With our boys now in their new pre-school, I’m digging into how I want to spend my time in this new life.
It’s a strange feeling, having a blank slate and days of unscheduled time after four years leading a fast-paced startup and, before that, years of running my own business. I have been going full-speed ahead for almost a decade!
But I know in my heart I need this slower time, the space to figure out what I want my weeks, my months, my years to look like. This is my chance to build from the ground up, to start from nothing and fill my time the way I want, rather than trying to peel back layers and make room for the things I need.
I drop off the kids around 9am and pick them up around 4:30pm. So at the moment, I have about seven hours to myself during the day.
I’m splitting that time between professional projects, personal projects and family chores. Here’s what it looks like:
While I’m no longer spending 40+ hours a week on paid work, I still plan on bringing in a full-time income. Not immediately, but within six months, so by the end of January.
To do that, I’ll have to work smarter, rather than harder. Here’s what I’m focusing on.
The primary way I’ll earn income, at least for the next year, is through The Write Life, a community for writers I founded in 2013.
Over the last few years, as I focused on my day job and family, my small team continued to publish new content on The Write Life and grow the community. We’re in an exciting place, with a large, engaged community that’s ripe for monetization. I see so many ways we can generate revenue from the site while providing even more value to readers.
If you’re interested in how the details, here’s a post on how we’re approaching growing The Write Life. So much has happened even since I wrote that post, so I’ll do another update soon.
Writing is how I process, and it’s an outlet I’ve missed greatly over the last few years.
There is so much I’d like to share, including how we picked this new town to call home, what I learned from the last few years, and what I’m building next. I’m also working on some columns about the messy intersection of work and motherhood.
I have no plans to directly monetize AlexisGrant.com, but between my newsletter (13,000 subscribers) and LinkedIn following, I see this site as a starting point to garner interest in whatever I build next.
I love the challenge of the business trifecta: building a company that will 1) feed my soul 2) fit our lifestyle and 3) make a profit.
But I’m not ready to commit to a big project yet. Instead, I’m holding space for that project while giving The Write Life some TLC. I want to hit some revenue goals there first, so I have regular income coming in when I turn my attention to something new.
Holding space also allows me to try out a few things I might want to commit to down the road.
For example, I’m pretty excited about running small business retreats for women here in Harpers Ferry: five-day getaways that include hiking, dinners with friends, yoga and plenty of unstructured time for work. Basically the workcation I’ve always wanted. I’ve already found the perfect inn to host it, and even fleshed out the idea by building the website… but I’m waiting until next year to hit the go button.
I’ve also thought about becoming a business mentor/advisor/coach for people who want support as they build a business. Because I’ve had more time in recent months to support others, I’ve been reminded how much I enjoy helping women in particular reach revenue goals that support their preferred lifestyle. Especially when the business benefits from building an online audience.
As I explore this more, I’m keen to take on a mentoring client or two. If you’re interested in this kind of support, drop me a line.
I’m also using plenty of childcare hours for personal projects and family chores.
Here’s what I’ve got in this bucket.
Exercising — preferably outside — has always been my go-to for stress relief and feeling good about myself. Over the last few years, between having two babies and leading a fast-growing startup, this fell off my priority list. I didn’t make time for it, and that hurt me physically and mentally.
The big reason my husband and I moved to a mountain town and self-employment was to prioritize health and happiness. Getting into the stillness of the woods — which is easy now where we live — is the epitome of self-care our family.
We’ve been trail running, hiking or just walking around our hilly neighborhood almost every day since we moved here. Combine that with a renewed dedication to online workouts and healthy food, and oh.my.god I feel SO much better. I’m already fitter!
My reading record over the last few years has been abysmal. And here’s the thing about reading: it’s for pleasure, but it also keeps me on top of my game, learning new things and staying innovative.
Rather than trying to read in bed before I go to sleep at night — which never works for me because I drift right off — I’m dedicating time during some of my workdays to a book. In the last couple of months I’ve enjoyed Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead and Darcy Lockman’s All the Rage. I recommend both!
I’m also exploring other ways of bringing more joy into my life, including… reminding my fingers how to play the piano! We got one, and now I need to sit down and enjoy it.
I put this last because I enjoy it least.
I wish I could say I spend the least amount of time and energy on life admin, but the truth is, keeping a family running smoothly takes a lot of work, especially after a long-distance move. Our family chores recently have included changing our addresses, paying bills, renewing our car lease, organizing doctor’s appointments, planning and preparing meals, staying on top of laundry, etc.
We hire help for cleaning the house and lawn care. We will likely outsource other tasks as well, but I want to get settled before we decide what makes the most sense for us. (When I worked full time, outsourcing meal prep was a game-changer for us.)
Even though I hate life admin, I’m grateful it now “counts” as part of my daily responsibilities, that I have enough time to do it without scrambling. Trying to stay on top of family chores in addition to a demanding job was my biggest stressor in our Florida life. Now, instead of struggling to cram it in on the weekends when I’m desperate to unwind or evenings when I’m brain-fried and cranky for sleep, I dedicate time each day when the kids are at school to getting it done.
One of my goals here is to find more ways to systemize family chores, so I can spend less time doing them. I like the idea of applying my strengths in systems and processes to make life admin more efficient.
As I try new tactics, I’ll share them on the blog. And if there’s anything you think I should try, please let me know in the comments!
As I thought through how I’m spending my time vs. how I’d like to spend it, I put together this pie chart. It shows my estimate of hours spent on each of these six buckets.
It’s important to note that this is an estimate. I have not actually tracked my time. And I know from Laura Vanderkam’s research that we tend to overestimate how many hours we work… so it’s possible I’m overestimating the life admin slice.
How I spend my seven kid-free hours each weekday:
I had a helpful realization when I put this pie chart together. Yes, I’d like my days to look a little different; in an ideal world, I’d spend fewer hours on life admin and more on personal development and a new project.
But I am really close to where I want to be. Certainly far closer than I was six months ago. Sure, there’s always room for improvement. But I’m exercising, I’m growing a business, I’m exploring new ideas. On the whole, this is a pretty great pie chart.
I’d love to hear from you on how you balance your time. What works for you?