Work life balance: Exploding the superhero myth
Running your own business to give you more time to be with and care for your family sounds great in principle, but we need to take care to keep a work life balance and not to fall foul of the superhero myth.
There is a modern day perception which states that you have to give 100% of yourself to every aspect of your life. If you are an employee there is immense pressure to work long hours and put the company first, even if you have a family to look after as well.
But this sense of obligation can also weigh down soloists who, despite the fact that they are trying to escape the shackles of always being there for work, can’t seem to get the work life balance.
For some reason parents - particularly mums - feel they are only achieving something if they are tearing around in a mad rush between school drop-off, visiting clients, doing work, collecting the kids, taking them to soccer/rugby/cricket/ballet, making dinner, cleaning the tribe and getting them off to bed.
Stop for a moment. Why do you think you have to prove something? Why do we feel that we have to do it all to be recognised as a valuable contributor to the community?
It seems that we’re all so busy being, well, busy, that we’re in danger of missing out on the most important thing – life! We complain that we don’t have enough time to look after our own needs and ourselves because we have to do this, that or the other, when really we should be thinking long and hard about what we want to achieve and what our priorities are.
Once you establish those things you can set about working out how a work life balance and fit life into your days. For the most part this really comes down to being clear about what you want and being organised, neither of which are particularly super-human characteristics.
The other main attribute of a super-mum (or dad) is that they realise that they can’t do it all alone. Look carefully behind the mask and you’ll see super-spouses, super-grandparents, super-friends and super-next-door-neighbours, all making up the team needed to do it all. I often send my husband out on the weekend to the park with our boys for some quality father time – which loosely translates to peace and quiet for mum to get on with everything she needs or wants to do.
Humans have lived in societies since the beginning of time, and for good reason – safety in numbers and sharing the load.
And the teamwork shouldn’t stop just at home.
Applying these principles to business will get your stress levels way down and help you provide your clients with quality products and services. Spreading the load amongst experts in certain areas, such as bookkeeping, distribution and marketing, for example, means that you get to devote time to your own areas of expertise as well as being able to enjoy some down time.
If you’re not a natural at being organised, don’t panic. It is a skill that’s easily learned and one that will be highly beneficial, both to your stress levels and to your business. Being organised will create so much more ‘free’ time. Time that you can use for ‘emergencies’ (like taking your son to hospital when he has just shown you his ‘awesome’ skateboarding moves) or can just give you the breathing space that you need to maintain the work life balance that you set.
Obviously, everyone’s personal situation is different and some have more urgency than others to make their businesses flourish quickly. But if you are splitting your time between family and business it pays to be realistic about how quickly you can get your business to the point of being a success.
You also need to define what you consider to be success. For some it’s breaking boundaries and overshadowing the competition. For others, success is simply achieving a modest, consistent client-base of happy customers. Wherever you sit, it’s important to define success on your own terms, not those of others. Then, when you’re asked how business is going, you will be able to reply with a genuine smile “Great”!
Once you are comfortable with your own achievements and you have set yourself realistic and achievable goals, you can relax and start to enjoy your family as well as your solo business and make them work together.
So what are you waiting for? Suit up and let's get working, but vemember dahling, no capes!
Karen Morris specialises in business to business communications using clear, straightforward language to deliver the right message directly to an audience. This article first appeared on www.flyingsolo.com.au, Australia's online community for solo business owners.