Category Archives: Work Life Balance

Four years ago I was working in the nonprofit sector and trying to juggle the job of Director of Development while raising a three-year-old boy. While I was grateful for the flexibility that this job afforded (I was mostly able to telecommute) and I completely supported the organization’s mission, I still didn’t feel that I had complete control of my schedule. I wanted more time with my son, the ability to work 100% remotely and complete autonomy in the work that I chose to pursue. I decided to do some freelancing grants work, and this was a great first step to slowly ease into the transition of business ownership. My husband prepared the paperwork and I officially became an LLC and launched my business on August 29, 2013. Little did I know that I was pregnant with my daughter the same time as this launch….

While I experienced many bumps in the road on the path to succeeding as an entrepreneur, I have walked away with some useful tips that can hopefully help other business owners.

  1. Never underestimate your value to clients. Do not undersell your services or take on pro bono work at the expense of your bottom line.
  2. Set personal boundaries. If you are an entrepreneur and you seek more personal time, set that personal time in your calendar so you are not inundated with client emails or requests to meet. You can set the flexible schedule, if this is important to you. I always do this when I want to attend an event at my child’s school or have a personal matter that requires attention.
  3. Outsource. I know that it is easy to take ownership of everything, but at some point you may need support for your accounting, appointment scheduling, social media and/or project work. Do you have contacts that can support you when you take a vacation or when your workload increases? My virtual assistant, bookkeeper, and other colleagues have helped me tremendously, and this has helped grow my business.
  4. Pipeline Cultivation. Always think about future work, even if you have a full plate. Clients change, as does workflow, so always seek opportunities via networking events, trainings and informal meetings to encourage future work.

I love the work that I do, I appreciate my clients for choosing me to help them through their fundraising journeys, and I love the balance it affords with my family. What fuels your desire as an entrepreneur?

There are days when I sit at my desk and write for hours on end. Sometimes I enjoy the solitude and preparing an application or report that shows the dedication and thought that goes into this work (versus a rushed deadline). However, as I am sure is the case for many of you, most days are punctuated with conference calls, meetings and other high priority activities that can deter you from the work you plan to do that day. I also find it particularly difficult at times to transition between activities and also between work and personal life. For those of us who work from home, this can be particularly challenging. Arianna Huffington talks a lot about the need for sleep and to remain present in her latest book Thrive, which has also started a movement.

We are a highly stimulated society with social media, emails, smart phones and other devices that can easily deter us from completing our work. What are we to do? Since I deal with this issue daily, I am offering some advice for how I try to stay focused in my own life.

  1. Meditation – If you can start or end your day with a few minutes of quiet; this is a better way to decompress and/or energize you for what lies ahead. I really like Simply Being and there are meditations that only last 5 minutes.

 

  1. Space – If you work from home, close your door when you are not using that space or shut down your computer. Even the physical barrier can help separate your work and home life.

 

  1. Device Lockdown – Unless I proactively do work in the evening, I try not to respond to work related messages in the evening. I also try to disengage when I am with my children (I am more successful sometimes than others). Are there times when you can just put your phone in another room to avoid temptation of accessing information? I bet that most of the information you seek is not mission critical.

 

  1. Running List – I try to keep a post-it note as a reminder to do things when I am not at my desk and need to remember something important; I have also been known to send Outlook reminders to myself. I also set up blocks of time in my calendar for personal activities, including food shopping and picking up library books.

 

  1. Project Management – I use Nozbe to manage all my client, training and business development deadlines. Whatever system you use, make sure it is current, accessible to others (if needed), and forward looking at least 6-8 weeks.

 

What will you do to remain focused?

 

This year I finally reached a parenting milestone – one child out of daycare and started kindergarten. Throughout the school year we transitioned into a new routine of drop-offs, pick-ups, school activities, PTA meetings and new friends (for both him and us). While it does make things easier and more financially feasible since we have one less in preschool, the summer represents a new challenge.

I always hoped when I started my business that I could seamlessly balance between work and home, but we all know that this is not so easy. I do have some vacation time, weeks off and personal time planned this summer to maximize our pool membership and visiting friends and family. Here is what I hope to do to make sure I have balance in my life this summer:

  1. Block of time in my Outlook calendar for personal appointments, trips, etc. to ensure that I actually do the things I hope to accomplish personally.
  2. Stay off the grid when I am on vacation and work with my virtual assistant to respond and categorize emails and messages to ensure a less chaotic entry back into real life upon return.
  3. Reduce off-hours work time (i.e. hours when my children are not in camp).
  4. Work outside to maximize the beautiful weather.
  5. Connect with my other colleagues for coffee to discuss our work and any new items coming up.
  6. Turn away or outsource work when it impacts #1-#5 above.

What are your summer plans? Hopefully, you will take some time to disconnect, enjoy time with loved ones and become mentally prepared for what lies ahead.

I typically don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, but I thought in honor of this day, I would rather turn this into a giving holiday and share what I love with other people. While I could say the usual things (family, friends, vacation, Chai tea lattes), I thought that it would make more sense to provide a list of some useful resources that actually make me more successful. What tools help me with work-life balance and also support me as an independent consultant? Here it goes….

  1. Nozbe – This online project management tool keeps me organized, on track and focused on my priorities and deadlines.
  2. Microsoft Excel – I use Excel daily for tracking information, sorting prospects, budgeting and creating useful charts for nonprofit clients.
  3. Flowcharts – The best way to map out a system or process to determine roles and responsibilities and multiple steps. I have used Microsoft Visio, must there are many other online resources out there that are less expensive.
  4. Coffee, Breakfast or Lunch – Rather than networking groups or conferences, I find that one on one personal meetings are the best ways to meet with clients, prospects, and/or colleagues.
  5. Highlighters – I am old school when it comes to reviewing grant guidance and important documents; I actually like to print out documents and highlight key areas of focus.
  6. Protein snacks and water – I always try to stay hydrated and fueled when I am sitting at my computer for several hours.
  7. Cards – I keep some uplifting notes and cards near me so I can read positive messages when I need a boost.

I am sure that there are things you love and enrich your life. What are your “must have” items that you need during the course of each day?