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My eight-year-old's workload warning led me to a healthier balance

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28th Feb 2017
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A few years ago, my daughter, who was eight at the time, took it upon herself to have a chat with me about my workload. I was running a business and renovating the family home whilst single-handedly bringing up my two children. My daughter pointed out that I was trying to do three jobs, and asked me to cut back, whilst still being her mum. That was a big turning point for me, when I realised things needed to change.

This article originally appeared on another site in our portfolio, BusinessZone.

Juggling everything was making me absolutely exhausted. I was constantly rushing around and doing too much - but not doing anything as well as I could - and never having any time to myself. I was ill for three Christmases in a row because I was prioritising everything else over me and crashed at the end of the year!

Around the same time, I started seeing a business coach who helped me to work through the situation and put my priorities into perspective. I came to the important realisation that it’s okay to think about yourself sometimes and do what you need to do to stay healthy. In doing so you’re able to give more to both your business and your family.  

I’m not alone in facing this challenge and I’ve spoken to scores of women over the years who have struggled to find a way to combine their career with motherhood. My own experiences and these conversations actually led me to start The Work Crowd to give experienced professionals an easier route to self-employment. Lots of our members are parents and I’m passionate about giving them the flexibility to sustain both aspects of their lives.

I’ve also made a number of changes in my own life that have helped me achieve a healthier balance and wanted to share those learnings.  

Taking time for myself  

Usually, I’m always busy, trying to maximise my productivity, speaking to people on the phone, dictating things to myself, writing emails while travelling, listening to audio books etc. But I realised that sometimes there is nothing wrong with listening to rubbish music, switching off and giving your brain a break. That can be as valuable for your productivity and wellbeing in the long-run.

Be more picky about networking events

Networking is really important when you’re launching a business and, as a result, I go out a lot in the evenings. However, I’m now a lot more careful about the events that I personally go to and when I can delegate to another member of the team.

My rule is to accept everything initially and then delegate out closer to the day. It’s great experience for other team members and an opportunity for them to raise their profile. Sometimes you just have to say ‘no’ so that you’re not overstretching yourself.

Time management and face-to-face meetings

I try to be really selective with face-to-face meetings I attend and how long they go on for. I try to do calls where I can or halve the length of meetings, so I can free up my time without losing that personal connection.

I keep internal meetings to the morning, lunchtime or the end of the day and block out working time in my diary to actually give me time at my desk to get things done.

Making regular commitments to myself

I have certain commitments and rules that I stick to, to ensure that I’m not neglecting different areas of my life.

For example, I make sure I take my son to school twice per week, and I love having this time to have a proper chat with him about how things are going and what he’s been up to.

Similarly, my weekends are dedicated to the kids and I never start answering emails until Sunday evening to ensure I don’t get distracted with work.

Make your kids feel involved

I’ve found it helps to keep my kids updated on what’s going on at work, explaining why I might be working more than usual or why I’m feeling tired or stressed.

They are usually interested to hear what I’m up to and it helps them to understand more about how the world of work functions as well as hopefully inspiring them for the future.

If I have a speech to prepare, I’ll always practice in front of them; not only are they my biggest critics, it also helps them feel involved, engaged and proud of what their Mum’s doing.

Guilt is wasted energy

Most importantly, never feel guilty or apologise for taking time for your kids and for yourself - you have every right to do so. When you’ve worked hard to get to where you are, not attending every meeting or every event doesn’t take away from that.

You need to take control of where you can add most value, and be firm about your other commitments and responsibilities. By doing so, you’ll also set a good example to all those around you.

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