How to Invest in Your Career While Building a Family
Spoiler alert: It's all about the right structure.
Ask Megan Huber what her #1 tip for success is and she’ll undoubtedly say structure. In researching people who had achieved success professionally and personally, she found they all had one thing in common: self-discipline and a commitment to structure.
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In January 2012, Megan first launched Structured Freedom, a coaching practice designed in partnership with her husband to help business owners create routines customized to their individual goals and priorities.
The motivation for launching her business came from an identity crisis Megan experienced after the birth of her first child. Megan had left her job as a high school business and computer teacher in North Carolina to stay at home with her daughter Brighton, now 6. “I identified myself as a really hard-working teacher,” she says. “I worked 70 hours a week and when Brighton came along, that was no longer there, all of a sudden. My role completely changed."
After several months, Megan asked her husband, a personal trainer and health and wellness coach, if he thought she would ever be valuable to a company again. He encouraged her to get a coaching certification herself, noting that her strengths in the classroom would be an asset to instructing and inspiring others. She completed the program and, in 2012, opened her own business. She quickly achieved a reputation as a business and life coach and matched her former teacher's salary in just two and a half months.
"For me and a lot of women, what leads us into coaching is our own personal journey and development of overcoming,” she says.
As Megan's business was outgrowing its infancy, so was Brighton. Instead of overcommitting to both her career and her family, Megan identified her priorities selectively. She focused on two or three goals for both her business and her daughter and she protected the time it took to achieve them.
“When you’ve decided what your goals and priorities are, and you drill that down into individual activities and put them into the calendar, there becomes no question throughout your day of where you should be being present at any given moment,” she says.
We asked Megan to share her thoughts on investing in your family and your career.
1. Motivate yourself with the big picture
It starts with your ultimate vision; a big-picture plan. What do I want my life to look like in the next 20 years? 10 years? 5 years? I get really clear on what that looks like to me. People always ask me how I stay so motivated. It’s because I’m not driven by individual daily activities; I’m driven by the big picture.
2. Reverse engineer, focusing on only three priorities at a time
Once I have a big-picture vision for my family and my business, it allows me to reverse engineer and figure out how it’s all going to work together. I’m really intentional about having just a few priorities at a time. When I get overwhelmed, it’s because I’ve put too much on my plate and I have to clear it off by asking, “What is the most important thing to me right now?
3. Block out your time
I live by a calendar and use time blocks to ensure I maximize my productivity. They allow me to give my undivided attention to completing one activity or area of focus at a time rather than attempting to multitask or become distracted by a list of to-dos. I also time block personal time with my family. Getting ready for school, gym classes, dinnertime, bedtime and family excursions are all on my calendar.
4. Start slow
In the very beginning, I only worked on my business a couple of times a week. Then, I'd add on a half day and then another. I didn't start full-blast, working 40 or 50 hours a week. I worked my way up to that and I didn’t put pressure or unrealistic expectations on myself early on. It’s a process and I allowed myself to be on the journey, every step of the way. Now that Brighton is in Kindergarten, I have the entire day to work on my business.
5. Break the habit of looking at your phone in the mornings
Most people’s inclination when they wake up in the morning is to turn to their nightstand and pick up their phone. Before they get out of bed, they will look at their emails or Facebook. Their day has already gotten started in a anxious place at 6:30 or 7am. If someone is unhappy or wants to change a project, it can easily fluster you that early in the morning. In the past, it would almost ruin my day so I’ve had to train myself to stop. My mornings are now completely phone and computer free—and those are precious hours I have to spend with my family.
6. Aim for the least amount of effort
I typically focus on the fastest path that’s going to require the least amount of stress, time and effort to reach my goal. That opens me up to being super creative and seeing opportunities that I may not have seen. For example, in my business, it is much easier to renew existing clients versus spend double or triple the time to attract new people. The time and energy saved by renewing clients has allowed me to create new online courses and group programs.