Productivity tips for female founders (by a female founder)
One of my colleagues, also a working mum, recently asked me for some productivity tips: What do you do to manage your time and keep your work and family life running smoothly? It’s a great question. Of course, there’s no single productivity hack or time management app for female founders that will organise your life, but it’s worth thinking about (and sharing) tools and tips that can help. Here’s what’s working for me and I’d love to hear from you!
Female founders find that productivity means being present and effective
“Productivity” is one of those buzz-words that can mean different things to different people. In this context, I’m not talking about workplace performance metrics, but how to feel more present and effective in all areas of your life. This is challenging for anyone, but especially so for female founders who are often balancing their business “baby” with real life children and family commitments.
In my 20+ year entrepreneurial journey, I’ve been through patches where it felt like my wheels were spinning, especially when MyBudget and my kids were young. I’ve run the full gambit of emotions, from hyperdrive to feeling exhausted.
In the process, I discovered that the antidote is usually not to do more, but to pause and step away from the fray. I’ve learned to trust others and to give myself space and time to survey the entire battlefield. This has been especially important during Covid with the ground constantly shifting. I’ve also learned that the battlefield is bigger than just work. It includes my health, family, finances, relationships, personal growth—everything.
Stepping back, planning, prioritising and organising chews up time when you could be doing the do, but it grounds you in what matters; it focuses your attention and energy. This is so important for navigating a world filled with shiny objects. That’s why I’m all for embracing tools, methods and little tricks that free up time, reduce mental load and enhance focus.
Here are some productivity and time management tips that have been working for me:
My Outlook calendar used to be reserved for work meetings and deadlines. I now use it to plan my entire life. I code activities in different colours so I can tell at a glance if the activity is business or personal and I schedule literally everything—birthdays, school excursions, kids’ sports, reminders, fitness, hair appointments, grocery shopping, date nights, and so on. (I have a friend who also schedules specific housework, like changing the sheets and other chores.) Yes, it feels kind of regimented, but as all female founders will attest to, 1) it reduces my mental load, 2) stops work from taking over my entire schedule and 3) allows me to be more ‘in the moment,’ wherever that may be.
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Fitness comes first
Fitness used to be something I squeezed in when I could. But health being the first wealth, I decided to turn that around. For the last couple of years, I’ve been getting up early and making fitness the first thing I do. To make it easier, I also set up a little home gym. The result is that I’m more energised and focused throughout the day. Again, all of this is in my calendar so that my colleagues and family know that I’m not available at those times.
Drive time is for learning
Like fitness, learning is another one of those goals that used to fall down the totem pole of priorities. These days, I make it a priority to read one new book every two months. To make this possible, I use my drive time for listening to podcasts and audiobooks. I also buy a paper copy of the book and spend five to 10 minutes a day highlighting and recapping any points of interest.
Digital notes and device syncing
I used to keep handwritten meeting notes in books. The trouble was that I had to remember which book the notes were in or I wouldn’t have a book with me, so I’d scribble notes on loose paper and lose them. These days, I take my iPad to meetings and type directly into the Notes app. Should I forget my iPad, I use Notes on my iPhone (which I never forget) and both devices automatically sync. Digital notes are also easier to search and share.
Hair appointments in work time
I do a lot of events and media work, which means looking professional, and I’ve found that the most productive solution for hair appointments is to schedule them during work hours. The key for female founders is to work while your hair is being done. I generally take my laptop or catch up on phone calls. I’ve even done video calls while foils are processing!