Work/Life balance. It means something different for everyone, but means something completely different for working Mothers.
Whether you are a stay-at-home Mum, full-time city office worker, a self-employed small business owner or anything in between, juggling the demands of trying to enjoy a fulfilling career and meeting your family needs can be a constant tug-of-war to find the right balance.
Before Woman Rising launched, I worked full-time in the city. I’d leave the house before 7.30am to walk to the bus and arrive home by approx 6.30pm five days a week.
Thankfully my partner had a job where he could manage our son’s Kindy drop-off and pick-up each day and have dinner cooking when I got home (Yes, I know how blessed I am to have this incredible support not all working Mums have).
My work/life balance was pre-determined for me, in the sense that I would fit Motherhood in around my office hours and switch to Mum mode when I walked in the door.
Today, that well-segmented work/life balance has experienced a significant upheaval. Now I work for myself, manage the kindy run, meals, taxi-duties for my partner (we’ve downsized to one car) and try to establish a successful solo career all under one roof.
Our new routine has taken some getting use to and I’ll be the first to admit I bite off more than I can chew, then wonder why I’m choking… but here are the five steal-worthy strategies I have devised to ensure I can meet the needs of my business, my family and my sanity.
1. Scrap The To-Do List
In my past life, I thrived on a to-do list. I knew my project deadlines and planned my time accordingly, easily leaving anything unfinished for the next day.
However when I started working for myself, I found the lists I created at home left me feeling immensely overwhelmed. My list of ‘must-dos’ was starting to resemble short stories, with various tasks turning in to evil characters with a life of their own. Because it was up to me to make my business successful, I couldn’t rest until all my action-points were completed and I was juggling ten different projects at once.
I was headed for burn out and DIY business resentment. So I took the pressure off myself to do everything and created 3 separate note books. One for my ‘One Day’ ideas, a second for any ‘Like To-Dos’ and another for ‘Priorities’, aka: the day-to-day tasks I needed to complete in order to keep the business turning over.
TIP: Ask your self, ‘Is this essential for my business right now / today / this week?’ If not, either let it go or make a note to reconsider it another time. This will release the burden of trying to get it all done yesterday.
2. Be Organised & Batch Everything
I discovered the concept of ‘batching’ while I was studying Life Coaching and wondered why I hadn’t implemented this convenient technique in my career earlier.
Batching is when you dedicate time to complete a set of tasks for one element of your business at a time.
For example, I batch all my social media activity on Mondays for the following week. This allows me to ‘set and forget’ my daily updates instead of trying to post on the run. As you may know, when you are trying to get a toddler dressed, fed and out the door before 8am, the last thing you’re thinking about is how to engage with your audience on Facebook that day.
Batching also allows you to concentrate on one thing at a time and gives you confidence that you will get around to your emails, accounts, client projects, blog posts, brain storming, creating etc… etc… because you have scheduled time in your day for it.
If I have something larger I am working on such as writing or developing a new product, I plan around it and batch smaller tasks accordingly, thus creating the space I need to focus on the big ticket item.
TIP: Setting short periods of time to batch various activities enables greater productivity, instils confidence and allows you to focus on one task at a time.
3. Set Yourself Boundaries
Not only have I gone from working in an office where I could physically and mentally separate work from my home life, but I have also gone from working five to three days per week to match our son’s Kindy hours.
It’s vital for me, and my relationship with my son, to only work the three days he is in care. By setting myself those work/life boundaries helped me turn off my computer and put down my iPhone when my son wanted to go to the park or play.
It wasn’t always like that. When I first launched Woman Rising, I’d work any chance I could get. Stealing a few minutes on Instagram here and answering client emails there, until one day my son told me he couldn’t play with me because he needed to work on his computer.
Boom! What a reality check. Little did I know I was subconsciously teaching my son that I wasn’t present in the moment with him and I had other priorities. It was then I made him my priority and work could wait.
In hindsight, I needed that wake up call in order to set myself the boundary of: I work when I work. I am Mum when I am Mum and I will try really hard everyday to ensure the two don’t clash again. (Operative words being ‘try really hard’.)
TIP: Engage in the moment and the moment will reward you.
Which leads me nicely in to…
4. Manage Expectations
Learning I needed to set myself better work/life boundaries, enabled me to be more open and honest with my clients. I started advising people that I only worked three days a week and I would only be available at certain times.
Let’s be honest, what is the point of creating your own business and establishing a life you love if you are still working to suit someone else’s schedule?
By laying down your ‘rules’ and being transparent with your personal commitments, people will appreciate your honesty and be more willing to wait for a response or assistance.
If they aren’t and complain, this is a reflection of their values and way of doing business – not yours.
TIP: In business, people will always expect you to suit their schedule. Manage their expectations and in turn elevate stress and the need to please others.
5. Schedule Me Time
Because I limit my work-load to fit within a three day week, you’d think I would be busting a hump trying to get everything done in this time.
Four months ago, I was. But after finding out we were expecting baby number 2 in October this year, I decided to start slowing down now, instead of waiting for maternity leave to take time out.
I can’t recommend it highly enough (whether you are expecting or not).
Just like all other sections of my business, I schedule 20-30 minutes to myself which is non-negotiable.
For example, I treat myself to a coffee at the nearby cafe, walk outside the house and enjoy a cup of tea on the deck in the afternoon sun or I swing by my Mum’s house after taking my son to Kindy for a catch-up before I head home to start my work day.
With everyone else out of the house, it is the only time I have for me. I don’t put a load of washing on. I don’t clean out the car or do a grocery shop, because it’s very important for me to have down time. I turn off my brain, get off my feet and appreciate the quiet.
And surprise, surprise…I am more productive with work and more excited to hang out with my boys on the weekends because I’ve been able to have the down time I needed during the week. Of course, if I ever need more time, I always ask for it, but it’s really important I make sure to look after myself first.
TIP: The best investment you will ever make is the one in your self. Don’t sell yourself short. Nothing is worth more than you own health and happiness.
Of course, every one is different because our situations are different, but if you can find time in your day to focus on yourself – even for a few minutes – then your work / life balance will find it’s own natural rhythm.
Now it’s your turn. Which tip resonated with you? What have you found works for your business and family? Leave me a comment below this post and share the article with those you think will find this helpful too.