EP 316: Planning For Parental Leave With Startup Society Founder Gillian Perkins | What Works

EP 316: Planning For Parental Leave With Startup Society Founder Gillian Perkins

Jan 12, 2021 | Money & Life, Operations, Podcast, Productivity, Time Management

In This Episode:

  • How Startup Society creator Gillian Perkins prepared for her recent parental leave
  • What her normal 20-hour workweek looks like and how she adapted that as she was working toward her leave
  • Why she describes her process as “batching chaotically” and how making that process what she plans for has made things easier for her
  • What she’s learned from taking time away from the business over the years

There are a lot of folks out there telling you how to get your work done.

There are planners, apps, frameworks, and methods. And there are even more messages about delegating, time-blocking, batching, and fitting a whole year’s work into just 12 weeks.

It’s easy to think that the “way you work” works for you—and maybe it does. But it’s also easy to believe, if you let yourself, that the way you work has been shaped by the “shoulds” of an entire industry devoted to the capitalist pursuit of helping you produce more, be more efficient, and crank out more value for every hour of labor you put into the world.

How would you structure your work if you didn’t constantly feel the need to fit more work in? How would you approach your tasks with intention instead of obligation? How would you create plans with stewardship instead of urgency as the motivation?

This month on What Works, we’re tackling the topic of how we work our plans. This is a topic near and dear to my heart because I’ve spent years trying to squeeze myself into all the “right” ways of working and planning—only to discover that I really had to make it mine to make it work. I needed to rebuild my understanding of my work and accountability from the ground up to realize just how powerful I could be with how I create my work and use my time.

In the last episode, I shared a bit about that and quite a bit about how I’m planning for What Works and YellowHouse.Media. And, I mentioned that one of my commitments for 2021 is Adapt & Emerge.

So I want to apply that lens to the conversations I’ve had for this month’s episodes. I want to explore how business owners find the curiosity to question how they “should” be doing something or what they thought the plan was going look like and, instead, find their own way by intentionally adapting as they go.

This week, my guest is Gillian Perkins—a YouTuber with over 450 thousand subscribers, marketing expert, business strategist, and the creator of Startup Society.

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Gillian through YellowHouse.Media, where we produce her podcast, Work Less, Earn More. Gillian is a disciplined, rigorous executor who is no stranger to making a plan and working it.

And there are plenty of conventional ways that Gillian manages the work to be done—for instance, she loves Asana!

But there was a really intriguing part of our conversation where I learned that Gillian’s found her true way of working on big projects—like planning for her recent parental leave—doesn’t necessarily fit the way we think it’s supposed to be done. She calls it “batching chaotically” and it’s a mode of operation I can definitely relate to!

In this conversation, you’ll hear what Gillian’s average 20-hour workweek looks like, how she changed that up to prepare for parental leave, how she made her leave plan in the first place, and what she’s learned by taking time away from the business over the years.

Now, let’s find out what works for Gillian Perkins.

Gillian Perkins: We could have done a little bit day-by-day of everything or a little bit of time for all the videos and then all the podcasts and then all the newsletters and I ended up opting to do big batches of work because I don't do very well with long term sustained effort. So, I can put in a really big effort for a few weeks but if that stretches beyond a few weeks then I lose all momentum and I just wind up feeling overwhelmed and starting to procrastinate.

Tara McMullin: There are a lot of folks out there telling you how to get your work done, there are planners, apps, frameworks, and methods, and there are even more messages about delegating, time blocking, patching, and fitting a whole year's worth of work into just 12 weeks. Now it's easy to think that the way you work works for you and maybe it does but it's also easy to believe if you let yourself that the way you work has been shaped by the shoulds of an entire industry devoted to the capitalist pursuit of helping you produce more, be more efficient and crank out more value for every hour of labor you put into the world.

How would you structure your work if you didn't constantly feel the need to fit more work in? How would you approach your tasks with intention instead of obligation? How would you create plans with stewardship instead of urgency as the motivation?

I'm Tara McMullin and this is What Works, the show that takes you behind the scenes to explore how small business owners are building stronger businesses without the shoulds and supposed tos. This month on What Works we're tackling the topic of how we work our plans. Now this is a topic near and dear to my heart because I've spent years trying to squeeze myself into all the right ways of working and planning only to discover that I really had to make it mine to make it work. I needed to rebuild my understanding of how I work and my accountability from the ground up to realize just how powerful I could be with how I create my work and use my time.

In the last episode, I shared a bit about that and quite a bit about how I'm planning for What Works and Yellow House Media for this year. And I mentioned that one of my commitments for 2021 is adapt and emerge. So I want to apply that lens to the conversations I've had for this month's episodes. I want to explore how business owners find the curiosity to question how they should be doing something or what they thought the plan was going to look like and instead find their own way by intentionally adapting as they go.

This week my guest is Gillian Perkins, a YouTuber, marketing expert, business strategist, and the creator of Startup Society. Now I've had the pleasure of getting to know Gillian through Yellow House Media where we produce her podcast Work Less, Earn More. Gillian is a disciplined, rigorous executer, who is no stranger to making a plan and working it. And there are plenty of conventional ways that Gillian manages the work to be done. For instance, she loves a sauna but there was a really intriguing part of our conversation where I learned that Gillian's found her true way of working on big projects, like planning for her recent parental leave, doesn't necessarily fit the way we think it's supposed to be done. She calls it batching chaotically and it's a mode of operation that I can definitely relate to.

In this conversation you'll hear what Gillian's average 20 hour work week looks like, how she changed that up to prepare for parental leave, how she made her leave plan in the first place and what she's learned by taking time away from the business over the years. Now let's find out what works for Gillian Perkins. Gillian Perkins welcome to What Works. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Gillian Perkins: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Tara McMullin: Of course, all right. So since you are in the business of working less and earning more I'd love to give everyone a little bit of context and start off by having you tell us what an average week looks like for you.

Gillian Perkins: Yeah. So I try to keep my working hours at a minimum. I do love what I do though so I'll spend about 15 to 20 hours on the average week. Sometimes it'll dip as low as 10 hours if I have a lot of other things going on and we're not doing any big projects. And then if we're doing a launch or something like that I might work as many as 30 but it's normally around 20 and I divide my time evenly over the week, normally working Monday through Friday so typically working about three to four hours per day. I find that to be a really comfortable amount where I can still fit in everything else that is going on in life but get a significant amount of stuff done in my business.

So I go back and forth between some weeks I will get to work right first thing in the morning and that's what I mentally find the easiest to wake up and really not even have a morning routine at all, like literally roll over in bed, grab my laptop and start working immediately. I don't always do that. And I feel like the popular opinion here would be that that is not healthy but I find it easiest to start working before I get into that mental talk and talk myself out of it and start procrastinating. So that's what I like doing the best. But I do have a baby and she's about six months old right now. As of right now I can't do that because I have to wake up and feed her first thing. So, normally I'm getting to work about nine in the morning right now and I'll work till about noon or about lunchtime and then call it a day.

Tara McMullin: Awesome. And what are the activities that you're primarily spending your time on during the work week?

Gillian Perkins: Yeah, so I like to theme my work days so that I can focus on one main type of task each day of the week so that I don't feel too all over the place. Because I find that that is one of the things that is mentally the most difficult for me to deal with is when I have a million different things to do and they're all different. So even if it's five things to do but they're all completely different just switching gears like that. So typically on Mondays, I do content creation and specifically I'll either record podcasts or else record videos. And then on Tuesday I work on our sales funnels just because that is highest priority work at least in my business. Sales funnels have always been my weakest place. I love them and they're really interesting to me but just sales strategy doesn't come as super naturally to me. And so I need to prioritize that early on in the week and make sure that I'm putting in some time every week on improving our sales processes.

And then on Wednesday and Thursday I mostly am writing and reviewing content. So I'll write promotional content for the videos or the podcasts that I recorded and then I'll also be reviewing content that my team created. So if they created content for social media or if they set up new content inside our courses or anything like that I'm normally are pretty busy in the early part of the week too just setting new things up. So I'll look all that over. And then Friday is just dedicated to admin. I love to head out the door a little bit early on Friday and also, well I just have a hard time I guess staying in the office on Friday so I want to just get those final things done that have to get done, paying the bills and stuff like that and then I'm out of there.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. The stuff you could just check off the list and it doesn't require a lot of brain power. I'm with you on that.

Gillian Perkins: I have no creative energy left on Fridays.

Tara McMullin: No, totally. All right. You mentioned you have a six month old, maybe, that's why you're here, that's what we're talking about today, going on maternity leave. So when did you start planning for your most recent maternity leave?

Gillian Perkins: Yeah. So, I got pregnant... Well, math now. [crosstalk 00:07:42] Six months plus nine months, right? But last fall I got pregnant and I told my team that I was pregnant when I was about eight weeks along. And so, that was when we started doing the initial planning. I want to say that that was maybe the beginning of December. But we didn't start doing anything because we already had a bunch of stuff we were working on and coming up on the holidays. So when we sat down in January to plan out the year we were mostly planning out maternity leave. And so, we were just looking at all the things that we wanted to get done before then because they were priorities for the year but also things that had to get done in order for me to take the time off.

So yeah, we got started with that really in January. And then we spent basically the entire spring up until the point when my daughter was born at the end of May prepping. I wanted to have everything taken care of and ready for me to leave and take that time off at the beginning of May because my last pregnancy, my daughter was, my third child... Sorry this is getting confusing. I have too many children. So this is my fourth baby and with my third pregnancy my daughter was born four weeks early. And so, I felt like that was pretty possible this time around so I wanted to make sure that I had things well taken care of ahead of time.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. Okay. So you mentioned that in January you were focused on what are the top priority things that you want to get done, that you need to get done before that actually happened. So what were your goals for taking that time off both in terms of the stuff that you wanted to get done and your personal goals around your leave as well?

Gillian Perkins: Yeah. What were my goals? Too many. Too many goals. I tend to be a planner and a dreamer and I have lots of ideas for things that I want to get off the ground and launch and all that sort of stuff. And so, there was this one big project where we have a course where we teach YouTube strategy. And I had realized after running that program for a couple of years that there was a pretty major component that was missing from the program, a place where a lot of people were getting hung up, which was that there wasn't a very strong component in the program that talked about video creation and video production. And so, a lot of people were applying all these YouTube strategies that were tactics and they were missing the very vital component of having really good videos to share on the platform.

And so, I had been wanting for a while to create a program that could pair with the existing program that was focused on video production. So when I was looking at the year and the fact that I was going to have this big chunk of time taken out of the middle of my year I knew that I wanted to get that done before I was out of the office so that the existing customers and the new customers who are coming into the program would have those resources and could be as successful as possible. But what that meant was creating an entire new course and launching an entire new course and preparing for maternity leave at the same time which is why I say it was too much because those weren't the only things. There were several other funnels that we wanted to completely overhaul and regular course material that we were creating for our membership program as well as batching everything that needed to be released while I was on maternity leave.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. That is a lot. When you were thinking about... Well actually let me back up, how much of that then did you actually get done?

Gillian Perkins: All of it of course.

Tara McMullin: You did get all of it done? Okay.

Gillian Perkins: Yeah, we got all of it done. But I mean, it was accomplished by way of me working about twice as much as I normally work. So like I said, I normally work about 20 hours per week and I was working about 35 hours per week for the four months proceeding my maternity leave. Now in retrospect, I think I could have taken the three months that I took off for maternity leave without working an hour extra if I hadn't added those additional big projects on. So if I just stuck to our regular day-to-day operations and just batched the content for while I was going to be gone then yeah I think I could have done it in 20 hours a week. But adding a launch and a new program plus several other projects on top of it and made it become a lot of work.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So you said you took three months off. How did you decide on that timeframe?

Gillian Perkins: Well like I said, this is my fourth baby so I've gotten to practice this a few times. The first time I was running a local business and I hired my first person ever a few months before so that she could take my place while I was away. And then I think a few weeks like two weeks after having the baby she quit on me. It was the worst. Yes.

So, that was dramatic. So, I took a couple more weeks off and then I think I went back to work after four or five weeks just because she was my plan and so my plan completely failed. So I didn't have a backup plan. And I could have just told all of my customers just hang tight I'll be back and I think that they would have understood but at the same time it was too stressful for me to do that. It was easier for me to just go back to work and just deal with it in that way because I didn't want to be sitting at home worrying about my business failing.

Tara McMullin: Yeah, for sure.

Gillian Perkins: And then the second time I had quite a team around me and so I did plan for the time off but taking the time off was still significantly affecting my income because I did have clients that I was typically working with that couldn't be worked with while I was away. The third time, lots of plans were made and then she came a month early completely unexpectedly. So this time I did all the preparations. I had the team, I had the systems, I batched the content. I planned to have everything done and ready a month before I was due and I planned for three months off after that. So, I successfully managed to take a couple months off this time.

Tara McMullin: Yeah, that's amazing. And remind me were you completely off during that time?

Gillian Perkins: I was completely off for about a month and a half which was my goal to be completely off. And so, I would just check in Slack once a week just to make sure there were no humongous fires that I needed to be worrying about but there weren't. Things were just handled really well while I was gone. So, but I liked being connected and still not completely just wondering what was going on without me but I wasn't doing anything.

And then after about a month and a half, I came back and I started working just a couple hours per week. And I took it really slow on purpose when I came back and I didn't start any new, big projects. I definitely wasn't creating any significant content either. So I wasn't filming YouTube videos or recording podcasts because I know that, like I mentioned earlier, I tend to be an idea person and once that ball starts rolling it rolls faster and faster and faster. And so, taking a couple of weeks off for Christmas every year, taking a couple months off for maternity leave, that's my reset. That's like, "Okay, we get to stop because that ball was getting bigger and bigger and bigger."

Tara McMullin: Yeah that feels very familiar to me. So, you've told us about the goals and the projects that you had on your plate for the prep period. How did you actually plan it out? When you were thinking and when you were working with your team and thinking about all the pieces that needed to get done, all of the content that you actually had to batch, can you walk us through what that planning process actually looked like?

Gillian Perkins: Yeah. So, I have an operations manager in my business who does a really good job of that whole side of things. She's the person that keeps me sane in my business because I generate so many ideas. So, she was a huge asset. But beyond that, when I was looking at actually putting things on the calendar, tasks on the calendar to get them done, there was a few different ways we could have approached it. We could have done a little bit day-by- day of everything or a little bit of time for all the videos and then all of the podcasts and then all the newsletters or we could have done these big batches. And I ended up opting to do big batches of work because I don't do very well with long term sustained effort. So, I can put in a really big effort for a few weeks but if that stretches beyond a few weeks then I lose all momentum and I just wind up feeling overwhelmed and starting to procrastinate.

So I ended up writing a massive amount of email newsletters over the course of just a few days. And then I recorded several videos over a day. And then again, a couple of weeks later took another day to record several more videos. And so, I was doing it more these big batches every couple of weeks of work. And then in between those big batches I was just running the business as usual.

Tara McMullin: Gotcha. That's hugely helpful. And I appreciate that you explained the different ways that you could have done it and why you did it the way you did it. Because I think yeah, different people would make different choices in that scenario. There's part of me that really wants to ask you about how you batch things in the first place because I feel like this is very mysterious to people. I've had mixed success with batching.

Gillian Perkins: Same.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. When you approach a chunk of work like that, that you want to batch, do you have a philosophy or a framework that you bring to it? What do you think about it?

Gillian Perkins: So I don't know which personality model this is going to fit into. I feel like there's one of these personality models in which I have a personality type that is why I batch things in the way that I do. But I like to batch things chaotically. And the reason is because batching is hard work and so if you try to do it in too much of a routine way where it's like every week on this day I do all this work, my mind says, "No." Emotionally I say, "No." I start dreading that day of the week like no other. And I'll get depressed on that day of the week and I'll do everything I can to avoid that day of the week and on that day of the week I'm sick in bed sort of thing. And so I have to do it more spontaneously. I have to do it more of like, "Hey, next week I see I've got some free time on this day, how about I make a bunch of videos?"

And so it's more like we look at the month and we're like, "Okay, this is everything we need to get done in this month," and we spread it out evenly over the month. And then when I have a day of inspiration, and I don't do this on the day of, I'm not like today I feel like writing a bunch of emails. It's more like, "Next week I see some time when I could write a bunch of emails and then it would be all done and I don't have to touch it again for another month." And so then that's just enough planning plus inspiration, plus me seeing an opportunity where there's time instead of I have to do it because it's that day of the month and that day of the month I have to do it that it works for me and I can bring enough energy to it.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. That is very similar to when I have positive experiences with batching, exactly like you said the planning plus inspiration in the right balance there. I've started actually blocking out the last week of every month in my calendar. We don't do community events those weeks, I don't take extra coaching calls those weeks so that I reliably have those days set aside. Sometimes I don't use them, sometimes they're better spent on time off than on batching things but I've found recently that it has provided me that space that I need to bang out some of those projects. So yeah, that sounds very familiar.

You'll hear more about what happened during and after Gillian's parental leave in just a minute but first a word from our What Works partners. What Works is brought to you by Mighty Networks. When it comes to working our plans and realizing our goals one of the biggest challenges is isolation. Trying to do it all without the support or input of others is a drag at best and a deal breaker at worst. I'm betting you know exactly how this feels. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely isolating endeavor. And I bet you also know that your customers and clients feel the same way. They have changes they want to make, things they want to learn how to do and ideas they want to explore but it's hard to do it on their own. That's where Mighty Networks comes in.

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Let's talk about a little bit more about your team. You mentioned you're operations manager. Did you hire extra help for your maternity leave or how did you utilize your team in actually preparing and then executing your leave? Yeah, so I didn't hire any additional help actually but I did definitely lean into my team a lot more so I think that that's a really good thing that came out of maternity leave is delegating is always a challenge. I think it's a challenge for everyone because we know how we want things done and so handing them over to somebody else, they are just challenges that come along with that communicating what we want, having the right expectations and having them do work differently than you might do it yourself. But it forced me to have to learn better how to delegate and so that was really good.

Gillian Perkins: So, everyone on my team pretty much was working additional hours in this effort to batch content. So even my video editor was working additional hours because we were producing more videos and I let them all know ahead of time why so that they would expect the decrease in hours that was going to come also. So I think it worked out nicely, at least as near as I could tell from my perspective, everybody got to work a little bit harder for a few months and then have some more time off in the summer.

I was a little unsure what was going to happen when I took that time off in the summer and I thought that it was possible that at least one person like maybe my operations manager might have to work more than normal because she would be doing her role and my role. But as it happened, just having me out of the office and not throwing lots of ideas at the team did in fact really decrease their working hours. So I think that they went from working around 150 hours collectively for the month down to working maybe around 100 hours collectively for the month without me.

Tara McMullin: Wow. That's great.

Gillian Perkins: It just shows that I should just leave the company basically.

Tara McMullin: Right. We're just always making more work for our people for sure.

Gillian Perkins: Exactly. Yeah.

Tara McMullin: So, you mentioned that delegating is always a challenge, that giving up control is always a challenge. Has the way you work with your team changed since coming back from maternity leave?

Gillian Perkins: Yeah to some degree. I mean, I don't know if substantially on a fundamental level but like I said I was just able to delegate more things. And so, I think I was able to give them a responsibility and some more leadership roles which was really good.

Tara McMullin: So what was actually happening in your business then while you were taking time off? Were you releasing content? What could people see I guess from a customer standpoint or an audience standpoint?

Gillian Perkins: Yeah. From the outside, if they hadn't seen my posts where I was talking about the fact that I was pregnant and the fact that I was going to be taking time off they wouldn't have known anything was different. Because we still released one new video every week, released one new podcast every week, sent out an email broadcast every week, programs still ran as usual. The only thing that looked different was that I was not present answering comments on social media or in Facebook groups.

Tara McMullin: Gotcha. And did you have someone doing that for you under their own name or how did you work that out?

Gillian Perkins: Yeah, so I have a couple customer service people who are managing the community, both the free community and the paid communities, although they do it differently in those two spaces. So on free social media, the free content we put out, they're really just moderating the comments, especially on YouTube. They're just watching out for spammers because not only is that just annoying but it also tends to spiral downwards where when there starts to be some negative comments or spam it makes more and more of it come. And so, it's important that we catch that early. And that's something I outsourced really early on in my business, the moderation of that, because I realized I had to be in a negative head space in order to go into the comments looking for those bad comments that needed to be deleted and I didn't want to be thinking about that when I was going in to talk to my people. So that just kept happening as usual and they aren't really using their name or my name there, they're just deleting stuff.

Tara McMullin: Gotcha.

Gillian Perkins: And then of course, they're answering messages that come in and they do that under their own name. They'll just respond to a message and say like, "Hi, I'm so-and-so from Gillian's team," and they'll answer the question or most likely direct that person to a resource that we've put out in the past.

Tara McMullin: Gotcha.

Gillian Perkins: And then on the paid side of things, they interact with their own names. For awhile we tried having them interact as the company so they would use the Startup Society Facebook page to answer. But we found that, well we specifically had members reach out to us and say, "We feel like this is impersonal and weird and we don't like it. And we'd rather have just real people talk to us even if they're not Gillian."

And so, we took that feedback to heart and we just had the customer service people start interacting as regular people and everyone has liked that a lot better. So they kept doing that and they are looking out for customer service problems so any problem that anyone is having with a program like a tech problem or an account problem. And then beyond that, they are just interacting as another community member so just providing more engagement and making sure that everyone feels heard and seen and appreciated and like they're getting the feedback that they're looking for. And then they also do share resources that we've put out in the past if there is something that can help someone and answer their question.

Tara McMullin: I see. Awesome. All right. I feel like I would be remiss if I didn't ask you specifically about how you handled your email inbox while you were off.

Gillian Perkins: So, I get a lot of emails because I have a big email list and I send a lot of emails and so it just means I get a lot of emails. I don't handle pretty much any of them myself. I have a personal inbox where I get very few emails actually. I try to keep that as private and I'll say internal as possible although internally we don't actually use email. We only use Slack and [inaudible 00:28:18] and that has been just a lifesaver. And so, it's only this strange cross section of people who I have reached out to myself and are not on my team who email me so that's nice. But then we do have the customer service inboxes, plural, and we get a lot of emails there. So, that is what the customer service people are spending most of their time doing and we've got two amazing people there who spend about 20 hours per week just answering emails pretty much.

And so that's just proof right there that I should have that outsourced because that would be doubling my work hours just to do that additional thing. And so there, we have an autoresponder that goes out to every email that we get that just says, "Gillian reads as many of these emails as she can but she cannot answer all of them because there's far too many of them. Here are some specific resources that might be helpful to you. And then, if you're a paying customer and you have a question send an email here." If you need help with this, if you need help with this, that sort of thing. And so that takes care of I would say the bulk so more than 50% of all the emails that come in there.

Because a lot of people are just emailing to say I liked this or something like that. They don't really need help, they're just giving feedback. And I really do appreciate that and I do go into that inbox on a regular basis and read as many of those emails as I can but it doesn't allow us to serve the audience as effectively as we could. Even if it's me outsourcing, those people can spend their time better serving people better if they aren't answering all those individual emails that don't really need a response.

As far as all the emails that do need a response, they reach out to them using... How much of this secret should I tell? They reach out to these people using their own name and just identifying as part of the customer service team which I think is very understandable for my business and my brand because externally people can see that I have a big audience and so they're not really expecting a personal response from me. Now I think that for a lot of other people who have smaller audiences it really serves them well to respond as themselves if possible but in my case my audience isn't even expecting that. And so it would almost be weird if it was me responding or even if it was a template response that I had written. It both wouldn't be as authentic and it would just be a little bit surprising and strange.

So my customer service team responds with their own name and generally people are really happy about that and just pleased that a real person responded. Because personally, I reached out to plenty of brands or personalities online and gotten no answer at all like not even an autoresponder. And it just made me wonder is this inbox even monitored or do they care at all that I sent an email. And I assumed that they hadn't read my email and so I always want people to know that the inbox is monitored, if nothing else, and then also provide as much help to them as we can.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. I think that's hugely helpful. You have just demystified something that I think for many people is a very big mystery so I appreciate that. Looking back on this year, your prep for your maternity leave, the actual leave, what's something that worked really well for you?

Gillian Perkins: I think that the thing that worked the best was the content that we batched really. It didn't have to be an enormous amount of content really because I mean, for some people this might seem like an enormous amount of content I guess if they don't normally create content but I'm normally creating half a dozen or more videos every month and the same number of podcasts and the same number of email newsletters. So I'm normally in a content creation mode anyway. And so, I just had to double that for a few months and that didn't seem like that much work but it meant that like we talked about earlier externally my business looked exactly the same and we didn't lose any momentum.

Tara McMullin: I love that. Was there anything that didn't work for you?

Gillian Perkins: Yeah there were two things that didn't work as well. So one, I talked about earlier and that was just that I went overboard with the planning. I was too ambitious earlier on and I don't know what I could have done to prevent that because that's just my Mo I think. But I planned way too much leading up to maternity leave to the point that by the time I took maternity leave I was so ready to stop working. I burned myself out. Not like I started to slow down but just I was tired of working so that didn't work so well.

And then the other thing, this is just a really specific, minor little thing, but so like I said I wasn't interacting with my community and for the most part that seemed fine but there's one area where it wasn't as fine and that was inside our membership program. We have a Facebook group for that program and we really saw the engagement in that group go down significantly while I was out of the office. And when I came back we weren't sure at first if it was just my absence, just not having my voice in the Facebook group that had done that or the fact that we hadn't really been launching and so we hadn't had a whole lot of new members coming in recently. Because having new members come in always just adds new life to the conversation. But after being back in the office for about a month and being again active in the Facebook group and going live a couple of times the engagement really did pick back up dramatically. And so, that pretty much proved that it had just been my absence.

Tara McMullin: Perfect. Did you learn anything from this year of prep and then taking time off that you've continued on now that you're back from your maternity leave?

Gillian Perkins: Yeah, I think that it empowered me about my chaotic batching that I was talking about earlier. And I just saw in an extreme way how well that did work because before that I think I was fighting it. I was thinking, "This needs to be more organized, it needs to be more planned. I should be more systematic about this." And so, I was trying to force myself into a box I think and telling myself, "Okay, I either need to do this steadily a little bit every single day or I need to have these specific batch days every single week or every single month." And I wasn't really allowing myself to do something in between.

But when I saw how well that worked during the prep time and especially when we were planning and executing these launches with pretty minimal lead time. So we were saying like, "Okay, we're going to launch this next month and we're creating the program this month." So I ended up only having really a few days available to say like write all the email copy. I saw how much my momentum helped with that. So, the fact that I was writing so many emails over just a few days gave me a lot more energy for the work that I was doing. And like I said, I couldn't have sustained that long-term, I couldn't have kept writing that much for weeks. I would have completely burned out. But doing it for a few days really just helped me get more energetic about it.

Tara McMullin: I love that. All right. We have got one more question for you which is a question I ask everyone at the end of the show, Gillian what are you excited about right now?

Gillian Perkins: I'm excited about a new year. Is that a fair answer?

Tara McMullin: That is definitely a fair answer. Yes. I think we are all excited about this new year. Gillian Perkins, thank you so much for sharing how you planned and prepped and actually took your maternity leave this year.

Gillian Perkins: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Tara McMullin: I love that Gillian said that one of the big changes she's made is to empower herself to just go ahead and batch chaotically. It's so tempting to get down on yourself for not doing it right or thinking that you'd be more productive or credible if you just do it the way you're supposed to do it. Now I fell into that trap for years and I hated every minute of it. I think the only way out of that trap though is to experiment with how you work, to start noticing the patterns and the results you get, and then try something new and see if that's better. Don't assume that the planning systems and productivity gurus have got it all figured out but also don't assume that the methods you've developed trying to protect yourself from that crap work either. Experiment, explore, discover, and then adapt the way you work and plan to what truly suits you and what you want to create in this world. Find out more about gillianperkins@gillianperkins.com or on her YouTube channel. Plus you can find Gillian's work less earn more podcast wherever you listen to what works.

Next week I talk with Emily Crookston about how she adapted her plan to grow her business using speaking engagements when COVID hit. She decided to leverage LinkedIn and we talk about how she made that switch and how her approach to LinkedIn has evolved over the last year too.

What Works is produced by Yellow House Media. Our production coordinator is Sean McMullan. This episode was edited by Marty Sefeld and our production assistants are Lou Blazer and Kristen Runfick. I'd love to send you What Works Weekly, the newsletter I send out every Thursday with my latest thoughts on building a stronger business and becoming a stronger leader as well as my handpicked resources, links, episodes, and videos for business owners. Go to explorewhatworks.com/weekly to sign up.

Host of What Works

Tara is a podcaster, small business community leader, strategist, and speaker. She’s been helping small business owners build stronger businesses for over a decade.  

Tara McMullin, What Works Weekly Newsletter

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