Work it: How I balance writing with being a stay-at-home mom – Camille Nagasaki
By Camille Nagasaki
We’re all given the same 24 hours in a day, whether you’re Bill Gates, Richard Branson or, well, you. I read something along these lines in a business magazine recently, and I thought, “not if you have children.” If you’re like me, writing AND staying home full time with your kids, you realize your time is not your own. You and I don’t have the luxury of separating family life and work — to commute to an office and give our undivided attention to our craft for hours on end; far from it.♥
As a stay-at-home (working) mama, I feel like I’ve come a long way in my career since having children eight years ago. I earned a professional designation in my field, started a new business, and then embarked on writing and publishing my debut novel. I’m often asked how I manage to find the time to move my career forward while still giving my all to my children. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and today, I’m thrilled to share with you some of my best practices. Enjoy!
1. Plan, plan, plan. I cannot stress this enough. I have an annual, monthly, weekly, and daily plan that I constantly refer to and modify. If you sit down at your computer to work without a plan, it’s already too late. On average, I can only devote about 20 hours/week to my book, so I have to make it count.
2. Start with the end in sight. When planning your goals, think BHAG — Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. Then, work backward to figure out the measurable and attainable steps necessary to accomplish your every goal. This can be fun, so think big and let your imagination soar.
3. Post-it. I’m sure you know this familiar scene where you sit down at your computer and begin your work, only to remember that you forgot to register your son for soccer or check the timing for an upcoming event. As parents, we have countless things to keep track of, so while you’re working, have a post-it note on hand to jot down the doctor appointment you need to book or the product you need to research. You’ll feel good about maintaining focus, and you’ll stay on top of your home life too.
4. Avoid multi-tasking. Confession. Even as I wrote this, an email popped up from my friend, so I minimized Word, read the email, and then typed the recipe she was looking for. Do not do this (or, uh, at least try not to). We’ve all boasted about being great multi-taskers in job interviews because, at some point, it seemed to be a thing, but what they’re now saying — and what we’ve pretty much come to realize — is that multi-tasking isn’t actually effective. Try to maintain a laser-like focus instead, unless you’re doing something routine. If so, go ahead and listen to a podcast interview with your favorite author while you fold the laundry or brainstorm while you breastfeed.
5. Not every opportunity is a good opportunity; know when to walk away. When my eldest was just ten months old, I had the itch to work again. I took on some freelance work that ended up being more laborious and less financially gratifying than I planned for. If you’re at home with your kids, your time is invaluable, so guard it and only take on what truly moves you. I’d like to volunteer at my kid’s school, but with a book launch just 13 days away, that’s going to have to wait.
6. Time it. Unless it’s something creative, like working on your book cover, set time allotments for your tasks. For example, it should take me less than 15 minutes to log in to view my latest book proof. Don’t rush, but give yourself just enough time to get something done. By giving yourself time allotments, you not only plan how much work time is needed within that day, but you’re also able to stay on course. Use your phone to set your timer and then jump into the next task.
7. Start small. If you plan to launch a new venture for your creative endeavor, have your first client before you start your business and always start small on a shoestring budget, expanding only when necessary. Following this advice can save major headaches and loads of money.
8. Eliminate distractions. When you’re ready to get your work done, set expectations with your family. I find that a reminder to everyone about who to ask for help (Daddy), and who to not interrupt (yours truly), usually, sets the tone for success. Furthermore, our devices can also be a major distraction. So, if you’re doing planning, brainstorming or anything creative that doesn’t require a computer, step away from your office and find an inspiring environment; your backyard swing, the beach or maybe just a sunny window.
9. Work it! When baby sleeps, work! The dishes can wait. Grab your coffee and git ‘er done.
10. It takes a village. Trade childcare with another parent, so you have set blocks of time to work. Bonus: your little one gets a playdate.
11. 5-Minute Journal. Have you heard of this? It’s great for accomplishing goals, staying grounded, and cultivating gratitude. Your time is precious but, luckily, this only takes 5 minutes. Instead of ‘How I could have made today better,’ I write, ‘Lessons learned.’ Also available in an app format.
12. Be gentle with yourself and patient with what you can and cannot accomplish; some days will be more productive than others. Celebrate the little achievements along the way; these small, yet crucial steps pave the way to your dream outcome.
There’s no better feeling than following your dream and sharing it with your kids.
Camille Nagasaki is a Toronto-born Canadian author, film/TV actress, and entrepreneur. Having always had a tremendous fascination with the written word, Camille became an avid reader at a young age and has written creatively and for business for many years. After leaving the corporate world to be home with her kids, Camille earned a professional designation in her field, launched a new business and began a three-year labour of love writing Riches & Rags. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children.