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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

Down With Balance! It’s Really a Work/Life Juggle

Written By: Danielle Smith and Aliza Sherman | 7 Comments

Any entrepreneur who is also a parent will attest to the struggle – either occasional or ongoing – of navigating work obligations and life’s responsibilities, particularly toward one’s family or even personal life. We’re here to say that  “balance”, as in “work/life balance,” is a dirty word, an elusive pipe dream that has nothing to do with the reality of what each of us are doing day-to-day to manage our businesses and our home lives.

Rare is the individual who can say “I give 50% of my time and attention to my company and the other 50% to my family.” It just doesn’t happen in the real world for most of us. Instead, our days often consist of 85% work and 15% personal life if we’re working outside of the home. And that 15% is further divided between family time and actual “me-based” interests. With a home-based business, the juggle really becomes even more pronounced with work being done intermittently throughout the day and family and household interruptions pulling us in many directions. And personal life? Ha! Who has time?

We say “balance” is a myth. It makes us feel as though someone is holding an imaginary bar over our heads and they keep moving it out of reach each time we are so sure it is within our grasp. But the reality is: The person who should be holding that bar is YOU. Place it within realistic grasp, and then do the best you can under the circumstances.

Here are four ways to take the bumps out of your juggle:

1. Get a System
Making this step a priority will free up extra time. Examine what you are doing work-wise each day and what you need – or want – to do personally. Understand how long it takes you to a) answer emails, b) make calls, and c) tackle main business-related activities. Prioritize. Assign times to top priorities. Use technology that helps you better manage your time from project or task management platforms to reminder systems. The more you can look at a plan, receive reminders, and check things off of your lists, the faster you can handle what’s on your plate.

2. Get Help
Your mantra should be “Delegate now, delegate often.” If it doesn’t make you money now, if it doesn’t directly make you money in the near term, or if it isn’t your absolute core competency, get someone else to do it. This can mean anything from writing a press release to getting reliable childcare so that you can focus on getting the work done. This can be a hard commitment to make. Why? Because it requires you to invest your hard-earned cash. Now, you might be thinking, “Why hire someone to do the work I can EASILY do myself? I know how to write a press release. I understand code and can work the backend of my website with my eyes closed.” Sure, you could, but then you are working IN your business instead of ON it. Let people who are exceptional at press releases, code, or other tasks do their best work, while you focus on the aspects of your business that can make you the most revenue.

3. Get Real
Set real expectations for yourself and talk it out with those around you. You can’t please everyone all of the time, so don’t knock yourself down for not getting it all done. But if you express what it is that you want and need, and hear what the people who are important to you want and need, you can work together to devise a master plan that realistically addresses the many parts of your life. This means having a heart-to-heart with your family. If you are working from home, you AND your family need to understand the boundaries. What are your hours? What is your designated workspace? Make sure you keep your promises to keep work and home separate. We know it’s hard, but when you do, those most important to you win.

4. Get Personal
We hear a lot about the importance of “Me” time and we’re going to tell you right here, right now, that if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not going to be any good at work or to your loved ones. Schedule down time, alone time, and unplugged time as a mandatory, non-negotiable part of your week. Naturally, we’d like to tell you that we practice what we preach, but this is easily the most difficult part of the juggle and the item that always falls to the bottom of everyone’s priority list. Schedule this time as if it were a meeting with an important client and give it that much attention and consideration before you write it off. You’ll be a better businessperson, parent, and human if you take care of yourself so that you can deftly juggle everything on your plate.

Here’s the truth: You do too much. You expect too much of yourself. We get it. We’ve done it too. We just think you need to rein it in and give yourself a break. Follow our tips. They won’t sprinkle your world with fairy dust or help you buy that private island that you’ve been eyeing (yet), but they will make life and work *just a little* more peaceful. And that counts for something.

How do you juggle all of the responsibilities in your life? Do you have some tips for us? Please share them in the comments below.

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Check out their new book MOM, Incorporated.

Article written by Danielle Smith and Aliza Sherman
Aliza Sherman is a Web pioneer and founder of the first woman-owned Internet company, Cybergrrl, Inc., and the first global women's Internet organization, Webgrrls International; founder of digital consultancy Mediaegg; co-founder of social media marketing agency Conversify; and author of eight books. Danielle Smith is a storyteller, video correspondent, spokesperson, speaker and now author with Mom, Incorporated. Moving from her role as an award-winning television News Anchor and Reporter into the world of social media, Danielle understands how “social” and “media” intersect.
  • I don’t know if I have any juggling tips. Survival guide, maybe? 🙂

    I delegate a lot here. My husband and I have 5 kids, and Team Clark is where it’s at. What we each do – even me – is most definitely not for ourselves but for Team Clark.

    I’ve changed my expectations. Yes, my house is usually not up to snuff, but then again I’m often glad that I have other things to do than stay home and clean and organize it fulltime. I might look pretty decent when people come over but, “please dear god, don’t open that closet!”

    When life gets extra hard, I impose a specific time period to wallow in self pity. Lock myself in the bedroom and hide under the covers eating … anything and everything. For a set period of time, though. That’s the trick. For the small bumps only a few hours might be needed. For a biggie …. sometimes a weekend wallowing in self pity is just what the doctor ordered. Then … it’s time to wash the sheets, take a shower and start a cleanse. Bootstraps, and all.

  • For me, balance is not a 50-50 time equation, but rather a state in which I feel connected enough to work, play and the people that matter in my life. Thanks for a great post!

  • Chasing the outdated and totally flawed concept of work life balance is a waste of time. There is no such thing. As folk that work for ourselves the challenge is to design the life we really want, of which work life is a part. Then we need to start looking for creative ways we can turn that into reality.

    Now, I know some poeple will think this is all very idealistic but unless you design how you ideally want things to be, you don’t stand a chance of creating a better reality, finding better solutions and realising better outcomes.

    And the thing is, that one week might be different from the the other. For example, I don’t work with 1-2-1 clients in July and August so I can be with my son during the summer holidays. This means sometimes putting more effort in at other times.

    It isn’t about balance at all. For me it is about using working for myself to protect what is most important to me.

    Each of us needs to get clear on what our own definition of success is and shoot for that.

  • I too kind of hate the term “balance” because I think it sets us up to feel like we are failing all the time. I proposed the concept of work/life allocation in a recent blog post. People seemed to like that better. But I do get a great visual of the work/life juggle. Good one!

  • @Bonny – I love that you actually set time aside to embrace the days when you don’t feel up to par. So often, we attempt to ignore those feelings – when simply acknowledging them for 30 minutes or 1/2 a day can give us the ‘down time’ we need to move forward. Having a Team mentality – especially when working to juggle both family and work can be so valuable.

    @Monica – EXACTLY! That ‘connection’ we feel to our work life, to our home/family life is what allows us to feel centered. When we are only connecting with one side of who we are, we do tend to drop the balls we are juggling.

    @Ali – What you said!! We do need to work to protect what is most important to us. Family and work are always important to me, BUT, there are days my kids are my only priority – allowing me to give 100% of me TO THEM – and days when my family understands work is a priority as there are commitments I have made. I refuse to chase any sort of notion of ‘balance’.

    @Catherine I like ‘allocation’ – we definitely need to recognize our ‘right’ and ‘ability’ to choose the moments and time we dedicate to each portion of our lives – both work and family.

    Thank you so very much for your comments!

  • @Monica – I love this:

    “a state in which I feel connected enough to work, play and the people that matter in my life”

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