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Making Time for Business & Family

Hello, Holiday Weekend!  So good to see you again – it’s been way too long!  I’m looking forward to catching up…and not feeling guilty for taking time off work!

The great thing about running your own business is flexible scheduling.  The tough thing about running your own business is…flexible scheduling.  Family demands somehow manage to creep into the workday.  Work demands (especially the ‘administrivia’!) often get pushed to the weekend or evening when you can work without interruption or distraction.  The demands never seem to end; there is ALWAYS something else to be done and it can be really hard to keep everything in check without going a little nuts.

There are times when I look back longingly at the days of punching in on a time clock.  Things just seemed so simple back then.  You worked when you were at work; you were off when you went home.  You got paid for the hours you put in.  No need to think about the upcoming quarter or reporting or payroll or making decisions.  Boundaries were clearly defined and made it relatively easy to know when to make time for the demands of work and when you dealt with everything else.  As an entrepreneur, those lines quickly get fuzzy.

Dealing with issues as they come up is one way to get things done but it usually means reacting to events and people instead of being proactive and in control.  Flexible scheduling does not mean no scheduling.  It’s kind of like tax time – the more prepared and up-to-date you are, the faster and easier it is to file the return, and the more likely it is you will do it accurately and efficiently.  It’s the same in business.  Someone once told me that the secret to being a successful entrepreneur was self-discipline and time management.  That concept, like the board game Othello, takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master.

Small business owners wear many hats.  I’ve come to realize that it’s crucial to your business and your sanity to respect each role and dedicate a little bit of time each week to working on specific tasks for each hat, for both business and family.  Notice I said ‘working on’, not ‘completing’.  An on-going business, just like a family, is never actually a finished product.  It will grow and change and evolve, priorities and tasks along with it.  Just like juggling, keeping everything in motion requires that you regularly handle every single ball (task), even if it’s just for a short time.

Making a plan or schedule and sticking to it can really help you stay organized as well as dedicate specific time to personal, family and business matters.  It’s much easier to balance your life when you can actually see it in front of you.  It also reduces your anxiety and stress knowing that important tasks and events won’t be forgotten and that there IS enough time to fit everything in.

  • Plan Daily/Weekly/Monthly/Annual tasks.  Some things need more time than others.  Some things need to be done more frequently than others.  Figure out what works for your strengths and your business and your family and plan accordingly.  Kids and employees alike really respond well when they can anticipate what’s coming up.
  • Be Realistic.  Set up for success by giving yourself the time it actually takes to do the task.  Consider outsourcing personal or business tasks (bookkeeping, writing, groceries/meals, cleaning, etc.) if it makes sense.
  • Be Disciplined.  Stick to the schedule.  If you plan an hour for a lunch meeting, keep it to an hour.  If you set aside a day for the family, don’t bring home work.  You have to respect your own time and trust your own schedule if you want it to work.
  • Give yourself a break.  Not just scheduled breaks (which are important), but mental ones as well.   Don’t beat yourself up when you stray from the schedule.  Things happen and unfold even with the most disciplined of entrepreneurs.  Adjust accordingly and move on.
  • Build in Catch-Up sessions.  Make sure you include a daily or weekly block of time to tie up loose ends or account for unexpected adjustments.  Just knowing that there will be time to finish something up later can help your business and your blood pressure.
  • Review.  Things change, including people and schedules.  Things work for a while, then they don’t.  It’s less stressful to simply recognize and accept when something isn’t working so that you can try something different.

It doesn’t matter what you start with, it just matters that you start.  By no means am I a master of life balance either.  I struggle with all the things above and am constantly trying to find a ‘just right’ formula.  If you have any ideas or tips to add, I welcome and encourage you to comment below and share them.

That being said, it’s now time for me to ‘unplug’ and spend some scheduled time with family and friends.  Thanks to my schedule, I can rest assured that my business won’t suffer while I enjoy the weekend and have some fun!

 

 

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Women & Business: Too Nice to be Successful or Too Successful to be Nice?

I’ve read and heard a lot about women and success lately, most recently in the form of a TED video by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.  She talks about the lack of women in business leadership, and suggests that women could be making better headway in the corporate arena if they change some key behaviors and make a concerted effort to get in the game.  I agree, but think it might go even deeper than that.

The statistics are staggering and still pretty pathetic when it comes to the number of women in power and leadership roles, in executive and corporate positions, salary discrepancies and the like.  It’s easy to blame the ‘glass ceiling’ and the ‘old boys club’ but when it comes right down to it, it’s possible that we women might just be resisting our own corporate success.

Women should be shattering that ceiling and crashing those clubs.  In fact, a post on Daily Worth cites a 2010 economic committee report which found that companies with women promoted to senior positions consistently outperform their competition.  It goes on to highlight the proven success in the corporate arena of collaboration, team-building and mentoring, skills that women naturally tend to use and excel at.  We should be leading the C-suite charge and taking the business world by storm.  Instead, we seem to be consistently undermining our own efforts and thwarting our own potential success at every juncture.

Sandberg suggests that women tend to take themselves out of the game when it comes to business advancement and promotion.  She notes some disturbing patterns and trends and then raises some great questions:  Why don’t women pursue goals as actively as their male counterparts?  Why do we tend to defer to spouses when it comes to domestic situations?  Why do women often capitulate or back off in business settings?  Are we being ‘too nice’?

There are probably as many reasons for it as there are women.  After all, success is actually a very personal and subjective term.  Being successful means different things to different people.  However, one common denominator seems to be happiness in some form, and regardless of the amount of money you make or titles you earn or values you uphold, it’s pretty hard to be happy if you think that no one likes you!

Whether they choose to work inside or outside the home, women often seem to get the short end of the judgment stick, and unfortunately, we women are often the worst offenders when it comes to bashing our own.  Have you ever commented on or criticized the ‘soccer moms’ and ‘helicopter moms’ for not being ambitious enough, or the ‘working moms’ for not being involved enough, or complained that the ‘bitchy boss’ needs to get…a life?  Women need to support each other irrespective of priorities and choices instead of perpetuating negative and counterproductive stereotypes.

In business, successful men are typically seen as confident and assertive, whereas successful women are more often than not considered aggressive and cold-hearted.  The stereotype of the ‘Bitchy Boss’ stubbornly persists and can be found all around us – it’s in movies, magazines, photos, story lines, even in our conversations.  So why on earth would any girl or woman ever want to aspire to be ‘successful’ in business if it means being seen as cold and hard, shunned and resented by everyone around her? 

Historically, success in the business world has also represented sacrifice, most often at the expense of family and relationships.  As a woman, it is often considered selfish to actively pursue work-related goals, but ironically, men are seen as ‘go-getters’ and good providers.  Gasp, what kind of woman/mother would ever put her work or self ahead of the needs of her family?!  She might be successful but at what price?

Guilt can a pretty strong motivator, especially when it plays on our existing doubts or insecurities.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t experience a little self-doubt every now and then.  People tend to put others down to feel good about themselves and to rationalize their own choices.  It takes a very confident and self-assured woman to overcome that kind of guilt, ignore societal prejudice and judgment and feel secure in the knowledge that she is living according to her own values and priorities.   

As Sandberg suggests, maybe women need to be more assertive in pursing promotions, more confident in their abilities and in presenting their ideas, more diligent about sharing domestic responsibilities.  These are positive key behaviors that will serve us well no matter what we choose to do.  Maybe as a society we should judge a little less and accept a little more.

But maybe the apparent lack of progress with women and corporate success is not really about insecurity or refusing to step up to the table.  Maybe it’s a little more complicated than that.  Maybe it’s about rejecting the notion that a powerful, successful business woman must, by definition, also be a bitch.  Maybe it’s about an unwillingness to compromise priorities or to sacrifice family to fit some arbitrary definition of what it means to be successful.  Maybe women DO want it all and are no longer willing to accept less.

Maybe, just maybe, women are collectively rejecting an antiquated industrial corporate model and are refusing to do business in the manner that its always been done.  A recent analysis reports that the number of women-owned businesses has increased by 50% over the last decade and a half.  Company size and revenues have not increased but maybe that’s by choice and design.  Maybe it’s possible that progress via the corporate ladder has slowed because women have embraced the spirit of the Gen-Y Millennials and are actually in the process of redefining success and rewriting the rules to do business on our own terms.

Maybe women are realizing that we can have it all.  It just might look and feel a little different than what our grandmothers, mothers, aunts or even we ever imagined!

One thing is for sure though – it’s a lot easier and faster to succeed if you are the one writing the rules.  We do need strong, confident and capable women in corporate-level and Board positions.  Not to increase statistics or reflect equal representation or even to just show ’em all that women are just as able as men.  Women need to be an integral part of making the decisions and policies that shape the way business can be done and to redefine success.

Author Note:  Check out the TED video by Sheryl Sandberg and share your comments to let us know what you think we can do to help redefine the rules and roles of women leaders.

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