If you’ve wondered “How does she do it?” when you see another mom running an amazing business, A Day in the Life of a Mama CEO, is for you.
Tara Mohr talks about her tiny to do lists, why she doesn’t have a firm schedule, and silencing our inner critics.
Tara is the author of Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create & Lead. She is also the creator of the Playing Big leadership program for women. Tara helps women believe in their own brilliance so they can play big and for their own selves and to bring their gifts and vision into the world.
Tara lives in San Francisco with her husband and young son.
Ideal Days and Working with What You Have
I don’t schedule any meetings until after 10am, after 11am if possible, so I always have the first chunk of the day for writing projects.
However, as a mom I’ve learned to be much less sensitive and precious about my special times of day. I used to only write in the mornings, and I held that as my special creative time. But now, there are a lot of days when the morning gets thrown off for one reason or another, and if I’m going to write at all that day, I gotta write in the afternoon. I’ve learned to be flexible about that, and guess what? Even though I always thought I could only write well in the mornings, it works for me to write in the afternoon when I need to. Turns out the muse will in fact meet me for tea at 2pm!
Trading a Schedule for a Vision
There are too many variables—from teething to changes in sleep schedule to sickness to changes in our work schedules to travel—for something consistent to work for us for more than a couple weeks in a row. Things got a lot smoother when we stopped looking for the optimal, consistent schedule.
Instead, we realized we could form a consistent big-picture life vision—the “what” that we are working to create together as a family. That vision includes:
- how we want to interact as a family
- how we each individually want to move through life—the kind of energy or mood we want to be in day to day
- the core priority areas we want to focus on—meaningful work, our couple relationship, our parenting, building community, physical health, and spiritual life
Our big vision also includes the vision of treating each other (and the situation at hand) with flexibility, humor, and compassion when things aren’t looking too aligned with the vision!
From there, we stay super flexible about the “how” of realizing that vision, and allow it to shift from week to week. Each week we look at the circumstances and make a plan to get our individual needs met as best we can.
Sickness, kiddo developmental changes that affect sleep, teething are all tough. But our “schedule” allows for those unexpected situations. That means I don’t schedule things with deadlines too tightly, and I don’t overcommit. For example, now with the paperback book coming out, I’m doing lots of media and speaking about the book, but my schedule is half as packed as it was a year ago with the hardback launch. That’s because I’ve learned how much buffer I need to function (even moderately well!) as a working mom of a young child. It took me a while to figure out this was needed, but I eventually got the memo!
How She Gets It All Done
Say No. I ask myself all the time with work things: Is this really important? Is it going to move the needle in a serious way toward my goals? If the answer to that is “no” and it’s not something I want to do simply because it feels super fun or meaningful, for the most part, I don’t do it.
Keep the To Do List Working for You. If you looked at my work To Do list, it would probably look really short and sparse to you. I need my To Do list to be short enough to allow lots of time and space for creative work, which for me is usually writing. I believe that’s what drives my business over the long-term, and it’s also what I most enjoy, so I honor it with lots of time.
Have support. I also have a great team and that helps me do the things I am best positioned to do, and not get bogged down in aspects of the business that others can support better than I can. I started this even when I only was paying about $50/week for outsourced help – just a few hours a week. I got a little help, and scaled up slowly from there as my business grew. And I also outsource a lot of home-related tasks that aren’t important to me to do personally.
One Take Away from Tara
I do a lot of work with women around the voice of self-criticism and self-doubt. It’s the topic of the first chapter of my book, and the first module of my course, because until we get some tools to quiet the inner critic, we often can’t tackle anything else effectively.
The inner critic voice shows up strongly for us around our aptitude as mothers and our ability to balance it all. The inner critic voice may be telling you that you are doing a terrible job balancing everything, that you are being a bad mom, that you are going to disappoint your team or your customers, when the reality is you are doing a wonderful, wonderful job holding it all.
Sometimes our fear of playing bigger manifests through the inner critic voice telling us we better stop, or ramp down, because we are failing to do it all well.
It’s important that every woman learn how to discern between an important voice of truth (that might be saying, for example, your kids could really benefit from more time with you or that you haven’t put enough time into a new business product) vs. an inner critic voice that is beating you up irrationally. So often, it’s the latter, and you really are doing fine. Playing Bigger will often feel a little scary, and like a stretch – but it also bring us so much joy, and allows us to bring a different kind of light to our families, too.
Thank you, Tara, for sharing a glimpse into your Mama CEO life!
If you haven’t read Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead, it’s now available in paperback. Tara’s book was named Best Book of the Year by Apple’s ibooks and is being translated in new languages all the time and coming out in additional countries, most recently Japan, and next up, Poland.
And Tara’s Playing Big course for women who want to play bigger in their work and their lives will also be opening up again soon!
This year I’m working on stepping up and owning my personal business space. The ideas and techniques in Playing Big have really helped me as I move forward in that direction. Are you playing big?
For a chance to win an autographed copy of Playing Big, leave a comment here on the blog with one way you commit to Playing Big in 2016. A winner will be chosen randomly from all comments on Monday 1/25.