Thursday, October 22, 2009

Work-life balance: lessons learned or learning

Another post on work-life balance, or lack thereof, is overdue! As many of you know, I'm in the midst of a medical leave, thanks to the effects of long term stress (but who doesn't have long term stress?) on the lupus that I've lived with for years and years, and the diabetes that I've lived with only recently. I've lived a VERY different life for the last two + weeks, and thought I'd share a few insights with you all.
  1. No matter how much you take off your plate, your time will nearly immediately swell with things to fill the void. I've been very busy with my business, and not necessarily with filling orders. It's other things, like marketing and new accounts and redesigning patterns and etc. These are things that really needed to get done, but I jut haven't had the time to do them. It's also the invites from friends who say, "Now that you don't have anything to do, how about (going to lunch/dinner/the mall/whatever?" I so wish I had nothing to do. :) But I do love being able to catch up with friends.
  2. The magic work/time phenomenon still exists. There's a workplace phenomenon that I've always found to be true. The time that it takes to complete a task or project will expand to fit all available time. If someone has an unstructured eight hours, that person will take eight hours to complete a 20-30 minute task. This isn't true of everyone! And it's not true 100% of the time. But it does tend to be true when you're trying something new (so you may be unsure of yourself), or you're not feeling very self motivated (happens to us all now and then), or it's a task or project that just keeps kicking your behind. And it just starts a cycle that has to be quickly broken of kvetching, taking too long to complete things, beating yourself up for the taking too long, requiring a treat to feel better, followed by reading your favorite blogs or websites, followed by a TV break, etc., etc. You see the problem there? I wasn't catching on at first, but the lightbulb went on one day early on, and thank goodness, I'm able to catch myself now, before it's too late!
  3. You can only do so much in a 24 hour day, given the laws of space and time.
    No one has perfected a machine to give you more than 24 hours in a day, and you need a chunk of those hours for (a) sleeping, (b) eating, (c) etc. Since my little business is me, myself and I, I can't take on more than I can handle. Believe me, this is incredibly difficult for me to accept. I always take on more than I can handle, and then I manage to handle it. I'm in the midst of trying to complete the too many things I took on during the last two weeks! While my business is me, myself and I, taking on more than one person with limited time can actually accomplish ends up being counter productive. Tasks and projects take longer to complete. I'm at increased risk of forgetting something. I spend more time managing "the list," rather than doing the work. BUT ... if you run a super small business, you most likely want to grow! You probably want more wholesale accounts, new direct customers, more opportunities. Where's the balance between sustainable growth and too much? I don't have an answer for that, but what I, myself, am doing is taking on a couple of new accounts, working on getting them set up/fulfilling the orders, making them part of the routine. Then a couple more accounts, lather, rinse, repeat. I'd LOVE to hear what you all do to get work done in limited time without overwhelming yourself! Or if you do overwhelm yourself, how do you handle the overwhelment (is that a word?)?.
Those are more than enough for one post - there will be more, though! I'd truly love to hear about your experiences with these, and how you handle them (or don't!). Maybe we can learn together.


Lama Works said...

I'm going through the same thing that you are! I recently quit my day job and moved to my husband's home town. While I am really excited to have more than just nights and weekends to run my shop, his extended family in the area feels sorry for me that I'm just home alone all day so they like to stop by a lot. They don't get that I'm running a business and yes, that does take marketing, organizing, designing ... all sorts of things! I'm trying my hardest to break my days into chunks and accomplish certain things certain days. I've had the exact same thoughts as you have these past few weeks, so I smiled when I saw your blog today. You aren't alone!

kathiroussel said...

brenda-- first i just want to comment on your health-- i'm sorry to learn you have so much to manage. my 20 year old son has lupus and my 22 year old son has diabetes type 1--so i'm aware to some degree of the care these particular health issues require-- to maintain health-- on top of everything else!! i'm glad you are taking time off and de-stressing as much as possible-- a wise decision.

as for your own business-- the beauty of it is that you can let up a little when you start feeling overwhelmed and push the limits a bit more when you have a higher tolerance level. i often find myself feeling like i'm spinning my wheels and can never make enough! --but when i remind myself that this really isn't a race-- it's about the qualities of work and life that i want to maintain. if it means i don't make as much work or as much money as someone else--well that's going to be o.k ( so long as i can cover my expenses!!) i really want this to be an enjoyable experience--otherwise i would be out working for someone else. in having my own little business i can create and stage the experience that i want to enjoy ---and get pretty darn close to making it happen.
so my hat's off to you brenda-- i hope your business grows as time and energy allow-- and that your health benefits from this experience!!

best to you!!


kathiroussel said...


i love your kitty!