How do we stop feeling guilty about work getting in the way of our personal life? Jane Maudsley of Little Voices has learnt a few great ways to do it over the years
As I write this latest diary in the car on my laptop waiting for my daughter’s drama lesson at Little Voices, the performing arts franchise I founded, to finish, I realised that the entire month has been manically busy. It never stops does it?
Summer is not downtime just because it’s the holiday season. Along with my priority list at work I have to juggle my family life, which includes children going back to school, shopping and running errands. Some days you don’t know where the time goes and everything starts consuming you. I often struggle to even book a hair appointment, let alone attending one. How do you achieve it all without feeling guilty?
When my daughter started high school in September, it really knocked me. It was an emotional moment seeing her all grown up, standing at the bus stop and beaming at the idea of independence. Looking back, I handled the stages of nursery and primary school just fine but no longer having my little buddy in the front seat next to me had me in tears. I realised how life had changed direction again and remembered how I’d spent most of her primary school days immersed in work and was never very attentive on weeknights. I was always answering messages and calls, working and developing my business.
But now I have certain strategies I’ve adopted over the years. Being in business for over a decade teaches you a lot and I have certain methods in place to ensure I strike the right balance between my professional and personal life.
My dos and don’ts:
I keep weekends sacred for family time. They're free from work and dedicated to pure mum and daughter time. To safeguard this balance, I ensure I don’t have emails sent to my phone. Also, I wake up at 5am every day to get the important things done to drive the business forward. Otherwise in my family time I do what want to do and will say no to any work-related activities.
In fact, I’m now planning more days off in advance and blocking chunks of time away from the office. If I don’t put it in the diary and say I’m off then it doesn’t happen.
But as a business owner, the advantage we have over our staff is that we always have a choice while those who are employed don’t have that flexibility. The question is whether we're making the best choices? Are we making a decision allowing us to feel successful in our business and fulfilled in our personal life?
Time should be spent based on your life priorities. It’s about what you value and shouldn’t be influenced by anyone else’s opinion. Saying no isn’t as easy as it may seem but it's ever so crucial. Because I find the word no so difficult to say I give myself time to ponder my decision. I don’t give an affirmative answer when asked something.
Ultimately, I'd like to learn how to work smarter. I am a goal-orientated person and my year is planned, the targets are set and each month has milestones that must be met. To borrow a phrase from Kate Lester, someone I respect immensely in franchising, she talks about the planes that need to land. I find helpful to organise my future. This means I make time to make phone calls and send emails. To get that right, I plan my days the night before, setting out the overall working week on a Sunday to writing shopping lists and planning the meals.
But even with those strategies in place it can still be difficult sometimes to take time off. I’m lucky to have a very supportive partner who ensures I get my me-time and drags me away before I collapse. He makes sure I do the things that are important to me, from time with him and my daughter to seeing friends and exercising to clear my mind and refocus.
I also have the very best team any CEO could ask for. They’re so incredibly talented, caring, capable and supportive. If you can create a great team, which is fundamentally the most important thing in business, you’re already winning.
By writing this diary I have counselled myself. We can get it all done and feel less guilty – we just have to make better choices. I need to keep honing my skills for getting it all done in the time I have and ensure I schedule in space for my personal life around a 90-hour working week. Guilt is a thought not something tangible, so you can change that mindset through better choices.