There is no such thing as work life balance – especially if you’re a mum and or an entrepreneur…
“I just need more balance in my life” or “once I finish this project I’ll be more balanced”
Do you ever find your self saying: “I just need more balance in my life” or “once I finish this project I’ll be more balanced”?
This is such a common feeling for most of us that I recently spent sometime researching this never ending desire we all have to find the elusive “balance” in our lives. What I found may upset some of you…. I don’t believe we can ever fully achieve balance and that in fact our job as human beings is to always be trying to balance our scales (lives), but the moment it appears that everything is just right something changes, either in ourselves or from an outside influence. In other words our purposes is to look for balance (but never fully achieve it), we’ll feel a lot more content if we realise that we’ll never be able to fully attain it, and therefore we should enjoy the journey – balance is not a destination that we’ll ever reach (and maintain).
“Personally I have some of my best ideas while I’m out running or in the shower..”
Work/life balance is what we hear about most as business owners – the self employed are notorious for working all the time and neglecting other areas of their lives. This is especially true of business owners who, run businesses around their passions or are serial entrepreneurs. We often hear from experts that we should have a break from work, take some down time! Although I do agree with the idea that a change of scenery and focus can be just what the doctor ordered, I don’t believe most entrepreneurs can just “turn off”, nor do they want to. Personally I have some of my best ideas while I’m out running or in the shower – these are times that I’ve stepped away from the computer and all the busy work that keeps my business ticking over, fall away and I can think about the direction of my business – the creative side of business if you like.
Smart phones with reasonable sized screens, mean I can and do take my business everywhere with me. Waiting rooms, pick up kids, being in transit (driven places) and in the supermarket shopping queue, all give me an opportunity to stay connected to my business. Likewise when we go on holiday I don’t just “turn off”, I may not take my computer but I do have my phone and my mind. In many ways being on holiday just means that I don’t have to do the everyday repetitive tasks and can free my mind up to think creatively about the state of my business and where I’d like to see it go in the future. Its in some of these times that I make the biggest decisions about the direction of my business. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that digital business owners should have regular unconnected time from their businesses. When we head to the mountains here in Tasmania there is no internet connection and we have no choice but to walk and think for three days. I love this time spent mostly in my head and guess what I’m thinking about most of the time?
When I was thinking about writing this post an email arrived in my in box from Ryan Levesque all about work/life balance (funny how that happens – all the stars aligning ;-)). In his video post he talks about people who are really passionate about what they do, not being able to just turn off. People like artists and entrepreneurs, the creative people of the world, like you and me. In fact Ryan states that if you don’t feel that way about your business then you probably shouldn’t be in business. I know there are times when I work like crazy to hit a goal and most of the other things in my life are neglected for a short time, and the reverse can be said if I have important personal activities happening, the business can take a bit of a backseat (not that I stop thinking about it ;-)).
Have you ever been very passionate about a new hobby or fallen love? Its amazing how these things can be all consuming for a time – I actually feel sorry for those people who haven’t experienced this. To some extent thats what it can feel like when you’re in the middle of an exciting project in your business – you can feel the same rush of adrenaline and any hope of a balanced week can fly out of the window.
The lines between work and family are definitely blurred for me. I love my business and the people I serve in my business and as a result its often the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last think as I go to sleep. Its not uncommon for me to have the kids around as I work and I’ve even had them in meetings when it couldn’t be avoided. Just as its not uncommon for me to be answering an email or messaging a staff member while watching a game of futsal the kids are in. Don’t get me wrong though, I do believe its important that you are present physically and mentally for your kids in these situations, and perhaps this is where I practice a little balance and try be encouraging and engaged with their activities. After all its not enough to be there physically if you’re not there mentally for your kids – you don’t want to be that parent who misses every goal because they have their heads down looking at the phone, only to look up and see the disappointment in your child’s eye because they know that you “missed it”. That almost feels as bad as not being there at all – I know this from experience 🙂
As a mother and a business owner it often feels like I’m trying to juggle a bunch of balls in the air – I now realise that I thrive on this continual juggling act as I try to balance the many areas of my busy life. I do have a few habits that I’ve developed over the last 20 years to help us maintain a family/work mixture (not really balance) that works for us. The two that have had the largest impact on our lives and been around for the longest time are a menu plan and eating our main meal in the morning. Let me explain how they work and the benefits of both, they may be something you’d like to adapt to your busy lives.
I remember the frustration I felt every afternoon when it was time to think about what the family was going to eat that night. Some days it almost felt like a physical pain as I trawled through my cooking books for inspiration and dug deep into my mind for family favourites I could cook. You see I’ve never liked to dish up the same meal every day, so I tried very hard to come up with a variety of meals so the kids didn’t get bored and so I could ensure that we ate healthily. About 20 years ago I started planning what we would eat for the next two weeks and writing it down. At that time I wrote it on paper and put it on the the fridge. From that menu I would write my shopping list and go and buy all the ingredient from the supermarket. These days I write the list in notes on my smart phone and do my shopping online (and have it delivered). So for the last 20 years I have not had that mild panic as I think about what to feed the family – its already sorted, the ingredients are in the cupboard, all I need do is cook 🙂 I’ve found that transferring that daily pain to a twice a month exercise has been very effective in the running of our house and my business. I can use my brain to think more about what needs doing in the business instead of mundane things like dinner preparations.
Our family is reasonably large by modern standards in Australia, with 5 children born over 11 years and evening meal times were becoming a little hit and miss – mostly because the older kids started going to extra curricular activities (like music and sport) and Simon (my hubby) was having to stay later at work some nights. This meant that we rarely all ate together as we just weren’t all in the same place at the same time! So we decided to do something out of the norm – this has become a habit 😉 – we started eating our main meal in the morning instead of breakfast and we moved the traditional breakfast food to the evening. Instantly our family ‘worked better together’, we got to sit around the table everyday before school and touch base with each other and at the other end of the day we were more relaxed. As the children got older they feed themselves in the evenings (cereal and toast etc.) and I often prepared the mornings main meal ready to heat up or cook in the morning, depending on what the meal was. After 16 years we still eat this way and love it – there are a lot of health advantages as well but thats not the topic of – we found changing when we eat each day the linch pin for family cohesion and we couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. These are just two family routines that we’ve found help us manage family and work.
My business, Mission Mojo is a lifestyle business which for me means I can do it any where and at any time as long as I have an internet connection. That means not only do I think about business when I’m with the kids but I can actually run my business when I’m with the kids (if I need too ;-)). Of course this all works in the other direction to – when I’m working I will think about my kids, especially if one of them is having a hard time. It also means that I don’t have to miss school assemblies, athletic carnivals or like we just did, I can take 3 of my 5 children and travel the world for 18 months. All this is possible because the lines between my work and my family life don’t really exist.