am making 20 wooden soap moulds to keep up with demand and fixing the front gate, and on Saturday we are preparing for a Mozzarella and Ricotta cheese making workshop that we have fully booked on Sunday. Somewhere in there we also have to plant some more veggie and keep the garden alive!
One final piece of advice for scheduling is to know when not to overbook yourself.
Knowing When To Stop
This brings me to our second method of managing our time. Knowing when to stop.
We all have limited energy and strength every day, so we need to rest and recover at certain times of the day. Kim and I both have different daily rhythms.
I am an early bird, and she is a night owl. We’re used to this and work around each others needs. As for Ben, he’s a stereotypical teen and would sleep all day and stay up all night if we let him!
So because we know each other’s rhythms, we know to take regular breaks during the day, and when to finish off the day and just rest. But there is a dichotomy between the knowing and the doing.
As we have found relatively early in our sustainable living lifestyle, and even more so as we begin our small business, our time gets eaten up by the simplest and silliest of tasks, and the day often gets away from you. As I still have a part-time office job and am juggling the two until the mortgage is paid off, I really have to keep an eye on over working and learning when to stop for the day.
We have both learnt that burning the candle at both ends is not sustainable, and it is often the person who burns out and not the candle!
However, the beauty of having a strong relationship is keeping each other in check.
Kim knows when I am pushing myself too hard, and I can tell the signs of fatigue in her. We then take a no-nonsense approach without offence. We know that when either of us points out to the other that they have been working too hard and should either go to bed, or to rest for a while, that it is because we respect their hard work, but are concerned that either of us are over doing it. No arguments and we take a rest.
I figure that there is no point in me downshifting if I am just going to fill up the spare time by wearing myself out. Same goes for Kim.
After spending dinner time together, we both work for another hour then stop and spend the rest of the evening on individual pursuits due to our introverted natures. We do check in during the evening, talk, and laugh, because we also acknowledge that this is important. At least twice a week we’ll watch a zombie TV show that we’ve recorded as entertainment. There is just something about the genre that fascinates me.
Friday nights are wine time and pizza and all three of us spend the evening together talking about what we want to achieve over the weekend. It’s a great chance to catch up after a hard weeks work and just relax.
Anyway, I believe that it’s all about maintaining a balance, ensuring that one part of your lifestyle doesn’t overtake the other.
So that’s how we manage our time effectively.
Do you have any secrets to balancing your lifestyle to make sure one part of it doesn’t overwhelm you and your family?