Balancing work and life - a few tips.
We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.”
―First Lady Michelle Obama
by Jude Goodwin
Many entrepreneurs and small business owners find themselves in a situation where work seems to have overtaken all other aspects of life. Starting a business is exciting and we all know how much time is required to get our businesses off the ground and keep them afloat, especially in the first 3-5 years. And it's true that a bit of stress can improve our efficiency and thought processes.
However, if you're feeling like your life is out of control, or often feeling guilty for choosing one role over another, or if you're having trouble with focus or sleep, it might be time to take a look at how your work and life are balancing and consider making some adjustments. Your situation is not uncommon! The Canadian Mental Health Association states that 58% of Canadians report “overload” as a result of the pressures associated with work, home and family,
Here are some tips that have helped me over the years.
1. Schedule your work day to include downtime, buffer time, and social media time
Even when I was working alone and in my own home, I found it very important to schedule my non-work related time - or it wouldn't happen! It was too easy to just keep working, eat meals at my desk, and then scramble when life interrupted. Today I make sure I leave my desk for lunch and take a little time out. I also schedule social media time - to be sure it doesn't take over my other work which we all know can happen easily! Social media is vital to my business as well as my personal life and I want to be sure I give it quality attention which I can do if I have a block of time available. And at the end of my day, I schedule a half hour 'buffer' time before my family comes home - I might rest, read a non-work related book, or walk the dogs. No matter what, though, it's me-time. The length of time you assign to these kinds of activities will vary from person to person, but humans respond well to routine and predictability - you'll find if you schedule your 'down' time, your work time will suddenly become much more productive.
2. Regularly assess and adjust your balance
Entrepreneurs are often busy people and not just at work. Perhaps you're volunteering for three different groups and on the Board of Directors for two of them. Perhaps you've started a social group and are managing the meetups and agendas. Perhaps you're taking classes in the evenings or writing your first novel. Or you're training for the Test of Metal! All these activities take large chunks out of your daily time and some might be overwhelming you.
Every year I found it essential practice to take a hard look at where I was spending my time. And based on that look, I would make changes. Sometimes I dropped a few volunteer positions, or reduced the time I would spend on them. For example, instead of being a 'Gearhead' for the GearJammer, which required meetings in the evenings, I eventually reduced my volley time to day-of-race marshalling and included my daughter in the day. She loved ringing the cowbell and hollering at the riders! When she entered her teens, I adjusted my volunteer time again so it was spent on activities that would give us more time together - Air Cadets, School PACs, Youth Theatre.
When my personal fitness started to interfere with family time, which can happen if your fitness goals are competitive, I started to re-think how I'd achieve those goals. Choosing a personal trainer instead of fitness classes allowed me to create a schedule more suitable to my family, for example. I started to ride alone a lot more, to keep my training from interrupting family time, so I made sure to schedule 'social' rides like SORCA toonies to keep myself balanced.
Regular 'balance adjustments' like these help support your business, your family relationships, and your personal wellbeing without having to make sacrifices.
3. Consider outsourcing your chores
Chores are one thing that can pile up in our heads to the point where they are causing more stress than anything else. You're trying to get that project done and meanwhile the bathtub is green, there's nothing but a wisp of desiccated shallot in your fridge, and the neighbours are leaving memos on your doorstep about your lawn or the garbage piling up by the side of your garage. To top that off, your kids' homework isn't done and your spouse is complaining about never seeing you anymore - well, we've all been there.
Focus on what you value or enjoy the most and consider outsourcing the rest of your time-consuming household chores and errands. Some of the things that helped me are:
• Order groceries online and pick them up (or have your partner pick them up) on the way home. You can do the ordering in the luxury of your own kitchen while enjoying a coffee break. Save-On Foods offers pick up service at no charge and will also deliver for a small price.
• Hire a housekeeper twice a month. I used Hop To It Cleaning for 15 years. Sandra and her crew would clean my floors, my bathrooms and do the dusting. With these major items out of the way, I could better focus what little housework time I had on more immediate chores such as laundry. I justified the expense with my partner explaining how it would give us more time together!
• Use the services of a bookkeeper. For years I managed the books of my and my partner's companies. This 'unpaid' time took a huge chunk out of my weekly schedule, time that I often wasn't able to spare. As a result, our books were often left undone and things were missed, invoices not sent out or collected, jobs and expenses were left untracked and my stress level was through the roof. When I finally hired a bookkeeper I was amazed at how much time I gained, and how much less stress I experienced on a weekly basis.
• Delegate. Managing a business, managing a household, managing a family are all pretty similar. And one of the most valuable skills a manager can have is that of knowing when, and where, to delegate responsibility. You don't have to 'do it all' to be good. Family meetings and discussions will help you delegate some of the chores and errands to other household members.
4. Perfection happens
With stores full of self-help books and social media full of boasting blog posts describing perfect businesses, perfect children, and perfect lives it's no wonder many of us spend a good part of our day stressing over perfection - or our own lack thereof. The truth is, if your work and your life are in balance, you will fall in love again with everything you do and that will bring perfection - your kind of perfection.
And at the end of the day, be sure to turn everything off at least half an hour before bed. Studies have shown that even small electronic devices can emit sufficient light to miscue the brain and promote wakefulness, thus interfering with our sleep. So put away the phone, tablet and laptops and pick up your journal or a favourite book, snuggle with your loved ones, or enjoy a tea in front of the fire.
Tomorrow's going to be a great day!
Jude Goodwin is co-owner of Goodwin Creative Ltd, a small creative design and web development studio in business since 1995. A published author and poet, Jude is currently completing a degree in Creative Writing at Douglas College.