Work Life Balance – is there such a thing these days?
“Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance is good, everything good.”
Wise words from Mr Miyagi, the Karate coach in the movie the Karate Kid.
Work/Life balance is something we are all trying to get right, especially now with modern technology, the boundaries are becoming merged. There is even a new term now, work/life merge which was first mentioned by Facebook Executive, Emily White. How ironic that a Facebook Exec could discover that?
Is that a bad thing though? If you love your work, why not fit it in around goofing off time? It can be just changing the way that you look at it. When I was a stressed, overworked accountant struggling with my own job, being the co-owner of a busy bakery along with being a frazzled Mum of 3 teenage boys, I hated my life. Hardly surprising – I didn’t have any balance. When I was at work, I was feeling guilty that I wasn’t being with the kids and being a ‘great’ mother. When I was at home, I was thinking of all the things I should be doing at work. It would have helped a great deal if I had given my entire presence to whatever I was doing and immediately would have done a much better job at everything and got rid of all that guilt. Delegating and giving up being a victim would have helped too!! Here are some tips to help get that work/life merge more balanced!
Once you start doing this, the stress will drop right out of your life. Notice, I have said practice? That’s all that it takes. Meditation is a fantastic way to achieve this. My husband who owned the Bakery, learnt meditation when he was experiencing really high stress levels in our business. It is probably what saved him, and the business! There are lots of ways to do this, just 10 minutes a day helps. You can do relaxation exercises, mantras, visualisations, whatever works for you. Accompany this with nice, deep diaphragm breaths and you will start having better concentration, feel more relaxed and strangely, more energised. Give it a go, or if you need to know more, get in touch with me.
Review what you are spending your time on. Take the time to record what you do each day, week, month etc. Write down all the things you do and how long they take you. I bet you will find lots of opportunities to manage your time better. I did this myself just recently, and found that coming up with a couple of rules around e-mails and Facebooking saved me hours a day and made me much more focused on my priorities. One of the big tips that I can give you is to be disciplined about your email inbox. Don’t tackle it first thing in the morning; instead, allocate certain times of day to clear it. My rule is no emails or Facebook until mid-day, then again at 5:00 pm. Obviously, it depends on your business and what types of enquiries you are getting and when, but think about how it could work better for you. That is the key to this; we want to be spending our time on the things that matter, that are going to take us to where we want to go. So make sure your ‘to do’ list is prioritised and get the top priorities done at the time that you work best. Where we go wrong so often is that we just get rid of all the little tasks, thinking that we will tackle the top priorities when we’ve done that. The problem with that is we end up just doing all the little things that don’t matter and the big, important stuff is always left to tomorrow.
Use the exercise above to find out the jobs you do that could be delegated to others. Always keep in mind the end result, the big picture of where you want to get to. The more time you spend working “in” the business rather than “on” the business, the less likely it will be that you will get where you are headed. The jobs that could be done by others – repetitive, time consuming jobs should be the first to be delegated. There are lots of ways of doing this; you don’t need to necessarily employ more staff. You can re-organise existing duties if you already have staff. That can be a good way of giving existing staff more responsibility and growing their experience and skills. Most people are keen to do that. Another way is to outsource. i.e. if you are doing the admin/accounts work, there are lots of good book-keeping firms around that can take care of this for you, or you could consider moving to a more user friendly accounting system e.g. Xero, www.xero.com, it is a cloud based accounting system that is so simple to use. Outsourcing can be a very cost effective way of freeing up time for you to do more work “on” the business.
Get help from a mentor
You don’t have to do it all yourself. It’s perfectly OK to ask for help. So often, we just battle on, feeling grumpier and more victimised and all we had to do was ask others to help us out. Letting others do that for us is a win/win for both the helper and the person being helped. Think of the last time you did something for someone, it’s a good feeling, isn’t it? Recognising what your strengths and weaknesses are is a good way of knowing what help you need. Learning to accept that you aren’t going to be great at everything and that you don’t have to know it all is a big step in the right direction. The other great thing about working with a mentor is that they will see things clearer than you do. When we are deep in the day to day running of a business, same old same old, it’s hard to see where the opportunities are. A mentor will really help you with that. The other spin off is that they keep you accountable, you are more likely to get things done if you have to report back to someone. Who to work with? Shop around, ask questions, find someone who you can relate to, someone you respect, who has the background and experience that will help take you where you want to go. You can engage a business coach, which is an excellent way of getting long term help. Alternatively, if it is more short term help that is needed, you can approach someone in your industry who has experienced success and whose opinion you really value. Most successful business owners are happy to help. You don’t have to bear the load, it’s better when it is shared. Just remember, “it’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it”. Lou Holtz.