Work Life Balance – When Your Personal Life Throws Up Roadblocks

Stay Calm and Reframe

Most women entrepreneurs are workaholics, type A personalities, or passion driven to an extreme. I think that is built into our DNA and part of why we become business owners in the first place. But every now and again life throws us curve balls and we need to be able to adjust to our new reality to be able to continue in our biz – and life.

If you are a new mom, a mom again, have an aging or ailing relative that needs your attention or the kids are out on summer vacation, your old schedule may be a thing of the past. Give yourself some grace. You don’t have to be superwoman all the time. Life will go on. Your business will go on (if you want it to) but perhaps at a different pace.

This might be too much information, but since some of you may be in a similar situation, I thought it was OK to share on such a personal level.

I’m the full-time caregiver for my very sick husband. He has had two strokes and suffers from advanced diabetes. As a result, he can no longer walk, has had some cognitive decline, and needs help in almost every aspect of his life.

I love my husband dearly and am happy and grateful to be able to care for him. But this was never what I thought this chapter of my life would look like.

If you are in the midst of one of these roadblocks, or adjustment periods, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Take care of yourself.

I did a post earlier on The importance of Self-Care. People kept telling me this and I’d say, “OK, I will.” But you know what? It’s crucial.

The first 3 months or so after his last stroke, I could not leave his side, let alone the house. But as he began to get stronger I could lift my head and look around. I was starting to feel trapped and exhausted, which did neither of us any good.

I started to plan lunches out with friends, a daily walk (Egad – did I need exercise!), and other excursions to keep my sense-of-self intact. I’m still struggling with this, but getting better at it as time goes on.

Adjust your personal expectations.

This may be specific to me, but I’m used to being a multi-tasking, hard-charging gal, with a lengthy to-do list and lofty goals. This has been the hardest adjustment for me, by far.

I’ve had to re-frame what I can and want to get done in a day since our reality is always changing. I may have several things planned, but if my husband is having a not-so-great day, all plans go out the window. I’m running my business from home and there are days when even my most important business tasks have to be put aside. Learning to “go with the flow” has been my most difficult challenge.

Adjust to your new reality.

If your new reality has some predictability (like kids on vacation from school, as an example), create a new schedule for this time that includes playtime with the kids and enjoying summer with them and scale back your business tasks. Take a fresh look at your calendar.

A good friend who was in the early stages of her 2nd pregnancy and her business admitted that the way she dealt with her reality was total denial. She hadn’t given a thought to how her business activities needed to change once the baby arrived – it was too overwhelming to think about.

We were in a Mastermind together and she was able to get support and ideas on how to move forward in a very positive way from the group. We created a plan for months 1-3 after the baby’s arrival and then 4-6 to help her ease into her new life and still maintain her business, with only a small blip in her business momentum.

Reframing: A key to work-life balance.

Work-Life balance isn’t a “thing”, it’s in a constant state of reframing. As our lives change, so will that balance. The key is to allow ourselves the flexibility to embrace the lows (not very productive, if at all) and the highs (when we are conquering worlds on all cylinders) with equanimity.

Note to Self: You Matter!

Self-care Should Be On Your Calendar

This really is a note to self, and if this is all TMI, just feel free to move along. But if I’m up to my neck in this issue, many of you may be as well.

I’m a hard-charging kind of gal. Type A for sure. But I’ve had to completely reframe that in the last year and pull way back.

My husband has had several strokes, one quite recently, and is no longer able to do much for himself. I’m the caregiver, and I do so lovingly and very willingly. But with his latest stroke, He needs help with everyday activities and as a result, my caregiving responsibilities have gone through the roof. Again, I’m happy that I CAN take care of him; one of the benefits of being an entrepreneur!

So yes, as an entrepreneur, I have a lot of flexibility. But as a caregiver, I have to remember that the work I do on my business has to wrap around my husband’s health needs right now. So, I can only get done about half of what I’d like to get done on any given day or week. Even though it shouldn’t, it frustrates me. Sometimes a LOT.

This is not unlike having infants and very small children at home. With so much work to do at home and serious constraints on my time and energy, it is tempting to scrap self-care and use that time for work instead.

As I’ve heard so many times, the caregiver has to take care of herself. This was all theory until the last few months.

I used to spend some afternoons or whole days out with girlfriends for lunch, exploring new neighborhoods, or doing a little retail therapy. But that’s not an option right now, as I can’t take that much time away. However, I still try to have every Saturday be MY day as much as possible.

That starts with NO BUSINESS. I don’t check email, social media, Asana – any of it. In fact, the only reason I open a laptop is to binge-watch something entertaining. I find if I can spend a day away from a screen and my business, I’m totally refreshed the next day. Truth!

Give yourself permission. Ah, this is a big one. As women, we tend to be the caregivers in general. As entrepreneurs, we are in “go mode” most of the time. In fact, many entrepreneurs I’ve worked with tell me that they believe that if they are not VERY busy, they are afraid that they are not producing, and therefore may fail.

Pretty big mindset issue right there: NOT doing is against our nature.

What does self-care look like for you?

Put some time into figuring out what will make you feel rested and refreshed since that really is the objective.

 It may be an afternoon with a good book, lunch with friends, a day at the spa, time alone, or a visit time with close friends. Yoga? A bike ride, a hike, spiritual reading time? Self-care is different for everyone.

Block out dates on your calendar. Really. I’ve already talked about the power of managing your calendar. It may seem ridiculous to actually schedule playtime, but I’ve learned that if it’s not on your calendar, and you don’t’ protect those time slots, they will slip away and may never happen.

Make self-care blocks unmovable! I schedule blocks months ahead, and then insert the details of what I want to do as something comes up. I would suggest scheduling one block per week to begin so that you are consistent.

Want some additional inspiration? TedTalks has a number of great videos on the subject of self-care.

Like anything else worth mastering, this is a process, and it takes practice. I started out by saying this was a note to self because I’m still grappling with this. I hope you can at least start your practice of self-care and make it a non-negotiable in your life sooner rather than later.

Put your own oxygen mask on first

Non-Negotiables in your day and week

Public Service Announcement: It’s your business and it’s your life. The best place to start is by designing your business to fit you personally.

If you’ve come out of a corporate or a traditional business model, you are probably accustomed to a 9-5 (or maybe 7-7?) workday. When I jumped into my entrepreneurial career, I kept to that schedule like a madwoman, and never questioned it. Keeping to a hard-charging schedule was the essence of productivity, wasn’t it? My fear was that if I wasn’t logging the hours, I was not going to get to where I wanted to go.

With age comes wisdom, and after multiple rounds of burn out, and quite a few grey hairs, I’ve changed my perspective.

Work/life balance (a myth right there) is an ongoing negotiation, but you need to begin somewhere. Start by putting a few stakes in the ground for the aspects of your life and biz that are the most important to you, and make them non-negotiable.

For me, it’s 3 things:

Working out. I started working with a personal trainer in the last few months. It felt self-indulgent, vain, and it cost a pretty penny But here’s the thing: I’m in it for the long haul. I hope to live a very long time and I’m the full-time caregiver for my husband. I want to be as healthy and fit as I can well into my 90’s. I had to make a commitment to that long view. I know I work best when I have some accountability and a mentor. I’ve done that in my business life, and I saw that I needed it in my personal life as well. So I’m plunking down hundreds of dollars a month and showing up. Not just for my training sessions, but working out or at least walking almost every day on my own as well.

Honoring my energy cycles. I am an early, early bird. I am at my best, most creative and clear thinking at 7 am. I’m fairly spent after about 3 pm. I’ve mapped out my daily and weekly calendar (more on that next week) to fit that cycle. I start my day at 7. I take a lunch break at noon. I quit at around 3. I don’t work on Friday afternoons because I’m already in “relax mode. I don’t work nights – ever. That’s when I magically turn into a wife and mother and can barely remember what’s going on in my business. But I do work some weekend mornings if I feel like it. That’s my design!

Family time. This will differ for all of us, but unless you build it into your schedule, it’s going to slip away or be given a lower priority. Every year I block out planned family vacation time. When my kids were smaller, I blocked out every event that I knew about – school plays, field trips, days off, birthday parties, etc. These became un-moveable blocks of time in my schedule (for the most part…there are always exceptions). Evenings, (for me that’s after 3 pm,) are for family. I plan and cook dinners, spend time just hanging out with them without thoughts of business creeping in. It’s cherished time and I don’t take it lightly! Down time – being completely away from biz refreshes me for the next day.

These 3 changes have been game changers for me. I had to give myself permission to make my work life fit into my personal life. Not the other way around.

Next week I’m going to go into more detail on this principle: How to map out your week and month to fit your business and life for the most efficient, productive and powerful results. Plus a happy life. Stay tuned!