It’s school holidays at the moment. It’s the one time that I struggle most with my life balance and doing vs being. I juggle the hat of a mum to two teens and small business owner. I find it hard because I look at what I want to be doing, what others in my industry are doing and I feel inadequate.
What’s the solution to finding a life balance?
Some would say stop comparing, run your own race, stay in your own lane, unfollow, switch off. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve given the same advice. But what happens when that race is all in your head and you know that others are struggling and it’s more about you not being where you want to be and achieving your goals?
Did you know that I think that work/life balance is a crock? There, I’ve said it. I don’t believe it. I’ve studied, raised toddlers, worked in corporate, and started a business – all at the same time. Work/life balance is a crock. It’s a lie we tell ourselves and it’s something that’s different for everyone depending on our individual circumstances. Not to mention that ‘balance’ infers equality and equilibrium. When we know that no two days are ever “equal”, how can we expect that we can achieve equality between work and life within just one of those days. There has to be give and take, rather than balance.
So what do I really do?
I give myself a break. I cut myself some slack. I give myself the compassion I’d give any other parent who is trying to do all the things and keep their business going. I also remind myself of why I actually started my own small business, to be there for my family.
The key to a life balance in small business
That’s the key, I started my business to “be there”. When I lose track of just being for the sake of doing, I lose balance. When I look at what others are doing and compare with how I am being and doing, I lose balance. When I’m spending time with family or friends, supporting them, and the TV is on and I get distracted then I’m doing (watching TV) over being (present and attentive), I’ve lost balance.
We can ‘be’ as small business owners, it’s generally called flow. Where things come easily, time is irrelevant, and we are happy. (Another reason I think the concept of work/life balance is a crock because being in flow is living life, it’s peaceful, it’s enjoyable).
As a small business owner we are used to planning, goal setting, and delivering – our business life is controlled with doing. If you add in keeping up with competitors, then that’s another doing but when it involves social media monitoring then it can become being (especially when it’s at night and you’re in that social media scroll). We have trained ourselves to be in a fairly constant state of doing.
Being however gives us peace. Being makes us content. Being can make us happy (remember what I wrote about flow). Achieving a sense of being requires focus, skill, but mostly boundaries. This is where I feel we lose the life balance as a small business owner.
Boundaries and life balance as a small business owner
Everyone has to set their own boundaries. What works for one may not for another as our lives differ. While we all have the same 24 hours in the day, we all have different responsibilities, support structures, and resources available. This is why we need different boundaries.
Boundaries start with the terms and conditions of sale in your business and employment documents with staff. Boundaries extend to when you will take phone calls, emails, or messages from staff, colleagues, and customers. Boundaries also go to when you stop work, if you have work emails on your phone (hint: I don’t), and if you work weekends. Boundaries are not just if you’ll take a call when you’re on leave (you do take holidays, right).
Boundaries help us see the line between doing and being and set some rules around a life balance. The issue with boundaries is that we need to respect them and use them. If we don’t they become pointless.
What do boundaries look like for me?
In school holidays it’s working before my kids get up. It’s days or afternoons off. It’s working when they are at their friends’ places. It’s scheduling work around holidays. It’s not working on a Saturday but 2-3 hours on a Sunday afternoon. It’s no work emails on my phone but access via messenger. I don’t admit to having it 100% right but I know it’s better for me than working every day until 2am, getting sick, and being crabby. I know that sometimes my kids watch TV all day and others we spend the whole day out. I wouldn’t call it life balance, I call it give and take. It’s like playing tug-of-war with my priorities, time, family, and business; sometimes one is stronger than another.
How do I keep boundaries?
Honestly, sometimes I fail. It’s generally around my kids as they will generally get priority. I slip most of all when I’m not working in alignment with my core value of courage. I call our core values our compass, it’s what keeps us on track and guided. When we get off track, well we can become lost, scared, questioning. My values also stop a lot of the fear that can rise up to distract me. Boundaries are easiest when I’m being true to myself. Do you know what I mean? Have you felt that? If not, use the tools in my fear toolbox to help.