Last night we heard from 3 fashion industry professionals who are also working mothers, wives, friends, sisters, daughters and/or have multiple professional demands, about how they balance it all.
Here are their top tips summarised so you can put what works into practice for you and restore some calm and balance to your life while handling all of your business like a BOSS!
1. Set boundaries
This was the first cab off the rank last night and all three ladies agreed, as much as you need to get the work done, you NEED to set clear boundaries for yourself otherwise "work-creep" happens. Work creep is when you just keep working and working and working. 5pm passes, 6pm passes and you’re still working away because there’s no clear line between what you’re current doing and what you should be moving on to. Taking calls at dinner time, doing emails in bed until midnight, all of these things happen when you don’t have clear boundaries. You have to set those boundaries for yourself otherwise you'll never stop, never switch off from work. Work out what works for you and all of your competing priorities and then set clear boundaries so you know when the work day is over or when the home duties need to stop, when dedicated family time is etc.
Also in addition to time related boundaries its important to set boundaries with your staff, suppliers, business associates etc about what their role is and what your role is so that your time is not being taken up doing things you should't be. Taking calls you shouldn't be or responding to emails you shouldn't be. Investing time in working out clear roles and boundaries for everyone involved in achieving your objectives will save you so much time and mental space in the long run. It also allows people in your professional and personal life to thrive in a role that is clearly defined and gives them opportunity to take responsibility for their part, be accountable, take pride in what they do and feel a sense of accomplishment and growth when they contribute to your combined success or the success of the household.
2. Don't apologise for implementing things that help you get the job done
Last night Katelyn and Erin talked about starting businesses with new babies and in order to do what they needed to do they were wearing their babies at business meetings, breastfeeding at meetings etc and we all agreed, as long as what you are doing is legal, make absolutely no apologies for doing what you need to do regardless of past social norms, personal sentiments etc.
This tip was also relevant to the discussion we had around DINNER. And we all agreed, if your kids have toast for dinner or chicken nuggets every now and again - NO ONE IS GOING TO DIE AND YOU ARE NOT A HORRIBLE MOTHER! Flowing on from the conversation we actually talked about some really helpful tips for managing this huge daily task (aside from sharing it with others in the household where you can or even outsourcing the work! We talked about one of Courtney's friends who pays his mum to do his meal prepping for him and she loves it, has extra spending money for her treats and he has a huge chunk of his personal workload completely off his plate to focus on his current goals at present and ensure he still eats well all week, even after 14 hour days). The girls advocated:
- Having a weaponry of quick, easy meals that you know how to whip together quickly and are nice and balanced with protein and vegetables - chicken wings and vegetables, burritos loaded with veggies, a quick pasta and simple salad
- Air fryers - Katelyn swears by them! Follow her on instagram to see all of the fab, easy meals she's created with her air fryer. Meat and veggies that take care of themselves in the air fryer and simple sides @katelyn.ellery
- Meal delivery companies - like Hello Fresh. Some are pre-prepared, some are just pre-packaged with simple recipes that are actually already all stepped out in the most efficient way possible and guide you through doing XYZ while ABC is happening. 20-35 minute meals from start to finish are perfectly possible with these pre-packaged ingredients and excellent, optimised instructions. Trial a few and work out which ones work best for you.
- Cook 2-3 times per week (potentially varying the meals slightly) and freeze portions or add things to them to make them different. You don't have to cook every night! Make yiros’, one night and them make a gorgeous marinated lamb salad the next day with baby spinach, feta and all the ingredients you had on your yiros the night before but in salad form! Or make a roast dinner one night and then cut up the leftover meat the next night for salads, wraps, yiros, fajitas etc. Courtney is a big fan of making a big batch of spaghetti bolognaise sauce and turn a portion into a lasagna for the next night (or freeze it) and then freeze another portion of the bolognaise sauce for a quick, easy meal another time. Also use bolognaise sauce to top baked potatoes with all the veggies!
3. Sometimes it just needs to FEEL more balanced
Courtney's top tip was self-care. She said sometimes think aren't as out of control or demanding as they FEEL and by managing your emotional strength and mental health you can restore balance and calm to your life, and perform better without actually having to cut back.
Courtney's top tips for managing stress and workloads include:
- Starting with the end in mind - every day. Don't flounder. Make a plan every day. Write down what your priorities for the day/week are and mentally map out how you are going to effectively and efficiently achieve them so you still have time for yourself and your family and friends. Work out what the "big rocks" are - the things that can't move - and work around those first. Everything else can fall in around those (or be dropped off completely! Sometimes this exercise helps you work out that things taking up mental space and energy are not actually critical to you achieving your goals and can go - see tip 4!).
- Take a few moments each day to clear your mind with meditation - mental load is often very different to the physical workload you actually have - so clear it. Clear the load and start fresh.
- Exercise! Even 20 minutes a day. It releases endorphins, clears the mind and energises you all in one! You can't afford NOT to do it! If you're a busy life boss you need a clear head and all the energy you can get so a 20 minute investment each day will pay off.
- Acknowledge what you are grateful for - each night, before you sign off from work and start your other duties, write down three things you're grateful for. This helps ease the mental load and puts things in perspective for you. It's also a great mental space to start your planning task the next morning. It will help you work out what's important and what's not. What are you doing this all for? What brings you joy in life?
Erin also agreed that "me time" and "selfishness" is critical to her success. That old saying "you can't pour from an empty cup" is so true in both our personal and professional lives. Erin said "Take some time for yourself each day. Whether it is a five minute walk around the block or a one hour meditation, allowing yourself the time to take check will help to create calm and focus".
Katelyn agreed that sometimes she takes five to go outside and water the garden, calming her mind at the same time and finds she gives so much more to what she does next as a result.
4. Sometimes you genuinely do need to cut back
Some of us tend to overload ourselves and even Condoleezza Rice crossed with SuperWoman couldn't get it done. Using the planning tasks, meditation and gratitude exercises set out above, you will get a clearer picture of your purpose and objectives in life. What are you trying to achieve? And why? Are they adding value to your life, or the lives of others? And are some of the things you're doing AROUND all these things (ie not the actual things you’re trying to achieve) adding value or helping you achieve these objectives? If not, cut them out or back.
Make a list of the things you're NOT going to do anymore and stick to it! Also, learn how to delegate. Some things still need to be done just not by you. If you have staff, invest the time and energy (and resources) into training them and growing their roles in your business. If you don't have staff, do you need some? Or can you outsource? Once you get into this mindset and realise what your time is actually worth you'll even start doing it at home! A task that would take me 3 hours to teach myself from youtube and then execute, I outsource to a handyman who gets it done in 30 minutes! Just paid for itself in my time alone. Car washing? Drop it off at the carwash near your local supermarket and $40 later your grocery shopping is done and your car is clean for the month!
Look at all areas of your life and decide what is a YOU problem and what is not. What needs to be delegated and what can stop altogether. You will be surprised how much time and mental space this activity alone will free up!
5. Invest in tools to help you
And not only invest the cost but invest the time in tracking down tools that could help you or talking to others about things they may use.
Last night Katelyn and Erin discussed tools they use to manage their social media accounts (such as Plann) and Courtney let you all know about an amazing little digital tool she uses to delegate tasks and produce two-way communication between the store and herself without her physically needing to be there, called Asana. She can assign tasks to the team (or herself) at any hour of the day or night (whenever she thinks of them) and it pops a task in the app for everyone and also sends an email to the person its assigned to and the person who set it up, creating a workflow of communications so everyone who needs to know, knows what’s going on from a task being assigned to you, to resources or instructions you need to get it done, updates on it such as advice that you could only get it half done by the end of the day and will restart tomorrow, and updates it has been completed.
You can assign all of the resources the person needs to do the work including photos and documents and as the task is completed the tool lets those who need to know, know. Nobody is in the dark! And the mental space this app frees up is INCREDIBLE. Other details can be recorded in the task so you have a record. We even use it to allocate our stocktakes and record where we're up to or any stock discrepancies found. The person assigned the task can then assign any flow on tasks that may arise from it - NO COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN. All recorded in the app, all communicated back to everyone related to the task. It's perfect.
6. Ask questions with open ears
Be willing to learn from others. We can all fall into habits of talking about ourselves but that doesn’t enable growth. Listen to other people and their stories, you just never know what fruits of wisdom you will gain from listening.
7. Work with purpose, not pressure
Often we rush to get all of the things done. We blindly strive towards the finish line which has consequences. Allow yourself breaks in time and mental load. Studies have shown that you are more productive and efficient if you apply breaks in your work.
8. Always be the last one to leave a hug
Particularly applicable for when hugging your children. One day, they may just tire of hugs. Make them last now. It gives them reassurance, it pauses your day and deepens your connection. Hugs are great. If you’re not a hugger, maybe ask yourself why? What's standing between you and sinking into a nice, reassuring, calming hug with someone you love and trust? Sometimes we don't like to feel vulnerable. But sometimes its more efficient! (this is Courtney talking haha! You can hear it already. Erin - “have a beautiful hug”. Courtney - “it's more efficient” HAHA! But Courtney can say that with a full heart and from experience. 2 years ago she was not a hugger at all. And she realised it was because she wasn't comfortable with vulnerability, letting people close to her and feeling like she NEEDED them. But guess what? A 3 minute hug is calming, helps you focus on what's important and reinvigorates you and is MUCH faster than a 60 minute yoga session, a half hour bath or drinking a bottle of wine!
We think that sums up the discussion! (and some of the things we didn't get to or talk about in detail) and we hope you can take a few things away from this that help lighten your load. Because you're amazing, you're doing amazing things and you deserve some YOU time and time for those real, deep and meaningful connections in life. It's not all about work or DOING. We're human BEINGS, not human DOINGS. So we hope some of these tips help you find that balance you deserve.
With all the love, light and calm, rational focus from these amazing tips,
Courtney, Katelyn and Erin