With my baby daughter due February 9th, one of the biggest questions I get asked is whether I’m taking maternity leave and how I’m prepping for time off with the baby.
I’ve made peace with the first part of that question but for a while, it really stressed me out because of the reality of the answer.
Although I had the best intentions of taking three months completely off from my business, that’s not going to be the case.
Maybe it’s the same for you. You’re in the same boat running a business or in a career that doesn’t allow for much time off.
Once I realized that and fully surrendered, I was able to get super organized and streamline everything in a big way, and that’s what today’s post is about.
So whether you’re expecting your own bundle of joy, prepping for another type of extended leave, or if you just want to streamline your processes and take back your schedule, this post is for you.
I’ve learned so much in the time leading up to this very special period that I’m excited to share with you today…
When Your Intention Doesn’t Match Your Reality
First, let’s take it back; if you had asked me nine months ago if I’d be taking leave if I got pregnant, the answer would have been absolutely, yes.
In fact, I’ve been thinking about this for years. On the IHML Show, I remember having a conversation with my friend Tara Zirker, a mom of three and serial business owner.
On that episode, we covered her story, how she built her business, and seeing that she was in the midst of growing her family, how she was able to do it all and her advice on prepping for baby. You can listen to the full episode here.
During our conversation, she explained to me that with her first child, she barely took any time off. Her second, was a lot better. In fact, she’d come up with a whole system wherein which her team actually didn’t need her at all!
Here’s what she did…
She’d prepped her team by finetuning their systems and processes and even did practice runs taking time off. She started with a few days and observed how her team did without her. They recorded all questions that came up that they couldn’t answer (and only she could) so they could finetune their SOPs and processes before she officially left. Then they moved to a week of practice and then two weeks, and so on, until they built up to her three-month leave.
I loved that idea and fully intended to implement it when my time came.
However, my story is pretty much the complete opposite.
You see, my business has drastically changed in the last two years. I don’t have a huge team; in fact, I do a lot on my own as we’re in the midst of rebuilding.
Let me tell you…this was not the plan.
And for a while, that question about time off (being asked it by others and posing it to myself) really upset me. I wanted to take time off. I wanted to be there for my daughter. After all, she’s only going to be this age once.
But what I came to realize was that the disappointment of not being able to be 100% off and the resentment of the situation actually started to make things way worse and caused me to feel unnecessary pressure to change the situation. For months, it weighed heavy on me and I found myself in tears every time I talked about it.
This led to the theme of this pregnancy…
The other day, while using my Inner Compass cards (check out my episode of the IHML Show with the creator Neel van Lierop) I pulled the surrender card and had to laugh.
I’ve had to surrender in so many ways during this pregnancy. Surrender to the experience, to where I’m at, to where the business is at, to my body…to life.
Sometimes we’re so obsessed with things looking a certain way, that we do put extra pressure on ourselves, get even more stressed out and can’t think clearly.
When I surrendered and accepted what my current reality is (and realize that many people only take a few weeks off from work and don’t even work from home) I was able to shift into gratitude, acceptance, and planning mode.
And now, I’m excited to say most likely, I’ll only work 2-4 hours a week for the first month of my baby’s life. (Of course, if I want to do more, I can. After all, I’m still Emily Williams with a running list of projects and ideas, but it feels so good for me to be able to say that I’ve gotten things to the place where I have a choice.)
Here’s how I prepped for baby in both my business and personal life to make sure that I could create as much time and spaciousness as possible…
By the way, these are powerful suggestions that you can use if you want to expand time and streamline your schedule new baby or not!
How I Streamlined My Schedule
I Batch-Recorded My Podcast
When I found out I was pregnant at the end of May, I made a point to book as many podcast guests as possible throughout October, November and December. And I’ve actually recorded all episodes for the next five months in advance which I’m super proud of. (Except for one or two that I’m sure will include something about my birth story and becoming a mom. I can’t wait to share more with you!)
Then, I uploaded all materials to my podcast team to execute on. They will edit the episode, write the show notes, and create videograms every week. And my internal team will upload everything to our email system and blog to be released. By the way, this is all tasked out in Asana (our scheduling tool of choice) literally step by step, date by date so nothing will be overlooked. You can see some of the steps here…
I’ll do one check and prep additional graphics for social media every Friday. (Or I can move it to Saturday or Sunday if need-be).
Pro tip: I’ve timed myself doing my own tasks for this and it takes about 30-60 minutes. That way I know how much time to allocate, and I can properly schedule it out.
I Wrote and Scheduled All Blog Posts and Emails in Advance
Another element of the business that I’ve personally taken back on versus outsourcing is writing blog posts. I found that it’s important for me to be the voice of the brand right now as we’re pivoting so it feels good to get words down on paper versus outsourcing this.
One thing I also (miraculously) realized is that we had TONS of unused blog posts and other pieces of material and content that could be repurposed. If you’re a content creator, don’t overlook this! So much can be repurposed. You don’t have to start this from scratch. (By the way, this is also how I wrote my book. You can hear more about that here.)
I have emails that I’ve A/B tested that I know convert well and support our community in understanding what we have to offer so I’ve been able to automate these for the next few months.
We also have a funnel that has some flash sales in it that are all automated. All I need to do is monitor these one time per week. That should take 30 minutes max.
I Created All Graphics for the Upcoming Month and Filed Them On My Phone
Let’s be real, social media takes a lot of time. I love content creation, but going back and forth from Canva on your computer to uploading on your phone and making reels, writing captions and adding hashtags takes time.
What I realized though was that I could make everything a whole lot easier if I created a system for this process that I literally did one time per month.
So here’s what I did…
- I mapped out our marketing strategy in advance.
- Since I was already writing all emails and posts ahead of time, I was easily able to create the social media materials ahead of schedule too. For example, for my podcast episodes and blog posts, I/my team made graphics to go with them in advance.
- And instead of keeping the graphics in Canva or in Google Drive, I moved all of them into an album on my phone labeled “February 2023 Marketing” so I can easily pull them for social media. That means it will take me 5 minutes (instead of 25) to post! Gamechanger.
- Then for the items that I could write and save as drafts or pre-schedule ahead of time, I did that.
All Tasks for Our Core Team Are Systematized and Tasked Out
Over the past few months, I’ve been a stickler for systemization and simplification. Outside of our podcast team which is an agency that is managed by their owner, I’ve been observing our two main team members to see what should be on (and off) their plate while I’m with baby, and we’ve been tweaking as we go along.
For example, we’ve fine-tuned our processes with the Membership in terms of live calls, uploading new content, posting in the feed, communicating with clients, failed payments etc. We’ve also got the IHML Show process down to a science. If you’re in the midst of this, trust me, it takes time, but when you get there, it’s so worth it.
I Made Lists…Constantly
As I thought about the “pre-baby tasks” I wanted to complete, I wrote them down (again in Asana). Although there are a few things that I’m still ticking off my list like renewing my passport, finalizing our will, applying for the pediatrician (which we can’t do until she’s born, but we have the forms ready) etc., I’ve completed most of it. I found that I kept thinking of thing after thing to do, so writing it down was imperative to my own sanity.
I’ve Interviewed Baby Support and Organized Our Calendars
Although we don’t know what support we want to bring in (whether it’s a postpartum day or night nurse, extra cleaning help, or a nanny) we’ve interviewed staff and gotten recommendations so that when we’re ready, we can push go. I also have people professionally who I’m looking to hire in the near future.
But for now, we’ve put in place a schedule on our shared calendar so we know when I’m taking time to jump into the business and when James is working. We literally went through week by week and blocked any time on my husband James’s calendar when he’ll be on baby duty so it’s clear for both of us.
I will be the main caregiver (another thing I never thought I’d say as the plan was always to have help from the beginning or split things 50/50) which makes sense for us right now. However, James also works from home and can be flexible at various points throughout the day.
I Took Baby Prep Courses
Let’s be real, there are a million things you could learn in the process of pregnancy and giving birth. (Let alone what happens next and how to raise a human!)
My friend Neeta Bhushan gave me a huge stack of books when I told her I was pregnant, and I only read two of them. But I figured that was enough seeing that I got full access to my midwife and doula to ask questions (my midwife came to our house every month for two hours as well).
Here’s what I did read to make sure I knew what to expect and how to plan accordingly once the baby arrives (and throughout the process).
Oh and in case you’re interested in the pregnancy books I did read, here they are:
- Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth
- Spirit Babies: How to Communicate with the Child You’re Meant to Have (this book was a huge part of my journey – listen to my episode about it here.)
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
We’ve Made Extra Meals and Bought an Additional Freezer
I have to give my husband James credit for this one! As we were cooking for Christmas and into January, for nearly every meal we had, we made additional food.
At this point. we have soups, pasta dishes, muffins and other baked goods, stews, and more. We probably have a good 30 days of meals in there which is giving us peace of mind. We also have some friends who have offered to start a meal train for us.
And by the way, you don’t have to spend a lot on a freezer. The one we got was only $200!
I’ve Pre-Washed Everything, Organized the Nursery (Even Added Labels on Her Drawers) and Bought the Time-Saving Baby Gear
I was blessed to have parents who threw me the most beautiful baby shower, friends who have spoiled us with gifts and a sister who gave me tons of hand-me-downs. I’ve washed everything I can, have it all folded in her dresser or hung in her closet, and we even used our label-maker to make it easy to identify which sizes all of those onesies actually are!
In addition to her clothes, we have some incredible items that I’m super excited by that are intended to save us time and energy and make life easier…and provide us with peace of mind.
Here are some of those products. (I’m sure I’ll be creating a more extensive must-have baby items list in the future especially after we test all of this out.)
Snoo Bassinet. We’re so excited to try this oscillating baby bassinet that literally moves faster as your baby cries automatically. It also has white noise built in and a handy app that you can adjust even outside of the room.
Miku Pro Contact-Free Breathing & Sleep Tracking Monitor. This is mainly for peace of mind but we can easily watch and listen to her when she’s sleeping. Pro tip: Get the stand so that if you have the baby in your room for a period of time and then move them into a nursery, you don’t need to mount it on the wall.
Doona Infant Car Seat & Latch Base – Car Seat to Stroller. We spoke to many parents who said this was a must-have and that it makes life a whole lot easier to not have to have a separate stroller and car seat.
Baby Brezza Formula Pro Advanced Formula Dispenser Machine to make things way easier in case I don’t end up breastfeeding. It’s the Nespresso machine of breast milk (Or so we’ve been told!)
An Assortment of Bottles. The last thing I wanted was to have breastfeeding issues and no other options. We were advised to buy this bundle of bottles and not assume she’d like a certain one before buying in bulk.
BABY JOY Baby Changing Table. When we decided to put her in our room for the first chapter of her life, we knew we needed to make life as simple as possible and going back and forth to the nursery where her real changing table was didn’t make sense. So we got this!
I Bought Post-Partum Supplies Ahead of Time
Since this is my first baby, I don’t 100% know what to expect. But in speaking with my doula and midwife, I’ve have a list of suggested items and have those ready to go.
For the things I’m unsure of, I actually put them in my “save for later” section of Amazon so I can easily pull them up and order them if need be.
We Completed Odd-Jobs Around the House
You know that list of things that never seems to get done? It hangs over your head and keeps getting pushed by the wayside? Well, we put that list up on the fridge and every weekend, we ticked things off. Trust me, this took some commitment because most of the time, there’s a reason why those things get pushed to the bottom of the list and you actually don’t want to do them. But we reminded ourselves how good it would feel to have them done and out of the way.
We Had Difficult Conversations
With both of our families being out of town, having them come to see the baby isn’t as easy as it they were local. We both decided that we wanted a week on our own to acclimate to parenthood (trust me, I know it will take longer than that). So we shared that honestly with our families and told them we would let them know when we were ready for them to visit. I also didn’t want people flying in and spreading germs around a newborn.
This was more challenging than it sounds seeing that with my siblings’ kids, my parents literally saw them the day they were born. It was also hard to tell James’s dad we didn’t want him on a plane from England the second I went into labor!
It’s important to recognize that you get to (lovingly) dictate the terms of people seeing your child, and they get to accept that.
Summary: Here’s What I’ve Learned in Prepping for Time Off
- I have loved batch-recording the Show so much that I’m going to continue to do so. My idea is to record two months per year. Literally, go full speed ahead in podcast mode recording 25 episodes each of those months. It’s so much better to have it all done and when you’re in the mode of interviewing or recording, it’s easier to stay in flow. Doing the same thing with the blog posts and other emails (as well as graphics) also makes so much sense.
- We waste so much time going back and forth between tasks that are completely different. This is challenging for many reasons and it actually takes more brainpower and energy.
- Planning is essential! As a visionary and major action-taker, the temptation is to just dive in and do. But planning creates more freedom and it also supports you in understanding whether something is actually important or not.
- Sometimes the pressure we put on ourselves for things to be a certain way (normally a different way than what we’d envisioned) makes things harder than they need to be. Sometimes acceptance is the answer.
- I’m fully prepared to be unprepared. (This is a quote James and I have been saying to one another the last few months.)
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What can I streamline that I do month after month?
- How can I batch my tasks?
- How can I get better at planning?
- What do I want to outsource?
- Where am I spending too much time?
- What’s actually working that I want to continue doing? What gets to be released?
- Can I take a day to complete tasks I keep pushing aside?
I hope this was helpful whether you’re a new parent, to-be parent or you just want to streamline. I’ll keep you posted with how it all turned out and whether I truly was prepared for baby!
(UPDATE: She actually came on February 5th! You can see an update here.)