By Selina Bieber, Regional Director for Turkey and MENA at GoDaddy EMEA
If you ask any female entrepreneur why she decided to strike out on her own rather than working for a boss, one of the more common reasons you will hear is “I wanted more flexibility and freedom”. Half of South African small business owners in a recent GoDaddy survey said the flexibility of running their own business is the best aspect of being an entrepreneur.
Yet many female business owners find the reality in the trenches can be different to the dream of working in their pyjamas and flipping effortlessly from work teleconferences to doing the school run and preparing lunch for the kids. The lines between home and office and between personal time and work time can rapidly disappear, especially in a world where women are still often burdened with an unfair share of the childcare and domestic work.
The result? Far from achieving flexibility, freedom and a healthier work-life balance, you can find yourself overwhelmed by the amount of work and the number of chores you need to manage. However, even if getting that satisfying work-life balance seems impossible at times, you can achieve it with the right attitude, support from colleagues and loved ones, and some good planning.
To celebrate Women’s Month, let’s look at five ways to help achieve a more harmonious work-life balance:
- Manage your time carefully
The key to achieving the balance you would like between work and life is to make the most of every moment of the day. This means you need to manage your schedule as carefully as you manage your finances; perhaps even more so since you can work to make more money, but you can’t make more time.
Use a system to manage and allocate your productive hours, whether that is the calendar in Outlook, SaveMyTime or a wallchart and stick to your schedule as best you can. Budget time for the things you need to and want to do. If you are running out of time, evaluate why and take corrective action.
- Outsource when it makes sense
There’s no need to be Superwoman and try to do everything yourself. Build a support system and ask for help when you need it. In some cases, that can mean seconding your spouse to do the housework or asking a family member to help with babysitting. In others, it means outsourcing tasks and chores to someone else when it makes sense.
For example, consider hiring an au pair for the school run and to ferry kids around if you are working all hours of the night to catch up, after looking after children in the working day. You can also get a personal or virtual assistant to help with personal and business admin, such as filing, bookkeeping for example Xero or marketing.
You should consider outsourcing when the amount you will pay the person to do the work is less than the value of your own time, and when it will take you so long to do the task or learn the skill to do the work yourself that it may not be worth your while.
- Create boundaries between work and personal life
Friends, family and colleagues often imagine that you have endless flexibility because you run a business from home, so it’s important to show them where the boundaries are between home and work life. On the one hand, that means managing the demanding client who expects you to pick up phone calls and briefs at 8pm at night when you are relaxing with your partner and children. On the other, it means cordoning off the time and space you need to work without disruption from your family.
To this end consider:
- Creating a separate workspace in your home, and instruct the children that they may not disturb you there unless there is an emergency.
- If possible and when you feel comfortable, disconnect from work e-mails and phone calls at the end of the day and on weekends so you can balance work with spending quality time with your family.
- Organise playdates and extra murals for children when you are working.
- Block off specific times in your diary to take care of personal tasks.
- Learn to say no when a family member tries to overstep the bounds into your work time or space, or a client or colleague makes an unreasonable demand that will have a cost for your personal life.
- Minimise distractions
Keep focused on each task at hand so you don’t waste time. Do you need to complete a major document but keep getting e-mails and social media notifications? Consider turning on airplane mode on your computer and smartphone so you can work without distraction. Are you constantly interrupted by phone calls and e-mails when you’re trying to get in the zone? Block off some time in the early morning or late afternoon to return calls and browse e-mails; ignore everything that isn’t urgent the rest of the time.
- Prioritise your mental and physical health
Many female entrepreneurs will sacrifice coffee with a friend or an hour at the gym to get more work or domestic chores done. But not eating well, exercising, maintaining social connections or sleeping enough can make it harder for you to meet your business and personal goals in the longer term. If you are not healthy and not in a good mental space, your productivity will suffer. Taking care of business and your family starts with taking care of your own wellbeing.