I started my first business as a junior in college, and my current business while pregnant with my first child, so I’ve learned quite a bit about juggling work and life. As a CEO, I’ve also learned that if you don’t give yourself a chance to balance work and life priorities accordingly, your juggling act can quickly fall apart.
After founding my first company as a college junior, it became obvious that in order to devote myself to what was clearly a growing business, I needed to rebalance my priorities, so I took a leave of absence from school. Over the next four years, I helped grow JobDirect to over 100 team members.
Once the company was well-established and more “predictable,” I finished my degree while working full-time. It was one of the busiest times of my life! But I had two priorities that were both incredibly important to me, so I devised a strategy and a schedule let me focus on each – I worked east coast hours from 6am – 3pm, and I went to school in the afternoons and evenings. While it was challenging, it was a great success (earned my highest GPA ever that year!) and I was really proud. The schedule and structure of that work-life juggle was critical.
Fast forward almost 10 years and several jobs later. In 2007, I found myself laid off and looking for work while I was seven months pregnant. I wanted a job that would offer a chance to stay connected to my career, while allowing me to work a more flexible or part-time schedule, and possibly even telecommute to some degree.
After a frustrating search filled with scams and too-good-to-be-true “business opportunities,” I had an idea that I couldn’t shake — why not create a job search website that specialized in professional-level, scam-free, flexible and telecommuting job listings? It was the perfect solution — I’d get the flexible job I so desired by creating a flexible company, and I could help other job seekers looking for the same thing.
I founded FlexJobs in 2007 and began my family at the same time with the birth of my first son. Knowing that neither of these priorities could be put on hold while I focused on the other, I found myself adapting some very specific ways of dealing with work-life balance and the juggle between work and family. Here are my five best, tried-and-true tips for finding work-life balance, even as a CEO and mother of two young boys.
5. Set schedules and stick to them.
I learned this when I went back to school while working, and I still embrace it every day. My Google calendar looks like a collection of paint sample cards from Home Depot, but the color coding makes perfect sense to me, and I honestly couldn’t survive without it.
With separate calendars for myself (personal and work), my husband, each of my two boys, and our family as a whole, I can keep track of everyone’s schedules. And I keep myself on track with calendar alerts and pop-ups on my computer and smartphone. It’s like having a personal assistant who reminds you where you’re supposed to be and when.
4. Either work, or be with your family, but not both.
Even though I work from home, I’ve scheduled my days so that when I’m working, I’m truly working, and when I’m with my family, I’m truly with my family. During work hours, I retreat to my above-the-garage office while my two sons are either at school, at a playdate, or with amazing sitters. I visit them when I have lunch, or to drop them off or pick them up from school, but otherwise, I’m working.
And when the work day is done, it’s family time. I don’t check work e-mail or answer work calls unless there is an emergency. Instead, my focus is on my boys and my husband, or occasionally on my girlfriends during ladies’ nights out!
3. Take vacations and really unplug.
Every summer, my family spends several days camping in the middle of nowhere in Colorado or Idaho. Without cell phone service or wifi, I have absolutely no choice but to completely step away from work and focus fully on my personal life. Admittedly, the first few hours are a bit of a reality check, but I find myself melting into the disconnectedness pretty easily. And even when I’m vacationing in a location with phone or wifi access, I really limit myself to only quick checks so that I don’t go down that slippery slope.
2. Mindfully check-in with your work team and your family.
Whether it’s your team at work, or your family at home, it’s important to have mindful, active check-ins on a regular basis. How’s everyone doing? Are there any topics we’ve been avoiding that need to be discussed? Anything we’ve been pushing aside that needs to be tackled? New developments at work, school, home? Never take communication for granted — do it deliberately and regularly to make sure everyone in your life is heard, and you’re heard as well.
1. Delegate and trust your team.
This goes for work and family too! How many times have you taken on responsibilities like creating a PowerPoint, making a call to a client, or even getting the groceries for your family because you’re somehow magically capable of doing it better than anyone else?
For all those little (and sometimes big) tasks that can be handled by someone else, give them away! If you’re ever going to find work-life balance, you need to be able to delegate. Sure, the PowerPoint might not be as amazingly stunning as if you made it, and the grocery list might be missing an item or two, but these things can and will get done by others, and done well enough. That’s one of the keys to work-life balance — let go of micromanaging perfection and settle for well enough.
These work-life balance tips don’t come easily at first, and you’ll probably find yourself fighting them along the way, but if you’re serious about prioritizing your life, finding more time to relax, and creating a sense of balance into each and every day, they’re worth the effort.
How do you find work life balance in your life? Share with us!
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