Managing the Load: 12 Tips for Parent/Entrepreneurs

Most entrepreneurs have an insatiable desire to see their ideas and projects come to fruition. They have many balls in the air at once as they build out their ideas and create businesses from scratch. It is a volatile position to be in, but manageable.

But, when an entrepreneur also wants to have a family, the juggling act can get overwhelming – at times even out of control.

For me, the health of my family comes first, but that often means I put my own needs by the wayside. I hit major burnout a few times in these early years of parenthood after letting the candle burn at both ends a bit too long. Running two businesses while creating a new magazine and raising a spirited baby-then-toddler became more than I could handle. After some time, I recognized that I needed to put a few things in place to help me manage the load (and eliminate some things from my plate altogether).

My system is far from perfect, but these are the tips that have helped me regain some balance:

12 Tips for Parent/EntrepreneurS

1. Sit down weekly to plan.

Spontaneity can be a good thing, but life can unravel quickly when you fly by the seat of your pants a bit too much. When you take some time to sit down and look at the calendar, you can get a good overview of how your time is balanced in the upcoming week, and where you’ll fit in your workout/outdoor time, family time and meal prep on top of your workload.

2. Synchronize your calendars.

Whichever platform you use (I use Google), a digital calendar allows you to synchronize between your devices and synchronize your calendars with other people. I share a calendar with my husband and a  calendar with my business partner. This allows me to maintain a good level of communication when things get busy, and it also helps me manage my family’s schedule overall because I can instantly see when we are all available or what’s in the books.

3. Buy a crock pot.

An odd one, I know, but seriously it’s a lifesaver. After a long day, whether I’m working or in full-time parenting mode, I find I’m usually feeling exhausted or scattered right around 5 p.m. The last thing I want to do is start cooking dinner. With the crock pot, I can prepare most of the meal in the morning, when I have energy. My particular model has timers and a “keep warm” setting when the cooking is done. So satisfying.

4. Avoid the unnecessary.

This one sounds rather obvious, but I find I often get caught up in the “urgent + unimportant” and “not urgent + unimportant” quadrants (if you’ve never used the Do, Decide, Delegate or Delete method, check out this post). Ideally, tasks should get broken down into these quadrants to help you identify what you can simply delegate to someone else or eliminate altogether.

5. Don’t try to do it alone.

Neither of our businesses – both media and photography – are run by a single person. There is power in partnering up for many reasons: you share the load and the responsibility, you can work according to your strengths and eliminate items from your list that you simply don’t enjoy doing. Yes, this involves some financial output, but if you can swing it, bringing some assistance on board, or going into business with a suitable partner, can be key assets in helping you manage the load.

6. Turn off notifications.

Most notifications are totally unnecessary and I promise they will distract you from what you’re trying to accomplish. I recently read it takes 25 minutes to regain your focus after giving in to one of these distractions. Productivity aside, I noticed I felt less stress when I shut down my notifications and wasn’t tempted by the small bits of information appearing each minute on my phone. It also keeps me more focused and attentive in my meetings and social engagements.

Sometimes my "media fasts" look like this. One day in the great outdoors is enough to refuel me for a week or two. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

Sometimes my “media fasts” look like this (see #10). One day in the great outdoors is enough to refuel me for a week or two and provide me with new perspective. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

7. USE Wunderlist.

This one also made it onto my list of productivity tools for writers. For me this app goes far beyond the writing business. We use it for all of our businesses and as a family, too. Having the ability to share specific lists with specific people, and to categorize them into folders keeps me organized and helps me to clear the clutter from my brain. The ‘Quick Add’ feature on the desktop version allows me to add an item without interrupting my workflow. Gold, I tell you.

8. Prioritize.

This one goes back to our quadrants from #4, but let’s go deeper. Priorities need to be made on a daily basis because life is constantly changing. A task that may seem important one day can be eliminated the next. I frequently scroll through my Wunderlist to look for items that can be *starred* as important or deleted. I also use the 80/20 rule when I’m looking for items to bump up or down the list.

9. Just ask.

My daughter is in part-time daycare, but I live far from family (and, as I say, help I don’t have to ask or pay for). There are times that Paul is travelling for work, or we’re both in crunch time on a project, or someone is sick (you name the reason) and I simply need to reach out for help. Now we schedule visits more regularly from grandparents or set up a few hours when someone else can take care of the little one. When I try to be Superwoman, I crash – big time.

10. Go on a media fast.

Each week, I pick one day to go on a media fast. What this means for me is no checking emails or social media for the entire day. (Since text messages have largely replaced phone calls now, it’s difficult to cut those out, but I cut out work-related texting on those days.) My media fast days usually line up with a weekend day when I’m with my family, which ensures quality time together. I’d like to try to add a second day during my regular working days to increase my productivity level in other aspects of my work. Once you get over the initial urges to ‘check in’, it feels so good to be disconnected.

11. Choose to unitask.

I am becoming more and more convinced that multitasking is much less productive than choosing a task and seeing it through before moving on. I have also heard that you’re not actually multitasking so much as toggling between tasks quickly. This working style makes me feel scattered and stressed. Eckhart Tolle writes about this in The Power of Now – about finding calm and peace in the present moment by focusing wholeheartedly on a task, even if it’s making a cup of coffee. If you find you’ve got 10+ tabs open in your web browser and you’re flip-flopping between tasks, take a minute to assess what your focus should be.

12. Finished is better than perfect.

This has been my mantra this year, and I have grown to love it. I am certainly still on the perfectionist end of the spectrum, but being a parent has certainly taught me that I simply can’t always finish things because my time is not always my own. There have been many times in the past few months that I have resisted the urge to go that extra mile, provide feedback or tweak something myself. It’s not to slack off; it’s being realistic and practical when I have so many things demanding my time and attention.

The bottom line is to create more time in our lives by sloughing off the unnecessary. If anything is truly urgent, it will present itself again. Keeping our priorities in check helps us to quickly determine how to expend our energy and worktime, and retains some quality, stress-free time to spend with family.

Resources in this article: 

What tips do you have for managing the work-family-life balance? Let me know in the Comments below!

My Favourite Things From 2015

I resisted writing this post today for various reasons. Busyness. Fatigue. Repetition. Mainly, I wondered if these more personal reflections are better kept in a journal.

But, as usual, my keyboard called me back.

I have been doing a year-end review online for nearly ten years, in one form or another. And every time it forces me to sit down and count my blessings, to recount the moments that made me smile. I have also enjoyed reading the annual reflections that other people are posting and think it’s silly to keep these thoughts to yourself. Putting them out there helps to spread positivity in this world, and I think there can never be too much of that. 

I recently heard that it’s in being grateful that we find joy and not the other way around. So, call this year-end round-up my way of expressing gratitude for yet another year of memorable, sometimes miraculous, things. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but sometimes the ‘top-of-mind’ items stand out for a reason. In no particular order…

My Husband.

If you’re wondering who inspires me, it’s my husband, a guy who chases his dreams with relentless passion. Seriously. I don’t know anyone else who, among many other things, stays up all hours of the night waiting to shoot dramatic and innovative photos of the Northern Lights, plans photography workshops in his dream destinations like Greenland, keeps up with a massive social media community, and manages to find an amazing amount of time for his wife and daughter.

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Paul under The Milky Way over the mountains in Mount Assinboine Provincial Park, British Columbia.

My Dream Job.

A “dream” job does not imply that everything is easy. While it’s quite the opposite, I am grateful for the opportunity to use my skills in a meaningful way and sink my teeth into an exciting project. Many of you have already seen a bit of what Crowfoot Media is up to, but I can’t wait to release the first volume of the Canadian Rockies Annual, our beautiful print magazine (if you’d like to have it, order a copy!).

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This is a mock up. Yeah, we make you wait for the real thing. ;)

My Daughter.

This little rock star is growing up to be a beautiful human, inside and out, with the most vibrant and vivacious personality in 100-square-kilometre radius. She calls me to be my best self each and every day and opens my eyes to new ideas and possibilities I often overlook. I love her spirit and can’t wait to create some new memories with her in 2016.

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This Quilt.

My mother sewed this quilt for my daughter for Christmas this year. It makes me grateful for the family ties and the love that flows through the generations. I don’t take this lightly as I have a number of people in my life who don’t share in this privilege. So here’s my shout out to anyone who has (or is married to someone with) Ward or Moore blood running in their veins, including my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law and nephews.

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Our Trip to Belize.

It was an ‘easy’ trip by our standards, in that we didn’t rough it or explore as much as we usually do. But it was exactly what we needed. We learned the hard way that on previous trips we had pushed our little girl a bit too far past the limits of her temperament. (On that note, you can read about that in The Difference a Year Makes).

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Biking to The Split on Caye Caulker, Belize. iPhone snap by Paul Ziza.

My Business Partner. 

The very term feels a bit too stifled since I’m lucky my Crowfoot Media business partner and I work insanely well together and we get along! Dee Larosa (Medcalf) is one of the most talented designers I know (check out Phaneric.com), and I am eternally grateful for her attention to detail and self-motivation. Knowing we can lock ourselves up for hours on end for a work retreat or take off in the backcountry for four days and come out still talking is totally awesome!

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Me and Dee (left) and our volunteers at the Spindrift Sessions back in June. Photo by Kurtis Kristianson/Spindrift Photography.

Mountains!

It has been a long journey back to this point, and one I’ve written about in depth over on AdventurousParents.com. This past year, I went on three backcountry trips (to Lake O’Hara/Abbott Pass Hut, Skoki and Egypt Lakes) and climbed Mt. St. Nicholas, Mt. Cory, Mt. St. Piran, Fairview, Mt. Lawrence Grassi, Lesser Pharoah Peak, Cirque Peak, Wastach Peak (am I forgetting a bunch?). The best thing was I fell right back into my stride as if I’d never taken a break.

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Coming down from St. Nicholas Peak. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

 

And to complete the list…

I am grateful for my house, my friends (who shall go unnamed so that I don’t forget anybody!), my writing nook, the gym with the awesome views, cappuccinos, chocolate, hiking, biking with my little girl, yoga, skiing, Paw Patrol, gluten free baking,  Wild Women Magazine, Aventura Clothing, our Crowfoot Media contributors, the last light on Cascade Mountain, and everything else, even the ugly stuff that made me stronger.

Have a Happy New Year everyone!

Time for a Change? Tools for Setting Goals

As I sit in my office this morning and look out at the snow globe world outside my windows, I realize this is one of the last articles I’ll be writing at this desk. This month I have many shifts happening in my life, the most tangible one being a move to a new home. This is how my life tends to work: one change leads to another, or somehow they all converge at once. Often, things reach a boiling point before I even realize change needs to happen.

And the best person to make change is me.

The reality is: we’re just darn too busy. Too many balls in the air. Never enough time. Always coping and prioritizing to-do lists. And no margin should something go wrong, such as sickness (even a minor cold), unexpected travel plans or a big opportunity we can’t turn down.

I say “we” because I’m talking about my family. I don’t know too many couples where both parents freelance, but in my experience the best way to keep things under control is to put everything out on the table and treat it as something we all need to work through in order to maintain some semblance of balance.

So, while the pot threatens to boil over, I thought it was high-time to start taking out some of the water bit-by-bit. And I do that by shifting focus and settings some goals. But, not just any goals: S.M.A.R.T. goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. This was a concept I learned when I worked at lululemon athletica. Keeping goals specific, realistic and time-sensitive makes all the difference, and I have seen them make a big impact in my own life.

Care to join me in goal setting?


Download the Goal Setting Sheet in two formats:

PDF    WORD


Resources:

Proud to Be on Board as Aventura’s Newest Ambassador

affiliate_logoIt’s not every day you get asked to represent a company that you really admire, but back in July that’s exactly what happened. Aventura Clothing is a lifestyle apparel brand based in the beautiful Sierra Nevadas. They use organic and sustainable fibres to make their clothing and fulfill their mission to “help the earth one garment at a time.”

As an ambassador I engage regularly with the company on social media, represent their brand by wearing their clothing and will soon do a round-up of their Fall 2015 line on AdventurousParents.com.

Meghan J. Ward in Aventura

In the Ziva Sweater by Aventura Clothing.

They recently conducted an interview with me for their blog to introduce me to their community. I appreciated their thoughtful questions and wanted to post some of them here for you to read (you can read the rest in the interview!)

What piece of advice would you share with parents who are new to adventuring with their children?

Young children are quite adaptable, but the best approach, in my opinion, is to retain some familiarity and sense of routine amidst your adventuring. This might mean planning adventures around a nap schedule, bringing some of your child’s favourite items on a hike, or establishing a new routine while you’re travelling. Be sensitive to your child’s particular needs and help him or her feel comfortable and included in the adventure by making it fun and exploratory. Appropriate rewards and incentives go a long way in helping them cope in new situations.

What is one accomplishment in the past year you are most proud of?

Last March I launched a new mountain culture media and publishing company here in Banff, called Crowfoot Media. It was the culmination of eight years of dreaming, many years of working with other publications, and finding the right business partner. I can’t wait to see our first issue in print.

What is one thing that gets easier as you get older?

As I get older I’m better able to discern which relationships I want to invest in, which seem to have played an important role in my life for a season, and which I should let go of. I have less tolerance for carrying other people’s negative energy, and so I like to surround myself with positive people who have a clear vision for their lives and who don’t get caught up in drama. It’s wonderfully refreshing to have the confidence to involve myself with people who keep me feeling buoyant.

READ THE REST OF THE INTERVIEW ON THE #AVENTURALIFE BLOG.

Psst…ladies in the USA, if you love Aventura, contact me to get a unique discount code!

My 5 Favourite Productivity Tools for Writing

I have often discussed with budding writers how a good portion of the writing life is staying organized and productive when we actually have time to write. If I let something interrupt my flow, I may not get it back again in the same sitting.

Time is a precious commodity these days, between helping my husband with his photography business, running a media company, and…right – motherhood. So, I thought I’d put together a quick post for you about the tools I use each and every day to keep me on track. The great thing about these tools is that most of them are useful in any field of work, so even if you’re not a writer, you can still benefit from incorporating them.

Google Docs

Gone are my days of endless files tucked away in folders on my hard drive. In many cases I have moved my projects on to Google Docs. My best advice is to get set up fully on Google (Gmail, Calendar, etc.) so that you can maximize all of these amazing tools from one account. Using Google Docs, I can share a document, work remotely on a project with a colleague and see them making changes, and in cases where I want them to “View” only, there are permission settings that allow for that.

Wunderlist 

This is a relatively new app that I’ve adopted and I’ve fallen in love. Wunderlist allows you to create categorized to-do lists, and it instantly synchronizes between your phone, tablet and laptop. I particularly love the pop-up desktop tool that allows you to quickly add a task. That way, you can get it off your mind and move on with your work. I also like the way you can share lists with colleagues or family members.

Google Calendar

I mentioned this tool already, and it has been my “go-to” for years. Ditch the paper agenda and go electronic to keep you on task and on time. Google Calendar allows you to set up both Tasks and Events, so that you can outline projects for each day and move them around as you need to. Set up reminders and alerts, colour code your events, and share your calendars with others.

Hootsuite 

I was an early adopter of Hootsuite, and have seen it continually improve. This is one of the best social media productivity tools on the market, and once you get to know how it works, you’ll never look back. I use this platform to monitor all of my professional Twitter feeds, including Lists and specific keywords or search terms. I want to stay active on social media, but can’t afford for it to eat up my writing time. This is the perfect answer.

Thesaurus.com 

This one could also be slotted simply under “writing tools”, but anything that saves time allows for more productivity. Not only has using a thesaurus helped me to overcome that feeling that I have a word on the tip of my tongue, but it has also helped me to expand my vocabulary! There are many tools out there, but I generally turn to Thesaurus.com. I like the way you can click through words to dig deeper into nuances and meanings, so that you can be sure to get the right one.

What are your favourite productivity tools?

The Real Things a Girl Thinks About on a Hike

Like many people who read “12 Things a Girl is Probably Thinking About on a Hike“, I was left feeling quite disturbed by the shallowness of the piece. I immediately started pondering how I’d rewrite it. A friend of mine and fellow writer, Tera Swanson, beat me to it, and did such a bang-on job, I thought I’d reblog it for you here. It is beautifully written, and one of Tera’s best pieces to date (in my opinion!). Enjoy!

Originally posted on The Wander Journals:

By Tera Swanson

After recently reading an article a friend had shared with me regarding “what girls probably think about on a hike,” it opened some conversation with the women in my life who enjoy the outdoors as to what we did or didn’t relate to, how it portrayed outdoor women, and what our motivations were for getting out there. Turns out that yes, you can care how your hair looks and enjoy hiking too. Or not care. That is also ok.

Hence, I’ve compiled my own 12 thoughts and traits of “girls who hike” that I’ve gathered from these conversations and my own contemplations – let me know whether or not you agree!

1) We check in with our hiking partners. How is everyone doing? What are our group’s strengths and weaknesses, as individuals and as a whole? Sometimes we need a little push to overcome things that seem a lot scarier than they really are. Sometimes we need to pay close attention to our partners when they are becoming more and more anxious, but won’t make the call to pull out. And sometimes we explore with people who are way overconfident in their abilities. It’s important to check in with others, as well as make note of your own thought process and comfort levels.

Read the rest of the article on The Wander Journals.

My Journey Back into Magazine Publishing: Crowfoot Media

It was November, 2007. I had quit my job in the Rockies two months before but hung around Banff to attend that year’s Banff Mountain Film Festival. It was my first time at the festival, and the experience left me nearly shaking with excitement. These mountains are just dripping with juicy stories, tales of adventure, and incredible people who manage to stay under the radar.

On that day in November, I sat at Second Cup in Banff and wrote out the outline for a local magazine that would bring these stories to life. Soon thereafter, I moved back to Ontario for the winter. Upon my return to the Rockies the following spring, I got sidetracked by the challenges of making a living here, and didn’t pursue the magazine. I wish I still had that napkin covered in coffee stains and chicken scratch because that moment is imprinted vividly in my brain.

In the interim years since that rough magazine outline, I have had the privilege of working with a number of mountain culture publications and organizations. A few, in particular, stand out. Interning with Alpinist Magazine in 2010 was the turning point in my writing career. Contributing to Highline Magazine as a writer and editor for six years sharpened my tools, fostered meaningful relationships and exposed me to parts of this community I had never encountered before. Sitting on the Alpine Club of Canada’s Mountain Culture Committee has given me a window into the rich history of the club – one that deserves preservation through publications and other outlets.

Then I became a mother and my life as a freelance writer and editor took its turn on the back-burner. That was the way I wanted it. But, as my daughter grew up and gained more independence, I found myself growing a sense of independence, too. I felt myself wanting to return back to work. I also had this growing desire to go back behind the scenes of publishing. To be the publisher, not only the published.

As my time freed up to start working on a new project, I saw an opportunity to build a new mountain culture publication for the Canadian Rockies. This is where I wanted to dedicate my life’s work for the foreseeable future. And when the right partner came along (in this case, talented designer and brand strategist Dee Medcalf of Phaneric), the idea became reality.

That was seven months ago. And on March 16, 2015, we launched Crowfoot Media, a publishing house dedicated to the preservation, celebration and growth of mountain culture in the Canadian Rockies. We have a long road ahead, but the response so far has been uplifting and affirming. It feels right. I feel like I’m making my mark in the right place, at the right time, in the right way.

 

Crowfoot Media

 

I hope you’ll connect with us:

Thanks to everyone who has supported my journey to date. There are exciting things to come with Crowfoot Media – even if it’s scary at times to take on something as big as this.

Meghan