Yesterday I was lucky enough to be on Woman’s Hour with Juliette Roffe, the co-founder of Giraffe Restaurants, talking about work-life balance with Jenny Garvey (you can listen to the show here). It’s tough trying to juggle everything, and while Juliette and I were able to talk about our own experiences managing our families and our businesses, in 9 minutes we didn’t have enough time to get into HOW we manage to do it.
I wrote a little bit about my story here in this article, Are you driving your business or is your business driving you but now 18 months later, I’ve got a bit more experience at trying to do it all and wanted to share some of my learning.
In the beginning
When I started Women Unlimited, I already had a business, a boutique web design agency based in SW London. I had started my web company because I wanted to create a business that I could work while I was raising my children. After my son was born I settled into a nice schedule of working 2-3 days a week, flexibly depending on the amount of projects I had, and really enjoyed myself. I was earning a great part-time income, enjoyed the work I was doing and spent the rest of my time playing and going out with my new son.
But after a while, it wasn’t enough for me. Five months after my daughter was born, I decided that I wanted to build a more substantial organisation, where instead of winning the business and doing the business, I was going to focus on growing the business and found some talented freelancers to do the delivery. It meant making a commitment to growth, and taking my enterprise more seriously. I’m still not quite sure what the internal driver for this was, but for whatever reason, I started to put more pressure on myself.
And it worked. In the following 6 months I doubled my turnover, but interestingly, not my profit, and I started working more hours. I increased the amount of time I was working to 4 days a week, and on one of those days I would drop my children off at the childminder at 6:15 in the morning to attend a breakfast networking session.
And then I decided to launch Women Unlimited.
Always an early riser, my schedule looked like this; 5-7am, 9-4 and then 7-10 pm – every day. Time was broken down into chunks of business time and kid time. And when I was with the kids, I was thinking about business. When I was working my business, I was thinking about business. I was consumed by my businesses and making them more successful; I rarely spoke to my husband, I was not engaged with my children, and there was nothing left over for me.
Then the inevitable crash happened. After the second annual Women Unlimited conference, I was so exhausted and spent, that I literally laid on the couch for 3 weeks wondering what the hell I was doing. And slowly realised that something needed to change. I needed to find a way to live my life and create a successful business. I needed to find a way to be the kind of mother that I wanted to be, the kind of wife that I wanted to be and the kind of woman that I wanted to be. I needed to find a way to fit more time for me into my life and to be more present so that when I was with my family, I was really with them.
Stop the madness
So I stopped the madness. I made the decision to put my family first and build my business around them. I stepped off the hamster wheel and got back on again slowly – finding my way, figuring out where the push points were and how to navigate them. I stopped working in the evenings (though still early mornings) and started taking my kids to the park more and having friends round. I started spending more time doing homework (quality time?) and really participating in their lives and enjoying the time we spent together. Don’t get me wrong, I still work hard, and my children go to after school club 2 days a week, but I feel like I am in charge of my life and my time rather than the other way round. I am making choices that give me the best of all worlds.
There will always be things that I regret from that period, but I also accomplished a lot in a very short space of time. And since making the decision to slow down and create more balance, I have also had to make some big sacrifices, including parking my web design business to focus on growing Women Unlimited. But now, I am enjoying life a lot more and feel much more connected to my family and myself. I hadn’t really intended to make this into such a personal story, but I think it’s important that we share with each other some of the challenges that we face and how we have overcome them and to learn from each other’s mistakes.
Top tips for work life balance
Here are my top tips for creating more balance in your life
- Decide what your commitments are going to be in each area of your life and stick to them
Make a choice about what your priorities are – you are in control
- Schedule in ME time
If it’s not scheduled it doesn’t get done
- Give yourself some down time otherwise you WILL burn out
Reading, bath-time, painting – whatever your thing, but give yourself time to not think about business
- Talk to your partner about how you can share the chores and household responsibilities
Be clear on how they can help. Delegate
- Be organised and write down a weekly schedule so you are able to manage your time
I’m still working on this — but it does help
- Get help if you can afford it
Identify the stress points in your life and find someone who can do them for you. Getting a weekly cleaner has been a godsend for us.
- Get out in the fresh air at least for 15 minutes every day
It will clear away the cobwebs
- Learn to say no
Every time you say yes, one of the other things in your life will have to pay the price
- Hire some people
If you don’t already have a team, take on a part-timer who can do the things that you don’t love or aren’t great at and focus all your time and energy on your skills and talents that will build you a successful business
- Have fun!
Go out with friends who make you feel good, or do something that makes you really enjoy, at least twice a week.
What are your stories and tips? We’d love to hear from you about how you have managed to juggle it all -please let your comments below.