maternity leave, business break, sabbatical, workflow, entrepreneur

Motherhood

Maternity Leave: What You Need to do First to Prepare Your Business

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I’m officially 28 weeks pregnant with Mini Mart III (aka our third baby!) and decided I am going to take a REAL maternity leave (gasp!) from my small business.

For our first two babies, I *tried* to prepare to step away from the biz, but I was still connected to emails and deadlines and sadly felt like I couldn’t rest and just sit still to soak in the newborn days and weeks.

maternity leave, business break, sabbatical, workflow, entrepreneur

Captured by Debra Eby

And while I absolutely LOVE running this business and connecting with you, I need to put my family first in this season of our lives.

Don’t worry! The blog, the biz, and the sass won’t go anywhere, but I’ll be working hard behind the scenes in preparation to close the computer and let my amazing assistant, Emily, take over the reigns of operations come November 1st!

I’ve had a few Mamas reach out this past year seeking advice on how to prepare for a leave of absence in their businesses, so I figured I might as well take you along the ride with me of navigating what maternity leave will look like for me!

business systems, streamline,workflow, maternity leave, business break, entrepreneur

The strategies I will share can work for any kind of leave from your business! Call it a sabbatical, call it a holiday, or simply call it rest. No matter what term you use, I encourage you start the prep work about 2-3 months before you shut the computer so you aren’t feeling overwhelmed come leave day 1!

Planning for Maternity Leave Requires Serious Focus

The planning actually started about 3 months ago. I hadn’t made up my mind yet on the length of leave I would take, but knew that if maternity leave was going to happen, I had to get serious about focusing in my business.

So I made a YES list and a NO list.

This is something I suggest you do whether or not a maternity leave is in our future, because it is so beneficial to help you get traction in your business and start seeing the goals achieved.

    1. Pull out a sheet of paper and pen and draw a line down the middle. On one side write YES and on the other write NO.
    1. Under YES, list out all the things you will commit to doing in your business. These should be projects, tasks, and ideas that you want to get done to actually help you get profitable.
    1. Under NO, list out all the things you will commit to saying NO to in your business. This list is critical. Here’s the thing about our creative world: A lot of shiny looking opportunities and collaboration invitations will inevitably come your way. While I love me a fun collab, they are not all one size fits all. Some can seem really exciting, fun, and cool, but at the end of the day, cool isn’t going to pay your bills. If you want to start seeing real growth in your business, you simply have to learn how to say no and stay on track. Even when it could be fun.
    1. Go back through your YES list and drill down. When I first wrote my YES list, I wrote in a whole lotta things I’d say yes to that really weren’t going to help move the needle for scalability or profitability in my business. I had to drill it down further through elimination to get to a core list of projects and tasks that would be the most beneficial.
  1. Tape those lists to your desk or pop them in front and center on your fave project management tool (I use Trello!) and commit to firmly stick to them!

These lists may sound limiting, but for me they actually give freedom. Freedom to finally turn the big ideas in my head into actionable results. Since I started using YES and NO lists in my business, I have launched a brand new website, crafted a new email marketing strategy using Convertkit, landed a dream job as content manager for The Rising Tide, and expanded my passive profit income streams.

Related: Read the full story of my journey as a creative entrepreneur, here!

Getting From YES to Maternity Leave

So now you have a solid and concise list of yesses in your business. You go, girl!

Didn’t do the exercise above? Stop reading and do it now. 😉 I was serious about pulling out paper and a pen!

But how do we get from our YES list to Maternity Leave? How can we walk away?

maternity leave, business break, sabbatical, workflow, entrepreneur, newborn

Esley, Captured by Sarahdipity Photos

This is what I have been working on for the past couple weeks so that I can have a solid plan of action.

The answer lies in my three favorite words.

Automate. Delegate. Eliminate.

Say those words out loud and let them sink in. If you are going to really step away from this business thing, you’ve got to do everything you can to automate, delegate, or eliminate in your systems.

But before I get too far ahead I should address the key word: systems.

Whether you are closing the computer or not, systems are vital to operating your business. Without them, you will constantly be spinning your wheels and never be able to hire help that will actually… help.

For every yes on your YES list, you need to have a clearly defined workflow (aka list of ALL the steps involved from start to finish). Whether they be a service you offer, a marketing plan, a product you’re designing, a project you’re working on, bookeeping, or {insert your awesome YES}, you should be able to define actionable steps to make it happen from start to finish.

I understand that sometimes you can’t know it all for every project, but I am going to guess that for the majority of your yesses, you should be able to map them out.

Seriously, do it! Just start with one YES and brain dump every single step you are taking. Don’t stress over whether or not it is a good system when you go to write out the steps. We will deal with that next. 

maternity leave, business break, sabbatical, workflow, entrepreneur, business plan

Image SC Stockshop

Once you have written a workflow for your first yes I want you to drill down again.

But this time I want you to drill down through the lenses of automation, delegation, and elimination.

    1. First things first, what are the things in your workflow that you ABSOLUTELY must touch? As in your business wouldn’t be your business unless your direct hand is on it. This list should NOT be a mile long. You probably don’t need to touch as much as you think do. For example, I must write my own content. I am the educator behind the blog here and it is virtually impossible at this point for someone else to read my mind and write as I would. BUT I don’t have to create the Pinterest graphics, resize images, format the copy and titles in WordPress, prepare and schedule the social media shares, and optimize the posts for SEO. I can teach someone else to do those things for me.
    1. Put your direct touches list aside for a moment. Before you move on to automating and delegating, I want you to view your workflow through the lens of elimination.

      Here’s the thing, there are a million ways to do business. A million ways you can market your business, run your customer experience, systemize your business, and so on. And there is a lot of advice out there on the internet webs for what you need to do to be successful.

      Well, I’m calling BS. You don’t HAVE to run a Facebook group to make money. You don’t HAVE to have a perfect Instagram feed to get new clients. You don’t HAVE to do a million things you hate to make it in business. And you probably won’t learn how to grow a 6 figure business from scratch in less than 12 months from one webinar. (Seriously, I just saw someone advertising their educational webinar with that line of BS. No.)

      What on your list feels heavy to you? What on your list literally sucks the joy right out of your day? What on your list do you feel like you are pushing hard for but just isn’t giving you the ROI you want to see?

      Eliminate it.

      I promise it is okay.

      Your business will go on if you aren’t on Instagram. Your business will go on if you don’t advertise with that publication. Your business will go on if you stop running to Target for client gifts that you then have to wrap and ship.

      The business owner that can learn to run a lean operation is the smart one. And you my friend, are pretty smart 😉

      Here’s the thing, by simplifying in your business, you give yourself space to really hone in on your target customer, meet them where they are, and serve them well. You can’t serve your customers well if you are spread thin and barely making it.

      To get your wheels turning, here are a few things I have eliminated in the last year:1) Blogging 5 days a week. Now I only do it once and I’m surviving!

      2) Perfectly curating my Instagram feed. I seriously do not have time for that. I don’t have time to take a flatlay every time I want to post something. I have a cohesive visual presence because it is a reflection of me and my style, yes, but I don’t have the capacity to look at my feed and arrange it just so before posting in order for there to be a calculated top 9 arrangement. It isn’t worth it.

      3) Responding to every email that lands in my inbox. I know this may sound appalling, but I truly do not have the brain space to reply to every email that comes my way. Especially when the ask doesn’t align with what I’m about or doing in business. I learned (more like got permission for) this from Tim Ferris and it has been a HUGE weight lifted from my plate!

      If you absolutely can’t eliminate it but don’t have the capacity for it (or hate it), it needs to be processed through automation and delegation and get off your plate now. Especially if you are on the road to maternity leave!

    1. Okay, tough part of letting go over! It is time to look at your workflow through the lens of automation. Are there any steps in your process that can be automated through tools?For example, it is a no brainer that my blog posts must be shared on my various social media platforms. But I don’t have to wait till a post goes live to individually write and share posts to my personal and biz Facebook, all the relevant Pinterest boards, Instagram and etc. I use CoSchedule and Planoly to automate that process for me. I’ve created templates within CoSchedule for easy peasy quick social sharing that can be scheduled months in advance.

      Related: Video Tutorial | Why I love CoSchedule for BloggingGo through your workflow and invest in the tools that can automate your process. They are worth every time and headache saving penny.

      This is truly the most important step in the planning phase. If you try and hire help before you automate your business with systems and time-saving tools, you will end up just giving yourself a giant headache. And your new team member will be more confused and frazzled than helpful.
  1. Now I want you to look at your workflows through the lens of delegation. What ABSOLUTELY has to happen in your workflow whether you touch it or not? In my blogging example, all of those tasks that I can teach someone to help me with absolutely have to happen or else my efforts would be in vain. Mark a D next to these items. These are the tasks that you can start outsourcing!

    Unless you plan to formally close your doors, you will have to outsource for a true leave of absence. Since I don’t plan to shut down MMC, I have help on board to cover my email inbox, running the blog, and manning customer service for shop help.

Once you have eliminated the things you do in your workflow that don’t actually move the needle in your business, automated every available inch of the process with systems and tools, and delegated the rest, you can go back to your list of direct touches and begin to plan out how you can get them done before you close the computer for maternity leave.

For me, that started with content mapping and writing. I sat down to plan out all of my content for the blog, my MMC Mail Club (aka my email list!), and coordinating social media shares through April of 2018 and am now taking action by writing all of it before November 1st. I’ll show you how it works, but that is for next time. 😉

Related: 5 Reasons to Start Creating Unique Content in Your Business

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