How does one person do everything?
How does one person do everything?
Like many people out there I am a single parent. Like one of the large majority I manage staff. Though I am also one of the minority that do both whilst also running a business.
So, I thought I would write something different today, not a “how to guide” on how to be organised whilst doing it all, but the pitfalls I have come across. The stresses I have learned to deal with and the processes I have put in place that help me.
Firstly, I just want to reassure anyone else out there doing just one of those three things that it is stressful and it’s not just you. If you’re like me and doing a mix of these things, it’s slightly more stressful but you will cope most of the time. It will be overwhelming sometimes, but that’s okay.
What do I find stressful and what has worked for me?
I found it very stressful to suddenly be burdened with the running of an entire house (and the things that go wrong) and managing childcare on my own. I want to be there for my little one and be present – attend the school plays, make sure he has costumes on the right days etc. But I also need to manage all the household things, renewals, getting the best price for bills, toilets that break, radiators that make weird noises, book holidays etc.
The advantages to a Personal Assistant
Weirdly it wasn’t the work stuff that stressed me out at all, but the home stuff. I knew I needed help, so I got myself a PA. And that’s not as expensive or posh as it sounds. I hire a freelance PA from Bright Spark’s PA’s for around 30 hours a month and she has been my life saver. She has been up to my loft to take photos of things, then put them on ebay. She has researched the best place to sell heirlooms I don’t want. She has organised parking vouchers, plumbers and cleaners, booked me flights and holidays, organised a child’s birthday party and thrown out years worth of paperwork I didn’t need.
I am usually an organised person and will calendarize everything, plus ask Alexa to remind me, but my PA follows up and makes sure I have done things, reminds me to pay people and makes sure my calendar is up to date, and she checks my personal emails once a day because I literally never do.
How did I live my life without a PA? Well I was only just coping if I’m honest, but my strategy was to spend a few hours at the weekend going through the personal life admin, whilst the digital nanny kept the kid entertained. But those are hours I feel I should have been spending playing and on fun day trips.
It’s all about priorities, right?
One of my coping strategies is mess: I can live with a really messy kitchen, toys everywhere and unmade beds as long as everyone is fed and happy and laughing.
A lot of being organised when it’s just you in charge of everyone is using your interstitial time effectively. Whilst dinner is one I will unload the dishwasher. Whilst the kid is in the bath I will make the beds etc. I am present, but whilst they play, I work. Very often I will put my kiddie to bed and then do a couple of hours of chores. Usually right up until bedtime. I don’t mind I’m a bit worn out a few days a week as long as everything it ticking along and I have had hugs and we have laughed together.
Keeping your cool is hard when you’re a stressed and busy single parent. You have to know what you can just let roll off your shoulders. What does and doesn’t matter?
And then we come to work and where that fits in. After the school run I’m often in the office in the city. I’m usually the first to arrive and we often all leave together as a team. Managing staff is a new thing for me in the past 2 years (more than 2 staff anyway), so my most effective tools at work are:
Weekly catch ups on all the projects, where have people got to and what needs to be done.
Setting priorities every day
Not micromanaging and trusting in your staff
Making the staff laugh and having fun together
Delegating and making sure people can manage what you’re asking them to do.
Managing your clients expectations.
Work should ideally tick along in a predictable pattern this way. And that leaves me more space to handle the personal life stuff that just comes at you out of nowhere.
The most important thing I’ve learnt, whilst trying to be organised and all things to all men, is to compartmentalise your time and tasks. Ask for help if it’s needed, and ask for support. Don’t be a superhero and take on more than you can manage as it just leads to burn out (trust me on that).
My linked in is always open if anyone wants to pick my brains or just chat.