I must admit, I’m a bit uncomfortable with this topic.
I mean, it sounds like I have it all sorted and life is easy and balanced. Which is not my reality. I’ve made the long journey along Struggle Street at various stages over the past few years and I can confirm, it can be a lonely place.
But life with two young kids and two high-growth start-up businesses (mine is Consult; my husband Paul’s is Booktrack) has meant I’ve had to work hard to find ways to make my life a little less crazy.
I don’t have all the answers yet, but here’s what (mostly) works for me, right now:
1. Lower your expectations in areas that don’t really matter.
Young children and start-up companies are both time and energy-suckers! The reality is, you have a limited pool of resources: Money, time, energy and – ultimately – health. I long ago gave up any idea of being the mum with the home baking and the perfectly tidy house. Forget the ideal of being the “perfect parent” and focus on the things that matter – quality time with the kids.
2. Sharpen your focus.
You give up a lot in order to run a business – so make sure it becomes the best business it can be. Develop a razor-sharp focus on the things that matter. Don’t get side tracked on time or money wasters at the expense of getting the business cranking. Leverage off the expertise of others to ensure you’re focused on the right areas.
3. Listen to your gut to find your balance.
I personally believe that the part-time working mum has the toughest gig in town. (I call myself a part-time worker because I’m in the office four days a week, but naturally because it’s my own business, I’m working much more than that). I really relate to the part-time mum who can’t be the employee who stays back to put in the hours, and can’t be the parent who volunteers for all the field trips.
Working out how much time in the office I’m okay with is really important for my sanity (and probably my childrens’ and colleagues’!). This has been fluid as the children’s needs have changed, but right now, four days is about right for me.
4. Communicate well.
I’m lucky enough to have married one of the most special guys out there. We support each other in what we’re doing and when one is crazy-busy, the other steps up and helps out a bit more with the kids. Paul’s often overseas, so we run a shared Google calendar so we know where we’re both at (Paul’s calendar is much more glamorous than mine!).
At the core of it is basic communication and appreciating what the other has going on. We’re really focussed on giving each other the support we need to help our businesses grow.
Outsource as much as you can – order groceries online, get a cleaner, get a nanny if you can (ours has become a part of our family). Great companies I use to make life easier include Nibblish, Recognise & Reward, Oceanz Direct and Eat My Lunch.
6. Let your kids ‘live the dream’ too!
When Booktrack launched, we all moved to New York for a while. When Consult was in its early days, we ran it from home, and my daughter would hang out with my business partner Steve while he worked at the kitchen table.
We talk about our businesses a lot with the girls, so they can appreciate why we might be busier than usual sometimes, or why Paul is away overseas. I think it’s important for kids to understand that you only get somewhere with hard work, and that sometimes this doesn’t come in a 9 to 5 package.
7. Block your time.
There’s always so much to do; you have to think deliberately about where you’re spending your time – otherwise you’ll end up working around the clock.
Actually, I’m still pretty awful at this! My role has a lot of distractions, so what I’m working on next is a strategy to manage these more effectively.
8. Make time to catch up with your friends and family – and yourself.
This is my key focus for 2016. It’s easy to be so busy that you miss catching up with friends, and forget to look after yourself. So schedule catch-ups and exercise like you would a business meeting.
Don’t forget your priorities – family, friends and health are the things that really matter, irrespective of whatever else you’re doing.
I’m a compulsive collector of ideas to make life a little easier, so I’m very interested to find out what helps you to “make it work” in your life. Please let me know in the comments section!
This post originally appeared on The Leader's Digest.