Work-life balance is simple to define. It means finding a happy medium between your career goals and the areas of your personal life that are most important to you, like family and health. But for many people, this simple concept remains an aspiration rather than a reality.
The challenge for women
Achieving the elusive work-life balance can feel like an ongoing challenge – for men and women. A study by the Australia Institute found that workplace attitudes to unpaid overtime suggest we’ve not only failed to improve work-life balance, but actually taken a step backwards.
In an increasingly always-on environment, the ‘work’ aspect – particularly for women running a business and a household – can often outweigh the ‘life’ aspect. Even women who work full-time or run their own business tend to bear the brunt of domestic responsibilities. According to a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, women in Australia devote an average of five hours each day to unpaid domestic work, like cleaning, cooking and child-rearing, while a man’s contribution is closer to three hours.
So what steps can you take for a healthier work-life balance?
Start with identifying what you want to achieve and what you enjoy in life. Do this regularly to ensure the things that make you happy, such as regular exercise or more family time, are balanced with your work goals.
You will need to adjust these to meet your changing priorities. Work out what’s non-negotiable to your equilibrium. For example, do you need a certain amount of time off per week for family obligations, or is a stable income most important?
If you find your personal life is taking a backseat to your thriving venture, think about restructuring the way you run your business. Are you able to work from a home office, or could you outsource certain business functions to lighten your workload?
It’s all about order
A key element of maintaining a healthy work-life balance, particularly if you’re self-employed, is organisation. You should apply the same level of order to your personal life as your work life. Track how you spend your time at work and at home for one week. Do you spend time on things that aren’t overly important? Do the things you spend your time on align with your work and personal priorities? Once you have clarity, create a weekly routine that eliminates unnecessary tasks and then delegate activities that aren’t aligned to either goal.
Also be prepared to adjust your goal-setting. Communicating with colleagues, customers, friends and family is important when determining which deadlines or events are immovable.
A smart move is to seek out effective ways to run your business, like how to reduce costs and improve productivity, and research the habits of successful women in a similar industry or personal situation. This can provide insight into how you can adapt your own behaviours to increase efficiency. You could learn how to make the most of your mornings, or how to fit exercise into your daily routine.
Other simple tasks like creating a clean, comfortable and uncluttered office space can improve productivity.
Technology can make our lives easier, and it will help you create a better work-life balance – but only if you know when to switch off.
Between a smartphone and a home laptop, most of us can operate from home or on the fly – something that’s particularly useful for female business owners with a family. A recent survey conducted by Intuit found that over 80% of self-employed women in Australia use a mobile device to run their business, and 70% use a laptop.
Taking advantage of technology and apps that support business owners, and provide greater flexibility, can quickly improve your work-life balance. Cloud-based accounting software like QuickBooks Online can simplify your financial reporting responsibilities and ease the pressure at tax time. This software can help you track cash flow, sales and expenses, and generate estimates and invoices from a range of mobile or fixed devices.
In addition, tools like Dropbox and Google Drive can provide simple data and file storage in the cloud – so you can access your business files anywhere with an internet connection. Communication and project applications, such as Trello or Slack, can also boost productivity and improve complex workflows.
Take control of technology to improve your work-life balance, but be mindful of when to switch off. Moderate your use, and disconnect during non-work hours for the best results.
Like anything in life, a commitment to a healthy work-life balance requires strategy and planning. A balanced businesswoman is someone who tackles balance the same way she tackles any project – by weighing up priorities against goals, and following a strict regimen to make it happen.
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