One of the challenges older workers face when shifting into a second act career is time pressure. People in their forties, fifties, and sixties can have children or grandchildren at home, parents or other loved ones who need help, a regular full-time job, and multiple obligations, including doing the laundry at least now and then. And, let’s face it, we don’t have a lot of interest in pulling all-nighters anymore.
So, how can you learn a new skill and launch a business with these time constraints – and not take a decade to make any progress?
Over the years that I’ve coached editors in building their businesses, I’ve learned a few key strategies:
- Start small. I know, you want to make strides! But starting with something manageable that you finish is better than trying to tackle too much at once and completing none of it. So, take one class. Do one marketing task. It’s the starting that matters, not the magnitude of the task you choose.
- Give it a place on the schedule. Things that exist only on a to-do list are hard to accomplish unless they’re along the lines of “Eat more Ghirardelli chocolate.” But once a task is given a slot on your schedule, you’ll be more likely to do it. Maybe all you can schedule right now is an hour on Wednesday mornings and two hours on Sunday afternoons. That’s fine! Do it.
- Outsource/delegate. In the Before Times, I hired a housekeeper. Now I pay my daughter to keep the housework under control. You have to conserve your time and energy for the meaningful things, like learning DE skills or building your business.
- Downsize your commitments. I’ve always liked to cook and bake but as I tried to grow Club Ed and keep my own editing business afloat, all I felt was stress in the kitchen. Eventually I landed on a solution of doing meal prep on Sunday afternoons and using grocery-store-prepared and frozen foods to round things out. You likely have optional commitments that you can pare back on – though this is never easy, it’s a crucial step toward making room in your life for a new endeavor.
- Do the right work at the right time. One way to marshal your energy is to use peak hours for peak work – that is, to use the time when you’re feeling more focused and energetic to do the meaningful deep work that will move you closer to your goals, versus answering emails and engaging on social media (these latter two things are important but can be done even when you’re not at peak energy). For me, the first few hours of every day are when I have the most energy and can get serious work done. I’m also a big advocate of playing at the right time, as this restores us and builds our relationships. I always take weekends off and go on adventures with my daughter. Too often we think we should be working when we’re spending time with our families or think we should be spending time with our families when we’re working. Do whatever you’re doing with full focus and attention, whether it’s watching a movie or editing a ms.
- Recognize that it is always going to feel like a challenge. I used to think, “Someday I won’t have to go to five doctor’s appointments with my daughter every week and I’ll get more done!” And it was true that we reached a point where I didn’t have to go to five doctor’s appointments with my daughter every week. But then it was the car needed a repair, or I broke a tooth, or a rash of projects came in at once. When I finally recognized that this was life, and that it was never going to be very tame, I was actually able to plan better. Don’t get stymied by thinking it will somehow magically become easier at some future date.