The perils of finding your balance

Returning to work after the Christmas, New Year break can be a really challenging time – or at least, it has been for me, as I look down the barrel of my third year at gemaker’s helm.
As the owner of a small business the Christmas break is one of the only times in the year I can totally unwind. I made a conscious decision to do nothing over the break. I didn’t touch my computer, didn’t make any work calls, or talk shop with my business partner. Instead, I read five books, baked, hung out with my daughters, swam in the pool and threw out cupboards full of rubbish. And doing all those things made me realise how little of them I’d done in the preceding  year, and made me wonder (yet again) how to solve this problem of work/life balance when work is in full swing.

As 1 January crept closer, my anxiety levels began to increase. After relaxing and totally enjoying my family, how was I going to get back into an all-consuming routine that running a company demands? I decided I needed a plan to ease myself back in.

When the first week of the new year ticked over, I decided to take a new approach. I started by making a list of all my clients and jotting down what they were going to need from me this year and prioritised. I cleaned out my office and threw out old files, reading I never quite got around to, lists of half-formulated ideas that I’d jotted down in the early hours of the morning as something to come back to when I had time. Anything that wasn’t on the list of client priorities, I ditched. Straight away, I was left feeling lighter and more focused.
I made myself think – really think – about the concept of balance, and what it meant to me, and how I was going to achieve it this year. And I confronted the reality of the hours that I’d been doing – and that I’ll likely continue to do this year – and tried to build a plan about how to reach a happy medium between the hours themselves and the balance I crave.

As a result, I’ve come up with five key priorities for myself and the business in 2014:

  1. Strategic alignment – About halfway through last year, I realised that too much of our work was becoming peripheral to the gemaker core business. We now have a one-page strategy for the business which clearly articulates what we want to achieve and how we are going to do it. Now before I agree to which meetings/events we’ll attend and projects that we’ll take on I look at it and can quickly determine if it fits and we do or it doesn’t and we don’t.
  2. Focus – While hard to do, I say it repeatedly as a mantra to myself and my business partner. By focusing I get more from my day in everything I do. This provides more value for gemaker, our clients and myself personally
  3. Enjoy – If you enjoy your work, then it doesn’t feel like work. Love what you do, or do something else. We keep this in mind when accepting projects with prospective clients.
  4. Life – All work and no play is no way to live. This year I’m committing to regular moments of downtime (blocking out times in my calendar) – spending time with my kids after school, working out each week, and hanging with the family for at least some of the weekend. It’s important for my family, and it’s important for me, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
  5. Leverage – Whether its leveraging funding grants to offset our clients’ investments, or leveraging the contacts I have to make new and strategic connections, I’m going to focus on working smarter this year to achieve my goals. Leveraging is about creating greater impact through what we’ve done, what we’ve learnt, who we’ve met and how we’ve achieved success in the past.

How do you maintain balance in your life?