How To Maintain Your Business When You Feel Like Crap: A Small Business Owner During Her First Trimester
Okay! If you are reading this, you probably are either pregnant (congrats!) or thinking about getting pregnant soon (woohoo!). Let me just preface this by saying that I am in no way a doctor or medical professional of any kind. What I am is nearly 8 months pregnant with a business to run.
Let me start by saying all pregnancies are different. With my first child, I remember feeling kind of grossed out by vegetables but I was never not able to eat. I mostly felt great until the last month when I puffed up from gestational hypertension. This time around with our second, I was dry heaving well into 18 weeks and struggling to find food that sounded good throughout my second trimester and I’ve needed to take a mid-day nap almost every day. So hopefully you will have a beautiful, glowing pregnancy where you feel amazing and bouncy! I truly hope that is the case! But if it isn’t, I’m here for you mama!
I think perhaps the hardest part about being pregnant while owning your own business is that you’re the boss. Nobody is making you get any work done, it’s all on you to try to pace yourself and everything is unpredictable. Well turns out the unpredictable thing won’t end… kids are always good for keeping us on our toes. So now is a great time to wrap your mind around the fact that things are changing and that means your business is probably going to look a bit different too.
First, I want to focus on the human side of things. Remember, while you are taking that mid-day nap or pushing a task off until tomorrow, please remember it is not because you’re not working. You are working… you are growing a HUMAN! That is work, my dear! Be kind to yourself. Listen to your body. Often in that first trimester, you start hearing about baby brain. Well it’s for real. If you’re anything like me, you are forgetting words left and right, finding that you put the peanut butter in very strange places in the kitchen but not remembering how it got there. If you are having a foggy afternoon or even a whole day, don’t try to write an important email to a client.
This brings me to the “how do you get work done when your brain as you know it has ceased to function” side of things. The good thing is that this state of being is temporary. Whether what you are feeling will last a few months, weeks, days, or even hours, it will pass. So in a moment where you are feeling mostly yourself, take a moment to look at your workload. Can you categorize it into things that take very little brain-space (for me this is packaging cards and envelopes into their plastic sleeves) to medium brain-space (painting, since it is fun for me but also I need to be able to mostly focus) to big brain-space (figuring out some sort of new computer program or writing copy). Depending on your work, you may want to do the same thing but based on physical demand. Low physical demand for me is anything on a computer because I can do it in bed. High physical demand is painting since I need to be sitting in a chair for often long hours and my hand needs to be steady.
Now that you have this list of activities, you can gauge how you’re feeling at any given time. Rather than being so strictly tied to “Monday is the day I do ____” consider if it is possible to pick and choose tasks that feel physically and mentally doable in that moment. Having already made the list, you won’t have to think about it if you’re feeling crappy.
In previous blog posts, I’ve talked about how I try to schedule my work more intuitively and pick my tasks based on how I’m feeling that day. I have weekly tasks that I need to accomplish but nothing is tied to a specific day. If you want to learn more about this, check out my blogpost “Confessions of a recovering perfectionist” where I talk about how I broke up with my to-do list.
If you are in the planning stages of baby making, this might be a great list to make even before you get pregnant. Maybe set aside some of those easier tasks to have a lot of that kind of work in the first trimester.
Once you do get pregnant, it is a good idea to start to think what your work load will look like once you have the baby. Are you planning on taking a maternity leave? How long? What projects do you need to accomplish before baby comes? Will you need to have your holiday collection prepped? This is a great task to do once you’re through your first trimester. You’re (hopefully) starting to feel better and can start planning for what’s ahead.
Andy (my baby-daddy/husband/business partner) and I had a big meeting where we looked at the calendar and decided that we wanted to have three months off when baby comes, coming back just in time for the holiday season. Our big goals for this were to have products prepped and ready so we had regular releases even when we were off, our shipping would stay open, and we would maintain a pre-scheduled presence on our various platforms. What this means is that we need to crank out a TON of products before baby comes (including our holiday collection), have all our shipping supplies ordered and in place (including holiday shipping supplies), and have a ton of content prepped. Here is the breakdown of the content that we have been working on preparing to last us through those three months:
- Blog posts
- Weekly emails
- Weekly video tutorials for the youtube channel
- Weekly Makers Monday videos for sharing biz tips
- IG/Facebook content including posts and reels (I’ll probably still do stories in real time)
- Product launches
So in order to get all this done, I made a master list of all the things that need to happen before the baby comes and I’ve been slowly chugging away at the list. I’m working from most important to least important, knowing that if I don’t get everything done it isn’t the end of the world. For us that means products come first. Next comes blogs and weekly emails. Video tutorials are next then IG/Facebook content. I figure I’ll need something to do during those nightly nursing sessions (just don’t judge me if I post something loopy! LOL)
We also made the leap to hire a digital marketing assistant to help create the visuals for these content pieces. She will be in charge of making sure things are posted on time, creating visuals for product launches, pinning our content, and getting products launched on our various selling platforms. This is giving me huge peace of mind to know that we’ll have some backup so we can focus on snuggling our little babe. (Andy will continue to send out shipments but that usually doesn’t take him TOO much time).
If hiring someone to help isn’t in the cards, often asking family and friends can be a huge life saver. Making a little cheat sheet checklist for some tasks that they can help with is great for keeping consistent practices. You can even make a Loom video to explain some of the techier elements.
If this isn’t available to you (we live far away from our families, so I totally get it) set reminders (like LOTS OF REMINDERS) in your phone for important stuff, especially things like taxes deadlines, product launches, client due dates etc.
If you are doing commission work, you are going to want to make sure all your projects are wrapped up before baby comes. If possible, you may want to end that a month before baby comes in case you have an early arrival or so you have time to do some of this back end prep work. If you can’t afford to stop a month early, make sure you make it clear to your clients that you are expecting a baby and you’ll do everything you can to make sure you get their work to them on time but that you have a backup plan in place. Let them know what plan B is. Make a list of active clients and have a prepared email you can send out in case you go into labor early so you can have someone send that out for you. Also, make sure you put an automatic message on your email clearly communicating what people can expect in terms of your response time. Are you not checking your email at all for 3 months? Are you going to try to get to emails once a week? Every other day? I’m not going to tell you what the right decision is for you, but it is always easier to say longer and then if you happen to get back to them sooner all the better, rather than the other way around.
And last, but certainly not least - try to be kind to yourself and take a moment to stop and take it all in. Your body is doing an amazing thing and soon you will have the sweetest little bundle in your arms. These are precious moments. Your business will be there when you get back, but your baby is only at this stage once in its life.
To help learn more about scheduling your tasks more intuitively and breaking up with your to-do list, fill out the form below to get my guide on how to just that!