The first official day of summer was Saturday, June 21st,which means that the kids have long been out of school. Summertime brings added stress to many parents as they try to balance the demands of their careers and jobs alongside the responsibilities of being a present parent. Often, a family’s economic circumstance will determine the available options for how parents can balance their work and the need for caring for their children. While the majority of society sees the coming of summer as an idyllic time – for lazy afternoons and weekend adventures – some parents may absolutely dread the decisions they face in ensuring quality care for their children while there is no school.
The last few decades have seen an emergence of more summer programs to help care for children in lieu of school, yet these often have a cost associated with them. Even programs such as the YMCA or the Boys and Girls Clubs, programs that in the past were free, now require paid membership to access and use the facilities. So what is a struggling parent to do? If they are currently employed, their options may be even more limited. While an employee may have the ability to use his or her personal time off during the summertime – they may only get to take a week or two off. Some companies have become more flexible in their policies recognizing the need for parents to telecommute due to child care conflicts – but this is not an ideal solution for any of the parties involved: the child, the parent, or the company. The child may not understand the importance of the work that their parent is doing and could cause a disruption that could potentially distract or embarrass the parent who is doingtheir very best to balance it all.
Then there is the small business owner. While being their own boss does give individuals the flexibility of when they focus on work, they can also tell you that the challenges in maintaining a healthy work-life balance are similarto the ones faced by employees. Beingthe owner of your own business also means that you are a single individual performing several roles all at once. Depending on the size of your company, not only may you be servicing clients yourself, but you are also responsible for managing the many aspects of your business such as: accounting,marketing, legal compliance, recruiting, etc. Additionally many small business owners work from home and face the same distractions from children faced by any other work-at-home individual.
So what is one to do to help balance all of life’s demands? Here are a few suggestions that may help:
1. Organize Yourself First – take at least 15 to 20 minutes each morning to review andupdate both your work and personal calendars to ensure that there are no conflicts and that you have time to achieve all your commitments. During this process you should identify the Top Five Professional and Top Five Personal Goals that you will achieve that day. Most will argue that they actually have to achieve twenty things that day… but the truth is, will they? Be realistic, so instead prioritize. Personally speaking I have a long list of “Running To-DoTasks” that I use to help me remember all of the many things that I need to do, and out of that list I choose my Top Five Professional / Personal Goals for the day. At the end of the day when you achieve your to-do list you have a great sense of satisfaction.
2. Have Technology Work for You – to really get organized you need to start leveraging the many technologies that exist in today’s connected world. You may think that perhaps they are too complicated and you don’t have time to learn them. However, there are some easy-to-use tools available for PCs, tablets, and phones, some even free, which help simplify the complicated lives of a 21st Century person. Staying organized requires access to your calendar and to-do list no matter where you are and these tools help!
3. Be Flexible – as a perpetual and on the verge of being obsessive-compulsive planner, life has taught me that you need to be flexible, regardless of your plans for the day. Priorities will change, schedules will alter, project plans may get delayed – something always comes up! Therefore be flexible in understanding that your priorities for the day may change and that you may not get to complete what you set out to achieve. Always remember, however, that if the alteration of your plans impact someone else, the professional thing to do is advise them in a timely manner. When something disrupts your day and you resolve it, always return to your Top Five Goals to see how you canre-prioritize the remaining tasks for the day.
4. Compartmentalize Your Time – speaking of flexibility, it is also important that you compartmentalize your time. What do I mean by “compartmentalize your time”? It means that you need to be forgiving with yourself and understand that you don’talways have to be doing twenty things at the same time. Instead, set specific time frames to focus on specific projects and commit to working on only that task. For those who have the luxury of working from home, set strict rules with your children about what you are doing and the importance of the work that you do in your home office. And instead give them tasks and activities to complete while you work to help minimize the distractions. Yet, when it is time to spend time with your family make the commitment to be fully engaged. Don’t sneak peeks at your e-mail, instead give yourself the ability to disconnect and be re-energized by your family.
Being your own boss is tricky, as the role often comes with more work than that of an employee. However, the benefits of flexibility and owning your success are very attractive. Learning how to create discipline about balancing the demands of both work and family life, perhaps considering some of the tips above, will lead to deep personal satisfaction and success.