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.
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.