How to manage a full-time job, kids, and start a business too

photo-410I attended the Rock the World conference this past weekend, and got to meet a number of fascinating entrepreneurs. One of them was Emilia Prahin, who is the COO and marketing director of a company called Signature.Styled. This platform matches busy professionals with stylists who will help them shop for the right wardrobe; you can use the site to book your session (currently only in NYC).

Prahin also has a day job in the fashion industry. She has two young kids. So how, I wanted to know, does she structure her weeks?

The good news is that there is time, in 168 hours, for all these things, particularly with some creative strategies.

First, Prahin has honed an exquisite level of productivity at her day job in order to keep her hours at 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. “My strategies for confining my work to this time are to stay focused, follow a to-do list that I try to create with every project, and really understand all the details involved prior to starting something new,” she says.

While she has a business partner for Signature.Styled, she needs to be involved in a lot of matters too. And some of those things really need to happen during the work day. Her solution? “I use my lunch hour for my start-up. I meet with my partner during our lunch for updates and planning. If we are not meeting during that time, I write and answer emails, brainstorm, do research, or go over my to-do lists. Sometimes I schedule phone calls at that time as well.” She’ll schedule in-person meetings for 5 p.m. In NYC that’s not considered a no-go meeting time (a lot of people work 9:30-6:30-ish hours). “I will come into my day job earlier that day so that I can leave earlier to make it on time,” she says.

Long time blog readers will not be surprised to learn that Prahin is a proponent of the “split shift.” She does start-up stuff at 5 or 5:30 p.m., and then will go home and spend a few hours with her two young children. They’re in bed by 9 p.m., and that’s when she fires up the laptop to work in earnest on her business. “As in all entrepreneurial work, it’s never done,” she says, but “I do have a to-do list of what I want to accomplish in my time for each night, and I try to stick to it as much as I can.” She enforces a stopping point of midnight or 12:30 a.m. -- “to make sure that I get to sleep and have the energy to do it again the next day!”

It’s a pretty grueling schedule during the workweek, but here’s what makes it all possible: Prahin does very little work on the weekend, either for her main job or for Signature.Styled. She will occasionally do an hour or two at night, and nap with the kids during the day in order to make up the sleep, but not much beyond that. “It’s hard not to work on weekends, I can be doing so much in that time,” she says. “But my children need me more than any job or start-up ever would and spending the time with them and my husband is the most important thing in the world for me.”

The good news is that by organizing her time this way, she can log full time hours at her day job, invest around 20 hours a week in her start-up, and still spend big chunks of time with her family too. This rhythm of busy weeks and lighter weekends “does make it easier on my family, but also easier on me, as I know that at the end of the week, no matter what happens, I will still get to spend time with them!”

If you've got a side hustle going, when do you make time for it?

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10 Responses to How to manage a full-time job, kids, and start a business too


  1. Rinna says:

    Good for her to pursue her entrepreneurial spirit! I do find, however, that all of these descriptions of a week tend to skim over the administrative tasks that are necessary to run a household, what I sometimes call the “keep the lights on” activities. I am a huge, huge proponent of outsourcing, and even so, there are things that have to get done – the school forms, the doctor appointments, the online food/clothes/whatever shoppping, the bill payment, getting appliances fixed, organizing bday parties, researching camps, etc. Even with an immense amount of outsourcing, it still takes time to think about these things and either (a) get them done yourself or (b) get somebody else to do them.

    • @Rinna- true. One thing to consider is that this schedule represents an ideal day/week. As I see with time logs, there is never an ideal week. So my guess is that for anyone attempting this, some evening part of the business time gets taken over for stuff, or some early morning, or part of the weekend (particularly if someone is trying not to work on weekends, a lot of household admin stuff may happen then). And sometimes one’s partner may be primarily responsible for these things too.

      • Rinna says:

        You are probably right, and yet I’d still like to see a time log featured anywhere that really highlights when people get these things done. Because, unfortunately, life is more than work, family time, personal time. There are also activities that need to be done but aren’t particularly valued in any of these categories (though watch out if the kids don’t get their bday parties 😉 ) Let’s ask Emilia when she does it!

        • Ingrid says:

          I often find I divide things into work, personal, admin and family time mentally and then have subsets. But it’s rare that something is purely one category outside of work. My day would broadly be broken up into 7-9:30am is a combination of personal, admin & family time. This morning for example I spent time meditating & doing personal reading before my daughter woke up at 7:30am, then spent half an hour getting her up, dressed & fed (she’s still a toddler) & then between 8am & 9am was a mixture of family & admin stuff (arranging nanny, planning a weekend drive, putting in load of washing, making husband coffee to drink in bed cause I was feeling nice) but because my daughter is with me & watching & ‘helping’ while I do these I count them mentally as mostly family time. So I would probably say I spent 90 minutes on my family this morning but really it’s more complex than that. Maybe that helps explain it….

        • Ana says:

          For me, those are the things I fit in here and there. I don’t devote a large chunk of time to doing any one of those “admin” type tasks because I don’t want them to occupy a large chunk of my life. They do, however, need to get done! So I just fit them in during breaks at work or home. That time is counted as “work” or “family” because that’s the primary focus of that hour, though maybe 2-5 minutes was spent ordered diapers or texting a babysitter. Those tasks do exert a mental load, though, so I’m not sure my way is the best way. I was considering whether setting aside 10-15 minutes a few evenings a week may be a better way to compartmentalize it.

          • @Ana- I do go back and forth on whether it’s best to do these a bit at a time or all at once. And how to lighten the mental load is a perpetual problem. It’s probably good to split the mental load in a household, but our own tasks always seem bigger in our minds and we may not remember what other people are remembering for us…

          • Karen says:

            I sort of wish I could approach admin tasks that way, but I can’t. I only really wish it because I’ve had other people tell me that that is how you *have* to do it, otherwise it will “expand to fill the available time.” Which is a valid point, but when I try to fit it in “here and there,” I forget things, drop balls, and am surprised by deadlines. People start yelling at me, my anxiety and stress level goes way up, and it seeps into the rest of my productivity. For me, the “mental load” issue is huge.

          • ARC says:

            I’m finding that some of these tasks – researching something online, making calls, unloading dishwasher, etc. are great “transition” activities between real tasks or family outings.

            I work from home, so I sometimes do these in between larger work tasks during the day, but it’s also been effective to try to quickly get them done while I’m waiting for people to get ready to go somewhere, etc. (rather than puttering around online or doing random tasks as I see them – marking that time for something very specific seems to help.)

            What is NOT working for me is 30 min of “chore time” in the evenings after the kids are in bed. I am way too tired for that and need that time to be fun for me (or more paid work as needed).

  2. Erin says:

    If she is working until 12:30 am how can she possibly be getting enough sleep, unless she is one of those rare super-human who only require 5-6 hours? (And just because you get by on 5-6 hours doesn’t mean that’s really what you need). I’m just assuming that because it says she has 2 young kids she must have to get up by 6 or 7. Although maybe she is lucky enough to have a spouse or babysitter/nanny who deals with the kids in the morning.

  3. Yana says:

    I do photography in addition to my office job, and I do email and some social media work in the morning before we leave to work/drop off little guy at the babysitter; do editing during lunch break (an hour), and combination of everything in tiny chunks of time when we get home after work. My 2-year old can play on his own with just a little bit of my assistance, so I can have a laptop in my lap and do a little bit of work then. I am a person who needs lots of sleep so I go to bed right after little guy goes down at around 9:30-10:00pm.

    On the weekends, I get more done because there is a baby’s nap time and just longer chunks of time when he plays.
    I wish I needed less sleep so I could work a little more in the evening, but this is not an option.

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