Episode 25: Managing motherhood: interior design and how to balance work and family life – with Caroline Adams

Caroline Adams explains how the challenges of juggling motherhood and work led her to decide to change career completely and start an interior design business and how she uses “time boxing” to manage her schedule.

Today’s guest

Caroline Adams, interior designer

Instagram: Caroline Adams Design

Following a successful 15 year career in senior Brand and Marketing based roles in the financial services industry, Caroline has recently made the career switch to interior design.

Coming from an established family of builders and growing up in a home designed and built by her parents, Caroline developed an early passion for design pursuing a career in Marketing after studying Business Administration at the University of Bath.   It was whilst on maternity leave with her second child that Caroline took the opportunity to study interior design, recently establishing Caroline Adams Design.

Caroline lives in a Grade II listed house in Wiltshire, working on both modern and traditional projects across Wiltshire, Bath, The Cotswolds, London and Sussex.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • The difficulties of juggling work and childcare
  • Why you need to “let go” and allow other people to help you
  • How a personal project can become a business idea
  • The importance of doing something for you
  • What happens when you step back and create some headspace for yourself
  • Why you should press ahead with something even if you don’t feel brave enough
  • How to manage your schedule with “time boxing”

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 25: Managing motherhood: interior design and how to balance work and family life - with Caroline Adams

Jeremy Cline
When career and family life can't seem to co-exist, what do you do? That's what we discuss on this week's episode. I'm Jeremy Cline and this is Change Work Life.

Hello and welcome to Change Work Life, the show that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. My guest this week is a great example of someone facing a problem which I know is faced by an awful lot of people. Caroline Adams had a really successful corporate career in marketing and she really enjoyed it. But she's also a mother and try as she might, she found it really difficult to get the two to work together. In this episode, we talked to Caroline about what she tried and how it's led her to start her own business. Hello, Caroline. Welcome to the podcast.

Caroline Adams
Hi, Jeremy, thank you for having me as your guest.

Jeremy Cline
My pleasure. So Caroline, can you start by introducing yourself and telling us a bit about what it is that you do?

Caroline Adams
Yeah, sure. So my name is Caroline. I'm in my early 40s now, and I have very recently left my 15 year career in brand marketing, to set up my own interior design business. So quite a big shift, really, in terms of career progression.

Jeremy Cline
How long has the interior design business been going now?

Caroline Adams
So I'm very much in the early startup phase, I only sort of left work about six months ago. I didn't honestly believe that I would be brave enough to actually do this. But certainly since I've had some thoughts about it and I've had a few projects that I've been working on, predominantly with family and friends that's really kind of given me that confidence that you know now I've parked one thing, and I just have that focus on something else - my interior design - that I actually am able to do it and it's given me that real confidence push to just get out there now and really start. So I'm very much now in the early startup phases. So building my website, looking in terms of my five year business plan, and my first client came in just a couple of weeks ago. So it very much feels that it's real. And it's starting to go in the direction that I want it to, which is lovely.

Jeremy Cline
Brilliant. Well, let's dive into a little bit about how you made the change and why you made the change a bit later on. But first of all, you mentioned that you'd had a 15 year career. So can you tell us a bit more about how you got into that in the first place and what sort of thing you were doing?

Caroline Adams
So I did a very sensible Business Studies degree at university. I particularly enjoyed the marketing elements of that degree. So after a number of years of delaying the inevitable of going out to work, I sort of spent some time travelling. I spent a year teaching English in Japan. And then I finally came back to the UK two and a half years after graduating to start the big career that I sort of knew that was inevitably waiting for me at some point. And I decided that marketing was the area that I enjoyed the most through my university. I did a placement year when I was at university as well - that placement year also sort of focused more on the marketing side of things, so it was a good springboard for me to then secure my first job.

Jeremy Cline
That period of time out - that two and a half years - that's quite unusual taking that length of time. Was that deliberate or was that the way it panned out, or at what point in that time did you decide where you were going to go down?

Caroline Adams
No. I always loved travelling, and after graduating, I was 22 and I thought, I just want to go and I want to do that now. So my friend and I had our plan, this is where we're going to go, and off we went - and I did a full 12 months of travelling. Then I did actually return to the UK after my 12 months, and I found a job. It wasn't really what I wanted to do. It was a very entry level job. I found it quite frustrating, and I think at that stage I thought, well, here I am, this isn't anything that I can't leave and come back to in another year's time. I've not got this most amazing job that I'd be a fool to sort of go off and do anything differently. And the travelling was amazing, but obviously you are moving around at quite a pace, and I thought I'd actually like to go to one country and spend a little bit more time embedding myself in their culture. So I looked at a number of different options, and I decided I'd go and do teaching English in Japan! So six months after getting back and starting this job that I felt that I had nothing to lose in leaving, I was off to Japan. And I then spent a year there, so that was working and living in that country, and obviously in my free time when I wasn't working, I spent a lot of time exploring Japan. But I think I still probably had a little bit of that travel bug. And before I get too settled down - if I don't do it now, when am I going to do it? So I think I probably did all of my travelling at the beginning and I haven't had that desire to want to do it as an adult. I know there are lots of adults that get to this stage in their life and then decide that there's time for them to go and travel. But I think I did all of that back in my early 20s instead.

Jeremy Cline
So you came back, you had identified you enjoyed the marketing element. So what was the experience like when you started work?

Caroline Adams
I enjoyed going into the workforce. I was in London then, so I kind of came back and wanted to be in London, working in London, and stayed in London working for eight, nine years within that 15 year career. And I've always had a very good experience at work - I've always enjoyed my working environment, my colleagues, and the role. I've always been well respected and built my career and I've had opportunities and I've taken the opportunities as they've arisen, and always felt supported all the way through, really. And then it was when I had my son, that we then moved out of London and I just really transferred from one office to another, so maintained the same role in a similar team. I mean, we were split across different sites and different parts of the country anyway, so I just transferred myself from one location to the other, and effectively carried on once I'd had children. And I think the biggest change then was that I went from being full time to then being part time during that sort of 15 years.

Jeremy Cline
And you were part time right up until the point that you decided to change what you were doing entirely?

Caroline Adams
Exactly. I worked part time for just under eight years. In that time I had my two children, I worked three days a week.

Jeremy Cline
And how did part time compare with working full time? Was it an easy transition? Were you genuinely working part time or were you in fact cramming five days into however many days you were doing?

Caroline Adams
Yeah, I don't think that there are probably many part time workers that can truly say that they only ever work their contracted part time hours, but I think the environment in which I worked in, even your full time workers don't just work their contracted full time hours. So I think the nature and the environment that I worked in, everybody worked above and beyond the specific hours that they're required to work. But I think I probably found it difficult to adjust in the first instance, because obviously I'd gone on maternity leave based in one office, and then I'd moved and relocated myself with a baby to a different part of the country, and then gone back to work in a different office, so slightly different environment, slightly different culturally, obviously, not in London - out of London. So that all felt quite different. And then going back into work with the same work ethic that I'd always had but with this sort of time restriction, and not just the time restriction in terms of trying to fit everything in in three days, but also then that extra pressure of having a nursery drop off, a nursery pick up, and that timeboxing, very set times at either end of the day, which obviously before I'd been on maternity leave those sorts of timeboxing at either end of the day, you can work slightly longer if you need to - that extra 15, 20 minutes doesn't really matter - but if you've got to get back for a nursery and they close at six o'clock, there is absolutely no leeway in that sort of time at all.

Jeremy Cline
Was the pressure that you felt there coming internally, or were there external pressures as well - managers asking if you could stay a bit longer or anything like that?

Caroline Adams
No, I mean, as I said I've always had a really positive experience at work and I think a lot of it tends to stem from me. I am that type of person that's very hard on myself, and that's just part of who I am. So I think I probably managed to work it in terms of what I contributed around, then overall have a team around me that would support me when I wasn't there. I think it was me, to think 'I used to be able to give this 110% and I am still giving my 110%, but I just can't be there five days a week'. So I think that there are things that you have to then learn to let go. And there are things that you need to learn that used to sort of probably take a disproportionate amount of your time that you can no longer do. So for example, if you're working on a piece of work, and you tend to want ownership of that piece of work end to end, if you are part time you have to learn to be able to allow other people to help you and to be able to hand that piece of work over and have other people working on it. So yes, you may lose a little bit of that element of ownership. But you know, you need to be able to do that for your own sanity really, otherwise all you do is put yourself under a disproportionate amount of pressure and then don't get things progressed forward quickly enough.

Jeremy Cline
And what about the pressure at the other end - doing the nursery pickups and drop offs, being there as a mum looking after the children and that sort of thing - did that work with this part time arrangement?

Caroline Adams
No! The child care, all the way through has been the biggest challenge for me. Even when we relocated, I was still a good hour commute away from the office that I worked in. And so the logistics of trying to do a nursery drop off and then get myself through rush hour traffic to the office and then back again, I think after six months of being back with this just clearly not working and me being late at least two of the three pickups a week for nursery by five minutes because the train was delayed or something unforeseen had happened - and it tends to be the travel or the traffic, or there's been an accident, and you are completely and utterly helpless - and I think after six months, I remember turning around to my husband and saying, 'This just isn't worth it, this rushing around all of the time. Maybe I should just give up work now'. But I didn't want to at that stage, I was really enjoying work, it was nice to be back. It was nice to have something else that was mine that wasn't you know, you're a mum and you're this and you know, all these other roles that you play. I've always enjoyed work, because it's been an outlet for me in terms of I am still this person, you know, that kind of personal reward. So I tried every childcare method and model that you can imagine. We ended up thinking that this nursery wasn't right for us, so we then had a nanny. So I had a nanny then which made things much, much easier because she would come to the house in the morning, and then give me that time to just think about getting myself out the door, and everything else, without having to have all of that extra stress and pressure about trying to get, you know, obviously at that point, just one child up and out the door as well. And that did help, and that did work for a couple of years up until the point that I had my daughter, two and a half years later.

Jeremy Cline
And did you have any particular reservations about changing from nursery to a nanny? You clearly did it because it you had to do it to fit in with your day, but did any part of you think is this the right thing for my child as much as anything else?

Caroline Adams
Yeah, so I don't think my son particularly loved nursery, and I think he found it quite hard, because he was the first one to be dropped off in the morning and I was the last one that was either there just as they closed at six or five minutes past six because I was running late. So I think he then saw in that time lots of other children coming going throughout the day. And, you know, I think they found as well, that he'd always look like 'When are we coming back?' So that made me feel awful. He wasn't particularly happy, and I felt rather than forcing him out into this environment at this really young age, if he was at home, it wasn't such a big change of routine for him because he was in his home environment with everything that was familiar. And obviously, I was still with him two days of the week, so I could take him to some of the classes and you know, the things that we would have done together. So, for us, I felt that was a better situation, and it worked better for us as a family and for my child as well.

Jeremy Cline
So fast forwarding eight years because you mentioned that you'd been doing part time for eight years. What changed? What made you decide I don't want to carry on working part time or even going back to full time as your kids got older? What made you start to think that you had to have a complete change?

Caroline Adams
So I think that was a number of phases that built up to it. As I said, it was probably after I had my daughter, so my second child, that I found it harder. I think that there were a number of different things that probably all happened within that time frame. So the first one was when I was on maternity leave for the second time, we'd obviously moved, I spent another year at home, trying to do lots of kind of improvements and renovations whilst I was there and able to do it, and really just loving the whole being at home, being involved in interiors, working with architects, doing the designing, and also finding that whole process completely overwhelming when you've got a lot to do and you've got a baby. So I decided I was going to pursue this hobby and this interest and passion that I had for interior design and I registered myself to do an interior design course. And that then ended up being a huge undertaking - much bigger than I expected, and it took me three years to actually finish this course, between going back to work, doing the part time, fitting in the course work, obviously managing the home and having two children, but I did it. And lots of people want to do house renovations. They don't necessarily do a course, but I did. I like to make my life difficult for myself.

Jeremy Cline
Why did you do it?

Caroline Adams
I just wanted to do something. Everything I'd always done has always been very sensible and very kind of academic, and I just really had this passion for interior design and I thought, I want to know how to do this properly. I mean, I have a bit of an eye, but when you're trying to make lots of decisions, I wanted to kind of understand a bit more of the science behind it, the framework behind it, the structure around how you approach your room design, colours - so when you're making often quite costly decisions around fabrics, curtains, furniture - I guess had a bit more confidence to make some of those decisions. So that was the reason why I did it. And I just also had this huge desire and passion for it and I just wanted to kind of pursue that in a bit more detail, and I thought doing a course would just give me something that I loved to explore further.

Jeremy Cline
Was there anything in the course which really surprised you? That was really different from how you thought it was going to be, or what your previous experience had been with managing your own renovations, anything that really stuck out that made you think 'That wasn't what I was expecting?'

Caroline Adams
I think probably nothing completely surprising. I think what it did reinforce is that these things do take time, and even as an interior designer, you can't just sort of in half a day create something - it's a process, and there is no right or wrong answer. It is very much 'here are a series of different elements for you should be able to look at, to help you then think about the room, the flow, how you use your space'. So I think it's more of those points and actually sitting down and having the time to really think about it rather than jumping around in terms of making your decisions, on 'Oh I need a sofa for that room' or 'I need some curtains for the other room'. So I think for me, it was more that there's much more of a systematic approach to it. And knowing what those different stages in that approach were, I think that was surprising that there was quite a structure around it - but I also found that really helpful as well because I do quite like structure.

Jeremy Cline
And you said that it took you three years. So what stage was this during the eight years of part time period that you were doing this, and what kept you going for doing it for the whole three years?

Caroline Adams
So I'd had my son, gone back to work, had a couple of years, then I had my daughter and it was just as I was thinking about going back to work from maternity leave the second time that I started the course, and then that carried through for the three years. And then I graduated from that in late 2017. And then in that time, there'd been a huge amount - within that three year time - in the organisation I worked with, there'd been a huge amount of change more generally, in terms of the brand and marketing environment that I worked in, where the roles were becoming bigger, there was more opportunity. So within my workplace, I was looking for more stretch, for more challenge, for more opportunity. And then I'm trying to do my course at the same time and finish that, and I had a role that I'd absolutely loved that was a real stretch and a real challenge for me, still in part time. And then I got to early 2018, and at that point my daughter just started school, and now I kind of thought, 'oh my goodness, she's now gone off to school, I've finished this course', and it just that sort of relentlessness of everything started to feel like it was building up. So, you know, I've been working part time, I've done this course - but you know, I had that incredible relief when I graduated because it felt like such a massive achievement - more of an achievement than when I'd done my degree, because I'd had to try and fit everything in around a very busy work life and family life. So it felt really good to achieve it, because there were a number of times during that course where I genuinely thought I would give up - which goes completely against my nature - but I just thought several times, 'I don't need to do this, just because I've started it doesn't mean I have to finish it'! But I didn't give up, and I kept going. And I'm very glad that I did keep going and that I didn't give up, because when 2018 came, I really started to feel that the pressure at work was building, and we then had another number of changes in early 2018 in the workplace, and for me, it was almost one extra push too much. And I started feeling 'Oh my goodness me'. I just felt like I didn't have that energy to put into another new exciting opportunity at work. I just thought the children are now at school, the demands for that are then completely different, and the whole child care model then for me completely changed again, because there was no after school club at school, so then how do we manage with child minders - and so there were so many different things. And then in 2018, I suddenly had that feeling, 'This is just all getting too much', and it started to feel like it was building quite quickly. And I was like, right, 'I need to get out, I need to not do it!' And I remember speaking to my husband, who's been used to kind of me a little bit of roller coaster, where you have those good months, there's bad months there's good months, bad months - the 'It's all going great, I love it!' to the 'I can't do it anymore!' So he was very good, and we decided in 2018, for my own self, really - I looked at the different leave options that I could take, rather than just resign, and it being a really instinctive decision, because I was just feeling at that moment, a little bit too overwhelmed, like I was on this treadmill, and I was being carried away on this treadmill, and I couldn't get off of it to say 'I need to be able to just get off and pause', and so I decided to ask for period of parental leave because my fundamental reason for wanting to get off of that treadmill at that time was to just concentrate and be with the children and just feel like for the first time in these eight years, I could be a mum, and I could do the school run. So my daughter had started school - I wanted to just be able to take her to school and pick her up, and be there during the day and settle her, and just do all of those normal things. And I also wanted to just enjoy the summer holidays and just have those six weeks of the summer holidays with the children, rather than every summer holiday before that my summer holiday was a spreadsheet with 'here are all the weeks they're on holiday, here are all the days I need to work, these are the days I can take as leave, these are the days they need to go to the grandparents, then I need to put them into this club, that club - so the whole summer up until that point had just been almost like a logistical exercise. And so I made my application. They were fantastically supportive. And I took that five month break, and just focused on the children and being at home, and it was fantastic. And it was the first time other than maternity leave where obviously you're busy with a baby, to just have some headspace and just to be able to be and live in the moment, not be existing and keeping everything going. And it's not until I had that time out, that you look back and you reflect and you literally sit down and you think, how have I done all of this? How have I kept everything going? And you realise - my biggest thing was realising how busy family life is when I wasn't at work. I mean, the children are only at school for about six hours. It's not a very long day. And all of the things that you still need to do that I would normally then cram into the days when I wasn't working, and I think I thought I'd have all this time and that this sort of five months I'd had off, it would be loads and loads of time - and it really wasn't. And I think that gave me a really kind of big reality kick that, you know, anybody that's working with a family knows that there is a huge amount to do. And I hadn't been looking after myself, and I think at the end of the day, often, you know, you're the one that suffers because you're just trying to do everything for everybody else. And I think that was a big wake up for me. And it just made me think for the first time when I was off, 'Do I want to do this for another 15 years?' 'Do I want to do this for another 10 years?' 'Do I even want to go back and do this for another five years?' because within all of that time, the children are just getting older, they have their lives and I just wanted to be a part of it rather than sort of having it fitting in around work and other things.

Jeremy Cline
And lots of people do though don't they - you kind of think this is just the way it is in the modern world - you kind of expect both parents to be working, you expect there to be nannies, after school clubs, childcare, having to juggle summer holidays, all that sort of thing. So how did you get to the mindset of 'It doesn't have to be like this, I can do something about it?'

Caroline Adams
Very interesting. So I think during that time off, I didn't miss the travelling, the going to work. All of the things that come with going to work, and I just thought, okay, for something that I felt that almost sometimes you do these jobs and you have your job title and you command the respect and you feel that that's part of who you are - but the reality was is when I wasn't in that environment, it didn't feel like it was the most important thing. So I felt I'm quite clear on who I am, and I don't need the job and the job title to define who I am. And I think for me, that was huge, because almost that then made it feel - not that it wasn't as important, because it was important - but it wasn't the most important thing. So for me, that was quite a big shift. And it made me think, so my husband was like, 'Okay, so it's all the travelling, why don't you look for a job, you know, a different type of job?' And that was when I kind of thought, 'But I don't want a different type of job.' If I wanted to do that job, I would stay where I was, because I'd loved it, I'd been supported, I'd done it for 15 years in that environment - I didn't want to necessarily go to a different company and just do the same thing. That was when I was like 'If I'm going to do something, I would want to do something completely different'. So I went back into work, thought I'll give it one last go, because after 15 years, maybe when I get back into it after having this time off, it might feel different! And part of me hoped that I'd just go back in, and my heart would still be in it in the same way that I've been off for mat leave and you go back into it. But I went back last year, and it was just really hard. And I just found it harder than I'd ever found it. And I think possibly mentally I'd already started to sort of move on from it. And I just spoke to them obviously - my employers - for quite a long time, but they were massively supportive, and it was the right decision for me. Yes, by the spring, three months in, and I thought, 'No, this isn't for me anymore'. And so, I left and then I thought, 'My goodness, now what am I going to do?' And that's where I thought, okay, I could do my interior design. And I'd been doing a project with my brother, just, you know, to help him out last summer and I thought, right, okay, I can do this. And so in the autumn I started to think about starting up my own interior design business, which I must admit I genuinely never thought I would do, or I would ever be - I didn't ever think I would be brave enough to actually even leave. And the second thing I didn't think I'd ever actually be brave enough to be sat here telling you, I'm going to do something completely different, and I'm going to go out there completely on my own and start something.

Jeremy Cline
So this is interesting. So when you left, when you took the decision to leave - you hadn't at that point decided that you're going to start your own interior design business?

Caroline Adams
So I had in my own mind, but I didn't know whether I'd actually be able to do it. I think it's that thing, isn't it? It's not sort of like if you're normally going to leave, you know, lots of situations people then look for another job with another employer. And then off, I'm going to do this different job. I think it was more that I'd love to do it, that would be a dream to be able to do it. And then anybody that would ask me about it, I'd sort of have that slight mild feeling of panic and 'Oh my goodness me, I'm not sure I'm actually brave enough and whether I can do it'. So I'd only really talk to my very close friends and family about doing it. And now I just, you know, genuinely I feel like I've got nothing to lose.

Jeremy Cline
So when you left, apart from having done the course and got the qualification, had you done any preparation prior to leaving towards starting the business, or did you leave and it was a standing start from that point?

Caroline Adams
So I think when I was off in my five months, I'd had a kind of view that 'Oh it would be really nice to do this.' I started an Instagram account and did a couple of posts just more of my kind of house and home because Instagram was a huge new platform really, that I'd never even sort of used or engaged with. But I didn't pursue it. And I had a thought about what would I offer and how might it look, what would I call myself - but really very much just, you know, at that stage, nothing more than that - and the projects that I was doing, but then I've sort of been helping out sort of family and friends for quite a long time anyway, so I think it was more difficult of a couple of projects during last year, which I'm now obviously going to be able to use for a portfolio as well - so I'm now kind of going back and photographing lots of those sorts of things and pulling all of that together as well.

Jeremy Cline
When you did the qualification in the first place, had you any idea either when you started it or was to doing it that you might change to that, or was it really just to do for the pleasure whilst you were doing it?

Caroline Adams
It's really interesting because I think I started with you know, I'm really excited for the pleasure of it really, and to have something for me, that was different - something that I wanted to do. And I think during the course, you're then surrounded by lots of different people who all think that they might start it and then lots of people fall out of the course or go on to do other things. So it's not like you're in a cohort when you're in the course that all of these people are going out into the industry, lots of people fall out of the course and don't follow it and literally do it for a hobby. I think it was during what was the graduation service, actually, one of the lecturers that was speaking, he was actually quite motivational and said that we should all feel incredibly proud of the achievement because we were all mature students. Most of us who'd graduated had fitted in that achievement by working and fitting around families. And to say that you know, we had a qualification and that we were qualified professionals in our field and in that industry. And that made me for the first time think, 'Oh my goodness, this really is a real proper qualification that I can do something with if I wanted to,' and I felt hugely inspired and motivated coming out in late 2017 with the thought that I've got another avenue now, that I can take if I wanted to. It's been to be honest, more of a dream where I've been talking to family and friends about it, doing some really small steps, and it's only really now that I've got that clear a headspace to really think about it and put my time and energy into it, that I actually am doing it and it's a real business, and it's not just an idea that exists in my head. And I have clients and I'm moving it forward.

Jeremy Cline
You talked a bit about the fears and being brave enough to start the business. Can you talk a little bit about specifically what the fears were and how you've overcome them?

Caroline Adams
I think one of the big fears is the fear of rejection. There's the fear of failure. There's the fear that you're not going to succeed. And I think they are some of the main ones that I've had. And I think the biggest one is, well, when you have been, you know, people don't like talking about it, but money is quite an important thing. When you've spent 15 years being employed, and building your credibility and earning an income, to then turn around and saying 'I'm now going to be self employed, and I have to go out and find that and run a business' - that's completely different to anything that I've ever had to kind of really even think about. So they're all the things that I think made me doubt it and doubt whether I could actually do it. And I think to overcome some of these fears in my mind, I'm giving myself five years to look at this phase now, which is to set up - which is my phase I'm at now - and run my interior design business. And in that five year period, at the end of that five years, my youngest daughter will just be off to secondary school, which would be another chapter again, which gives me that flexibility, that complete flexibility in that short term to be at home, and to be in control of my workload, and to give it everything I've got, and if it doesn't work out, I've still got my 15 years of experience and credibility in a different field. So I almost talked to myself and said, you almost don't have anything to lose. And I would rather try and it fail than to have sat there and think 'I didn't even try it'. A lot of this is about the mindset and about telling yourself that you can do something, and actually just having that one or two, little, you know, recommendations from friends and family. And I said, I did my first project and my client was delighted. And that just gave me such a big confidence and a big boost that actually, it's going to be a rocky road, it is all very different, it's a big learning curve - but I'd rather try and it fail than to have not tried at all.

Jeremy Cline
I know that you have basically just started out in this but one of the things that's coming out from what you've talked about is that this is something which you're doing in order to be able to work around basically the school day of your son and daughter. In practice, is that working out? Can you see it becoming an all consuming thing? Because you know, one hears about entrepreneurs who end up working even harder than they were working when they were in the corporate field. I mean, how was your experience with that been so far? Are you concerned that there's a danger there, and how are you going to manage that?

Caroline Adams
Yeah, so my danger is myself! Is that I will take on more, and work more and more and more. I think the biggest thing is the adjustment. So there is a big adjustment from going from being employed to being self employed. The structure of the day and the week for me is very different. The school day is a short day. And it's a very different working model. So I've had to start to sit down and work out during Monday to Friday - so for me now I've got five days, though, that I can spread my work across rather than concentrating everything into the three days that I worked in before. So I can work out when I can kind of put those time boxes in. But inevitably, I've noticed from some of the one or two clients that I have worked with, is that they don't just then work around your timeboxing. So they might email you on a Friday night or a Saturday morning or a Sunday. So you're right, but then I guess it's about managing that expectation with the client and managing how you're going to do that work and how you're going to fit that timeframe in. And for me at the moment, I'm very much trying to be quite strict and take things on one thing at a time and build from small and build it up - to give myself a chance to work through some of those adjustments and not become completely overwhelmed in my new world.

Jeremy Cline
And so is your intention that you will basically conduct this work during the six hour school day - so five days at six hours that's 30 hours - are you envisaging at the moment that that is when you want to be working?

Caroline Adams
Yes, so at the moment, I am looking to try and do school hours. Limited holidays to try and keep the school holidays - because that's another reason why I made this decision as well, to give myself flexibility to cover the school holidays and enjoy that time with them whilst they're still small enough to want to enjoy it with me. And you know, the odd evening, if I need to get extra things done, I can fit that around there. But then that's no different sort of how I worked before. But that's my ideal business model - no more than 30 hours a week, and a little bit more term time only, as much as that sort of can be adhered to.

Jeremy Cline
Could you talk a bit more about timeboxing. You've mentioned that a couple of times. So what is timeboxing, and what does that look like?

Caroline Adams
So it's a much more disciplined way - being much more structured and organised in terms of what do I want to achieve? What do I need to do this week? Which days do I want to get these things done by? Roughly how long are they going to take me? And then almost working in 30 or 45 minute chunks. So rather than sitting down and thinking, I've got between nine and three, and you look around and it's half past 10 and you still haven't achieved anything on your to do list, being really clear that right - between this time and this time, I'm going to do these two tasks, then giving yourself, you know, a quick tea break or whatever, then I'm going to do this in this timeframe. Otherwise, I found that I sort of drift, because it feels a bit overwhelming that I've got all of these things to do, I don't have a team of people to be able to help me do them, and so rather than sit there and think I've got so much to do, and I don't know what to do, I've started to be much more disciplined in terms of what I'm going to do on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, what needs to be done, and then actually allocating time and then being true to the time and I find for me, that helps because it focuses me and it means that I know that if I want to go and put the washing on I can go and do that in 40 minutes, not well, 'I'll just do the washing' and then before I know it, I've lost the morning, and then I'll have lunch, and then well it's two o'clock and there's no point starting anything now because I need to go and get the children an hour and then I've lost a day and I haven't actually achieved anything. So that's I think how I'm at the moment trying to adjust from being employed to self employed.

Jeremy Cline
What tool do you use to do that? Is it just a case of using a Google calendar or whatever, or have you discovered a specific tool which helps you do this?

Caroline Adams
There are lots of tools, I'm sure. I like to write things down, so I have a planner and I like to write my lists, and then I'll have five different chunks of a day and then I will just sit down and then I'll be flexible. So it's not a sort of a strict 'I must start at 9:15'. If it's 9:30 or 10, that's fine. And then I'll just work out how many tasks I want to get done in that day. So there might be one day when it's only a couple of hours and I think that's fine. And if I want to have a day off I can!

Jeremy Cline
How far in advance do you plan your days? Do you do this sort of every night for the following day? Or do you do it a week in advance?

Caroline Adams
I try to do a week. Yes at the moment, certainly from coming into January, now thinking I have a website to build, I have local marketing to organise, I need to up my game on Instagram - I have all these things that I need to do, I need to photograph some of the projects that I've done - and rather than sit there and sort of open up a document here and then flip to doing something else I'm thinking 'right, week one, I want to get this done'. This is my milestone for that week, week two - and then breaking it down in terms of the tasks, so I can sort of see that gradual progression, rather than trying to do everything at once.

Jeremy Cline
And where did you learn this technique - time boxing and planning in advance and doing it this way - or is it just something that you've kind of picked up?

Caroline Adams
Part of it is based on years and years of working in a corporate environment really, where you have to be very structured and you've got timing plans and things. I didn't do timeboxing as much there because I spent a lot of my time in meetings! So the timeboxing - I have been to a couple of courses in the past where they've mentioned timeboxing as a very useful efficiency tool, where they they tend to sort of, say set timers for 30 minutes, there is a programme, but as I said, there are apps but I'm not the greatest lover of using them. I think by the time I've learned how to use the app, I feel like I probably could have achieved doing something else and in the time it's taken me to work it out. And I've got some other friends as well who used that who are also self-employed, that have said that that works very well for them and to try it. And so I have and I found it really useful.

Jeremy Cline
One last thing I'd like to ask you about is passion. Because this is something of a furious debate about whether one should follow your passion or whether you just do something that you enjoy, and the danger of following your passion and taking something a hobby that you really love and then doing it for a living and losing the passion, because, like you said, you feel under the pressure to make it work. You've got to get the new client so that you've got the income coming in - it becomes your job rather than your hobby. Is this something which you've considered? Is this something that concerns you? Or is what you're doing now, it doesn't come into that category?

Caroline Adams
It is a passion. It always has been a passion. It's not something that worries me in terms of that I'll lose that passion, because I think, as I said to you at the beginning, I would rather try this and it doesn't work out and if for any reason I feel I'm losing the passion for it, or I'm not enjoying it, then it will be a decision Okay, well, what's next then in this career journey? I don't think I will lose the passion by doing this now as a job, because I think I enjoy being home, I enjoy being around the children, I enjoy that freedom and that complete flexibility that it's given me, and that ability to be able to be creative. And I think that's the bit that I'm enjoying the most - that freedom and that creativity - and I hopefully can't see it as being something that I'm going to lose, or that I will end up hating because I pursued it as a career path.

Jeremy Cline
So as you've got to this point, have there been any particular books, tools, resources, quotes, anything that has really helped you out and that you think you might help someone else out if they're looking to do something similar?

Caroline Adams
Yeah, so one of the books that I read, which I found really insightful was Emma Gannon's The Multi-Hyphen Method. So that is a book that I must admit I read, and I really enjoyed that book because it opened my eyes to a completely different structure and style and way of people working, which was so different to the culture and the environment that I'd always worked in at the time of me reading that book. So this whole sort of ethos of her book around you can have more than one career, you can run your side project or side hustle. So I considered running sort of my interior design as a side hustle, but just thought, 'I can't have a big job and start my own interior design business at the same time, and keep both of those plates going'. That wasn't something that I would be able to do. But her book certainly inspired me to think differently about the different types of jobs and the different sort of models that there are in order to be able to create income and run different businesses. So I found that book hugely inspiring. I would definitely recommend that to anybody.

Jeremy Cline
You mentioned that you're still building the website. If people want to go and see what you've been doing, can they go and find you on Instagram and see what you've done and get in touch that way?

Caroline Adams
Yes, they can. I am caroannadams on Instagram. But also if you search for Caroline Adams design, I should come up as well.

Jeremy Cline
Brilliant. I will link to that in the show notes. Caroline, best of luck with the business. It certainly sounds like something that you're very passionate about, and I can't wait to find out how it goes.

Caroline Adams
Thank you very much for asking me to be your guest.

Jeremy Cline
Thank you, Caroline. I guess this is a familiar story to a lot of you and a lot of you have been through same or at least similar difficulties. One of the biggest points that I took away was what Caroline said towards the end of the interview about identity. It was when she took a step back and had parental leave that she realised she wasn't defined by the job and she didn't need to be defined by the job. That's huge, because a job takes so much of our lives that we can easily get into the thinking that it does define us. And when we're thinking about change that can start to lead to real fears about identity. Who are you? What are you? What do you do? I also loved her tip on timeboxing. Its a great tip and something I'm going to try to do more of myself. Show notes are on the website at changeworklife.com/25 with links to the resource that Caroline mentioned and also where you can find her. And if you haven't subscribed yet, well, why not? There's lots more inspiring stories to come. And I'd love you to join me. I hope to see you on next week's show of the Change Work Life podcast. For now cheers, Bye.

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