Darren: You can do it.
Mr. Five: I can’t getting it.
Darren: Hi there, welcome to ProBlogger.
Mr. Five: Hi there, welcome to Progg…
Darren: Say it again.
Mr. Five: Hi there, welcome to Pro…dagger
Mr. Five: Pro…B…Blogger
Mr. Five: ProBlogger.
Darren: Pro, I said it wrong. ProBlogger.
Mr. Five: Plo…Blogger.
Darren: We should change the name to something else, what should it be?
Mr. Five: Hi there, welcome to the Rowse Family.
Darren: The Rowse Family, that would be much easier and nice to say.
Mr. Five: Today we’re talking about family and blogging.
Darren: Hi there, it’s Darren from ProBlogger here. That was Mr. Five, we’ll call him. He’s my five year old son. He’s home with me today.
It made me think about a question that I get asked quite a bit. How do you juggle family life and blogging life?
Ever since I’ve been in blogging, I blog from home. This has been a bit of a juggle for me because I started blogging when I was newly married. We were dreaming of having a family, having kids. Once we didn’t have them yet, one of the reasons that I was first attracted to the idea of blogging as a way of earning money and building a career in blogging was that it seemed like something that would enable me to have some flexibility and would enable me to have work but also be involved in my family and the raising of my kids.
That’s what I want to talk a little bit about today. How did that turn out? Some of the expectations didn’t quite turn out to come true but some of them did. I want to talk a little bit about that juggle because there is some tension there. Most of you who are blogging and raising a family, or blogging at home where there are family distractions, noise around will know some of those tensions.
As I said when I start blogging, one of the things I was attracted to was this ability to have some flexibility in my life. Our early plan, Vanessa and my early plan with blogging was that it would be a great part time job for me to have and we would both work part time and share caring for the kids.
At that time, we had no idea really what blogging was going to lead to. We had no idea how big blogging would become as an overall medium but also for us in a personal way.
As my income in my blogging grew, we quickly discovered that the income being generated by my blogging was going to exceed Vanessa’s earning capacity. Some of her dreams shifted as we began to have kids as well. In the end, we decided that she would be the primary caregiver of the kids and also do some part time work and I would work full time on my blogging.
She’s now become a blogger as well but that’s another story for another day. I guess why I’m telling you this story is that things didn’t quite turn out as we expected with regards to blogging. But it certainly has been something that has given us as a family incredible flexibility.
It’s allowed me whilst I do it full time on my blogging to be very involved in the day to day of family life. I work at home, which means I’m here when the kids leave for school and preschool. Mr. Five who you just met before goes to Kindergarten, pre-school here.
I’m here when they return home, I usually make a point to greet them at the door when they come home and at least connect with them for a few minutes before I get back to work. I’m able to drop them off at school, pick them up from school when needed, and go to mid-week school concerts and activities from time to time as well. Be involved in classrooms as a volunteers at times as well. I love that. I love that.
Today is actually a really good example of that. It’s Friday here. On Friday mornings, every Friday morning almost, I take my eight year old to a local café before he goes to school for some one on one time. That’s something I did with my eldest child who is now 10 for a couple of years as well. In this time we spend time doing his homework, or he does his homework, he reads to me, then we have a chat over hot chocolate. I’m not sure that that kind of time would have happened if I was working in another kind of job and I had to commute. Blogging’s been really flexible in that way.
This afternoon, I’ve got Mr. Five at home with me. Vanessa’s taking an interstate trip with the girlfriend for a girl’s weekend. Again, it’s only because I’m blogging that I could see having the opportunity to be involved in this way and have some flexibility around that.
Another great thing I love about blogging and the flexibility that it brings is that it can be done anywhere in the world that there’s internet, at least. There’s an opportunity to travel as a family beyond what annual leave of a job might be able to give us. Last year for instance, we took a month of traveling in the US. I went over to speak at Social Media Marketing World, then we continued to travel for three or four weeks after that. Also, I was able to blog from the road at night and then have fun during the days going to Disneyland and all of the other things that we were able to do over that particular trip.
There’s definitely some upsides about blogging when it comes to family. These are things that do attract many people into blogging. Many people in fact start blogging in the time within a transition of family. Many of the attendees of that comfort start blogging because they’re home for the first time having kids after having a professional career. They want to engage some of the skills that they’ve brought up in that career. Blogging affords them the ability to do that.
There’s definitely challenges also. Anyone who works from home whether they’re a blogger or have some other kind of business or work that they do at home knows some of those challenges particularly when there are kids involved.
Today, I want to share with you a few of the lessons that I’ve learned along the way. I want to say really upfront is that I’m no expert in this. There are times where the balance for me between family and work gets out of balance one way or the other. Sometimes family actually competes with work. I don’t spend enough time working because things build up in family and have to be done. There are other times where work can get in the way of family as well. I do not want to portray anything today saying, “I’ve go this fully worked out.” But I have learned a few things along the way over the last thirteen years of juggling this.
For those of you who don’t know, I’ve got three boys. You met Mr. Five before, there’s Mr. Eight and Mr. Ten. They’ve all just had birthdays in the last few weeks. Three boys, it’s a pretty crazy house at times but we have learnt a lot of things along the way.
Here’s a few of those lessons for you. The first thing I’ll say is that I think it’s really important to set aside time for blogging or for your business, and time for your family. The temptation is to try blog while also doing the family stuff. There are times where you just have to do that. You have to blog when the kids are there in front of you, or while you’re supervising them, or while they’re watching a movie, or while something else is going on. But what I discovered is that I am a much better parent when I’m 100% focused on my kids. I’m a much better blogger when I’m 100% focused upon my blog.
Not all of us have the luxury of being 100% focused on either of those activities at all times but I think it’s really important to try and carve out some times where you are 100% focused upon your family and 100% focused upon your blogging.
For me, ultimately, my family is my number one priority. I would drop everything else for them if it came to that. But in order to serve them and to feed them, to cloth them, I have to have some kind of income. My family has to have income coming in. As a result, business also has to be a high priority for me and it’s also something I enjoy doing as well.
For my own benefit, for my own mental health and satisfaction and having meaning in my life, I want to set aside time to blog as well. For me, we’ve come up with, or for us, we’ve come up with a bit of schedule in terms of the times that I blog, and in the times that I work, in times that are for family.
For example, this is how it works for us at the moment. This is a bit of a fluid kind of schedule, different life stages, and on different days and different weeks, it does change a little bit. But in general, the time before 9:00AM in the morning is almost always 100% focused on my family. The time from 9:00PM to 5:00PM during weekdays is almost 100% focused upon my business. The time after 5:00PM until about 7:30PM, 8:00PM is almost 100% focused upon my family and particularly the kids.
The time from 7:30PM, 8:00PM onwards, is usually dedicated to Vanessa although sometimes we mutually agree that it would be an evening that we dedicate to work because Vanessa works at home as well. There are probably two or three nights a week where we sit on the couch next to each other and work, and maybe have the television on in the background. And then there’s another couple of nights a week where we just hang out together and have a chat just watch together, or do something else.
There’s the weekends. For me, most of the weekends are pretty much dedicated to family. Occasionally we will do a little bit of work, maybe on one of the evenings just to schedule some social media. But most of the weekends are pretty much dedicated to the family.
That’s how it works for us. As I mentioned before, that’s changed over the years to suit the stage of life that our family’s at. Also on any given day, we may kind of talk about how things might run a bit differently from day to day. For example today where Vanessa’s out, I’m spending most of the afternoon with Mr. Five. It doesn’t really matter how you start through. I almost hesitated to share how we do that because every family will be different, every individual will be different. The key is to attempt to find some time where you can dedicate your focus purely to blogging, to business, and purely to your family. I think both your family and your business are going to benefit from that.
The next thing I’ll say is that then it really becomes a matter of becoming as organized as you possibly can be particularly in those times when you’re 100% focused upon your work. Today for example, I’ve only got two or three hours this morning to purely work, to be 100% focused on my work. I had to make a decision this morning about how I was going to spend that time. I actually find the days where I have less time to work are the days that I’m usually most productive. I actually get more done when I only have a half day to work than if I’ve got a whole day. You tend to fill up your time when you’ve got lots of it doing all kinds of stuff that doesn’t really matter. Today, I came out with the list of the things that I needed to achieve today in those three hours.
There’s a whole heap of tips that we could give around organization but for me it really boils down to working out what is important, making a list, and ticking off those things.
Having said that, there will be times where you probably are doing a bit of a juggle. I know many of the listeners of this podcast listening to my show are going that’s totally unrealistic for me, I don’t have that much time. I don’t have the luxury of being able to focus 100% on my blog. I know a lot of parents are juggling a lot. It’s just unrealistic to do that, you might have little kids at home and not be able to have someone else help out in that way.
There are, I guess, other things that you can do in those times when you are juggling things like today for example. Today as I looked at my time, I said to myself I’ve got these three hours where I can be focused 100% upon my business. In those times, you can be 100% focus, it may only be for 45 minutes when your kid has a nap. There are the times that I would suggest you put a time, that time aside to create. Personally, I find it really how to create content when the kids are there in the room with me. That’s the time where I, if I do have a 45 minute break where I can work, usually I will dedicate that sort of time to being creative.
There will be other times in this afternoon, I’m sure there’ll be times where I’ll be 100% focused on Mr. Five and there will be a few other times where he’ll enable me to do a little bit of work and that’s totally fine. He’s quite content at times to play by himself, or he might watch an episode of one of his favorite shows, or play outside if it stops raining.
There would be a few times where I know I would be able to do a little bit of work. It’s in those times that I won’t create, I’ll do my email, I will do social media. These are things that don’t take as much creative energy from me.
I guess what I’m trying to encourage you to do here is if you’re juggling kids and work, and there are times where you can work but you also have to be aware of the family around you, I guess think about the activities that you do in those times. Try in the times where you can fully focus upon you work, you use those times to create and the other times to do more administrative type things.
Another tip I’d give you is communicating your boundaries. I’ve just run through with you my schedule of how I spend my time knowing that is good for me. But it only ever really works if you communicate it with those around you. For me, that’s more of a conversation and me just sign to my family this is the way it’s going to be this week.
Ultimately, it’s a conversation I have with Vanessa to work out those boundaries about how our family’s going to run. We do from time to time ask our kids and involve our kids in our family schedule as well. We think it’s important that they take some ownership over that. But then I guess it’s about trying to communicate to our kids the priorities as well.
There’s a couple of things that I try and do here. Firstly, as my kids are getting older now, I’m trying to have more and more conversations about my business and what I’m doing with my business. They know I’m in my office a fair bit of time. I think it’s important that they know what I’m doing. I talk about my work. When we have dinner together as a family, we go around the table and everyone shares something that they did today. I try and talk about the types of things that I’m doing. What is a podcast? What am I talking about in my podcast? I’ll tell them tonight about this podcast. What is the work that I’m doing?
Helping them to understand that, but also trying to help them to understand why I do it. I think that’s really important as well. They understand that the reason that I work is because I enjoy it, I’m trying to help other people through my work, but I’m also trying to make some money for our family. I think it’s important to share those types of things. That’s certainly the way that I was brought up.
Second thing for me in terms of communicating with your family is we try to set up little signals and reminders to the kids particularly around those times that I am focusing upon my work. Now, for me, this mainly comes down to the fact that I work in my office. If I’m in my office, it’s a signal to them that I’m at work. I rarely work in front of my kids, in the family areas of the house. I generally don’t work in the kitchen, or in the laundry, in the living room. I generally work in my office unless they’re not home or they’re in bed. Sometimes, I would do work on the couch at night but they’re in bed.
This is good for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it means when I’m working, I’m eliminating some of the distractions that come with working in family areas. Luckily, my office is at the front end of the house. The family areas are at the back. That does gives some separations. It also gives them the signal that I am working and that I need to focus.
The other thing that I do is that I have this amazing tool, it’s called a door on my office. It’s great because it’s the signal. If the door is shut, my kids know that I need to focus, and I need not to be distracted, and I need them not to interrupt me unless it’s an emergency, unless it’s really important. If the door’s open, I keep it open quite a bit when they’re home, it means that I’m happy for them to disturb me. This is just a little signal that we’ve kind of built in. I communicate around. I remind them of it.
There are times where they ignore it and they do burst in when I’m doing a webinar in front of a thousand people. That’s happened a number of times. But most of the time, they’re pretty respectful of that, even Mr. Five. It works out pretty well.
It’s also good for Vanessa as well. She knows not to come down and ask what’s going on or to my arrangements for the evening when the door is shut as well. That’s particularly useful.
I know other people have other signals in their family. I know one friend who puts on a shirt and tie when he’s at work even though he works at home. It helps him to get in the zone for his work, helps him mentally to kind of get in that zone but also shows his family that he’s in work mode. He has to work in a family area because they live in a small house. He’s got his tie on, occasionally even puts a suit on. That’s the signal to his family that he’s trying to work.
I know someone else who has a little sign that they put on their office door. They actually work in the second living area in their house. That area sometimes is a family area, sometimes it’s a work area. He will shut the door and he’ll put a little sign on it similar to what you put on the hotel door to tell housekeeping that you want your room to be serviced. His sign says something like, “I’m at work” or “Come and say hi.” He flips it around depending on what’s going on at that time. These little signals to family to help put boundaries around that work can be useful as well.
Another thing that I’ve tried numerous times over the years in different ways is to have the ability to work out of the home as well. There are certain times where it’s just too hard to work at home. I have the luxury of having Vanessa at home as well so I can leave the home. I know some people don’t have that luxury as well. But for me, there’s been a number of ways that I’ve worked out of the home. For many years, it was working out of cafés. Many of you who are long term ProBlogger readers will have read blog posts where I’ve talked about working out of cafés. That’s been great. I quite like working in that environment where there’s some white noise, where there’s other people around, I find that kind of semi social. But then there are other times where I’ve worked out of libraries. Our local library has a nice little area where it’s relatively quiet. There’s desks, it’s a nice little environment to work.
In more recent times, I found a room in a local church that I’ve hired for me and my team to work out of. Most Friday mornings is the time where, one it gets me out of the house, and away from family. My son is usually home on a Friday morning so it gets me away from the family, gives them some space where he can be a little bit noisy but also it gives us a space to work as a team.
Also over the last six months, I found a co-working space not far from where I live where I can pay a daily right to spend time. It’s got wifi, and a printer, and coffee machine, and all of that type of stuff. That’s a bit of a social environment as well.
I find those types of environments good because they do mix up my working environment which I think helps me with my creativity but also gets me out of the home, away from some of those distractions at home. Particularly if I need to really get something done, if I’m working on a big project, if I’m working on an ebook that I’m writing, or a keynote that I’m about to deliver, I often will go up to the co-working space where I just find being away from the distractions of home. I’m able to be super productive on those days.
Another quick tip that I’ll give you is to have a way to capture ideas on the run. As much as I try and separate out blogging and family times, I do find that I get all kinds of ideas and inspiration in the middle of family time. I used to always carry a little notebook around with me so that I could capture those ideas on the run. But these days, I use my phone, I use Evernote or other note taking apps. Occasionally, I’ll write those down, type them onto my phone. Other times, I’ll record them as a little audio file as well. I find capturing those ideas on the run is really useful. Many times, those ideas don’t come back again. I find my memory’s not that great. To be able to have them there to come back to after I’ve been with the family, when I’m back in the work mode, is good as well.
I’ve got three more tips to give you. Firstly, I find extended time away from blogging to be really useful as well. I did mention earlier that I love blogging because I can do it from anywhere in the world, it enables me to blog while on the road, having vacations, have more vacations perhaps as a result of that. I think it’s also really important to have extended time away from your blogging as well where you can for an extended period of time just dedicate yourself to family and to other things in life.
I try and have at least three, maybe four weeks a year where I try not to check my blog at all. There’s at least a week away from blogging. Usually for me, two of these weeks are over the Christmas break herein Australia in summer. We usually go away for a couple of weeks down to the beach. This is a just a good time because it’s for family, it’s for me to unwind, it’s good for my mental health, for my family, but it’s also I find good for my business as well to have a little bit of time where I’m not paying attention to it. I usually come back fresher.
It is hard to completely get offline. For me, I find myself get a bit edgy over the first few days. But after a couple of days, I’m usually pretty good at. Also I think it’s probably a particularly useful thing if you blog about everyday stuff, or you blog about things like travel which could easily turn into content. I think having time where you’re not capturing and creating content is important for you, but it’s also really important for your family.
Not every experience that you have needs to be captured and turned into content. It’s tempting when you are on holiday, when you are traveling and seeing interesting things, and getting ideas. But I think sometimes resisting that temptation to turn into content is good for you, but that’s probably even better for your family.
I have talked to a number of bloggers and their families who feel the kids end up feeling like they have been turned into content. There’s a tension there around that. I guess create memories, not just content, when you’re away. I know that’s hard. I particularly now that’s hard being married now to a blogger who does blog about travel. There’s is a bit of tension that within Vanessa with that. I encourage you to wrestle with that particular one.
Second last tip is to delegate and outsource. One of the things that really helped me so much over the last three to four years particularly is that I’ve been able to get other people involved in some of the work with my business. This has taken time. You obviously need to have some income before you can start paying people to help you. If you’re at that point where your blog has grown and you’ve got some income, consider investing some of that income into getting people alongside you to help you.
For many, many years, probably the first eight or so years of my blogging, I tried to do it all which meant I had to be constantly online, I had to be moderating comments around the clock because the spammers were getting in and I had to monitor my tech, whether my servers are up, I was getting alerts during the nights saying my service were down.
One of the best things I ever did was to begin to get other people to help me with my blogging. I think I spoke about in my last episode about how one of the best things I ever did was getting Simon on to help me with my customer support emails. That freed up so much time for me to focus upon the things that I was best at within my business but also freed up a whole lot of time for family and for the rest of my life. I’ve become less of a workaholic as a result of getting other people involved in my business.
It does obviously add up to the expense of your business that maybe something that you need to be working towards. It’s I think enabled me to build a better blog which is better for my readers but also better for me and my family as well.
I guess the other area that you might want to consider getting help in is other areas of your life. I’ve touched on this in other podcast as well. Again, you might need to wait until you’ve got some bit of a steady income from your blogs. Perhaps by investing some of that income into getting help around the home, maybe with child care, maybe with getting a cleaner, or getting someone to help with the garden. Maybe that will also enable you to find some more time for your business but also for you family.
That’s something that may come overtime as well. We do a bit of that. We don’t have any full time help by any means around the home but we do from time to time have people come in and help us with gardening, and some cleaning. Occasionally, particularly when life is getting busy to help us to free up a little bit of time to do other work but also spend better quality time with our family.
Those are the main tips that I’ve got for you today. I guess the last thing I’ll say is you’ve got to make peace with this tension that you’re probably feeling. I think it’s probably healthy to feel that. Most bloggers do have this tension. We have a limited amount of time. How we spend that, I think it’s good to have some tension around that. Good to be mindful about that and to be thinking about that and to be intentional about that.
The key for me really is about communication and trying to keep your priorities in mind. There will be times where you will get out of balance. That’s natural and it may even be a good thing as long as you’re aware of where things are out of balance and you’re able to rectify that in times as well.
I’d love to hear your tips on this particular topic. It’s one that I know many of our readers do struggle with. How do you juggle your business life, your family life, and the rest of your life as well? It may not be that you have kids, but maybe there’s tension that you feel like you could be doing more of other activities as well. How do you keep that all in balance? Do you keep it in balance? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that particular question as well.
Mr. Five: Thanks for listening to my Dad today. Please buy a ProBlogger ticket so I could go to Disneyland.
Darren: See you later.
Mr. Five: See you later.
Darren: Mr. Five would really love to go to Disneyland. If you’d like to help him get there, you can buy a virtual ticket for the ProBlogger Conference. If you head over to problogger.net/virtualticket, you’ll find all the information of the virtual ticket for the upcoming ProBlogger Conference which gets you access to 50 sessions of content recorded at the live event plus 23 sessions of great actionable content from last year’s event. All the information is available for you at problogger.net/virtualticket.