Balance {and lack thereof}

Posted on Friday, February 3rd, 2012

I don’t know about you, but here in my home we are constantly looking for balance, and constantly redefining the meaning of it.

For the last few years, I have handled “work – life balance” with the motto…”Do what needs done – when it needs done – period.” You can see that from this post almost two years ago. While my to-do list was always completed, it usually meant I was frantically dashing from an email to fill up a juice cup, back to a design, over to a diaper change, throw laundry in the washer, check my phone, and back to the original email. In the end…it all was complete, but chaos was there every step of the way. Even when the little ones were at preschool I found myself multitasking just as much. I would start an email, which led me to a design I needed to revise at which time I would see a notification on my phone that someone had mentioned me on twitter or commented on FB…then off to social media to respond, then back to the email I was working on to find that 3 more emails had come in, one especially intriguing so I would hop over to read it and respond before coming back to the original one started 30 minutes before. Do you see where this is going? I made EVERY SINGLE THING in my life top priority so that I felt each thing needed immediate response.

I am driven, emotional, and passionate. I want to not only succeed at everything I do, I want to excel. I do not want to look back on my life and wish I had done more. I want every moment to feel like it’s meaningful. Whether you are a stay at home parent, work at home mom, or work for a company you adore…when you love what you do, it’s hard to “shut it off”. My husband has suggested many times that I “check emails only twice a day” to which I would laugh (still do) at how ridiculous that sounded….after all I normally check email every 10 minutes….sometimes more. He has also noted how much time I spend with my phone in hand…to which I usually denied.

When my four year old mentioned how often I work…I decided to try something radical…ok, not radical really…but radical for me and through it I have found a new and much happier balance. I decided to become truly present in each and every task, and to define my focus and stay on track… I would have have told you weeks ago that I was truly present already, but I wasn’t.

I put down the phone/ipad/ipod/laptop – This is the biggest one.  On my phone I can check email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Etsy. Technology is what drives my business and  keeps me in touch with collueges and clients, and it is amazing…but there is a time and place for everything! It started when I decided that I needed to commit time to my kids every day without any of the technology I normal keep at fingers reach. When I began stepping away from the computer and putting the phone away (so I don’t even see those notifications popping up on the screen) something amazing happened…. in only 3 hours, I played board games with the kids, worked on letters with my daughter, prepped and cooked dinner with the kids help, made lunch for the next day, we all worked on getting the house picked up…and we never considered turning on the TV. I honestly had no idea how much time those innocent glances on the phone or computer sucked my time….and no, seeing an email the SECOND it came in has yet to be more important than the little ones. Ever.

I set NO WORK hours – People always suggest setting work hours for working from home businesses, and that’s just not practical when you live and breathe your job. It’s just not. I love to work at 11 am and I love to work at 11pm. Inspiration hits at any time of the day, not just between 9-5. I am in and out all day which can take me me away from work, so I need to make up for that time at other times, so “office hours” don’t work for me. What I can do, however, is set NO WORKING hours. After seeing what happened by simply putting down the phone, I decided to set a block of time everyday that I didn’t do any work. At all. Think about it, when I say I will not work for a few hours a day….and to have those hours SET, I feel the clock ticking to get other things done! This also means that when I sit down to work, the other “house” things are done so I can focus on work! My NO WORKING time is before, during, and after dinner. For me, this works best, since I do work every night after the kids go to bed…and I do work every day while they are at preschool. When I step away from work for a few hours (with out any TVs on) I can accomplish quite a bit more than I ever knew!!  {PS the first two days I was panicked the whole time that by the time I started working again at 8pm my inbox would be full and I wouldn’t ever go to bed…but instead, I was able to focus on the tasks at hand and work more efficiently}

I began to FOCUS on my end Goals – Do you know how many things we all do every day that are “fluff”? We do things because other people are doing them, because we think it’s what we are supposed to do, or because it seems fun? When I stepped back and I looked at my business goals, I realized I was doing a lot of things that weren’t really in line with my business plan. I was doing things that my peers or other bloggers were doing, but they weren’t things that were moving me in the direction I wanted to be going. These are things that were fun, but they weren’t in line with my goals, and took time away from my family. Those things need to be cut {at least until I have a ton of free time}. {This also requires having a good “goal” in mind for your life, business, and family.}

Realize that everything is not at the same level of importance…then act accordingly. – This was a hard one for me. I am passionate about everything I do, and I feel like every single thing in my life takes precedence over everything else. When I type it, of course I realize it’s impossible…but I have been really trying to keep everything equal. When I looked at the different hats I wear everyday…they are not equal. Some are very important, some are not. Some need my immediate attention…and some don’t.

It’s OK to say NO. I wish I could take every order, every custom design, every graphic job that comes my way, but knowing my business goal helps me keep a clear head about which projects will help me reach that goal, and which may just be fluff. I have also learned to book only a certain number of custom orders a month…then take that number down two…and that’s realistically what I can handle. I subtract two, as I know ahead that I will have a few opportunities each month that will help me reach business goal and I have to leave room for them.

I turned off the TV except a few special times – This is to ensure that the time I spend working is actually spent working, and the time I spend with the kids is quality time. We still like to cuddle on the couch and watch a show at night as a family…but it’s no longer background noise.

Lists – I have always made lists…I love lists, and I love crossing things off. This isn’t new. I have just revised the way I cross things off – one at a time. I don’t start on one thing, then check email or hop on Facebook. I start and finish each item before I do anything else!

Hire HELP for the things you don’t want to do – It is hard to know when you are ready for this, and it’s a tough decision to make. To pay someone the money you have earned and hand over some of your responsibilities isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s just what your business needs to grow. If you spend all of your time just keeping up, you can’t work on growing and exploring new opportunities. I have heard of many people who were able to grow their business after hiring help, not before. Most of us think we have to wait until we get “big enough” to hire help…when in fact hiring help early can allow you to focus on your goals and not the emails piling up! List the things that take up time everyday and then look at which ones you don’t want to do and look to give that work away. It doesn’t even have to be your business…it could be hiring someone to help clean your home or taking laundry to the dry cleaners. Personally I have a friend who has been answering my Etsy emails for months and it takes a huge load off to know that people aren’t sitting around waiting for an answer from me longer than they should be!

Someone commented on Facebook today that F {family} comes before W {work} in the alphabet for a reason…and I think she hit the nail on the head. No matter your situation, I suggest you just give it a chance to get away from the social media, phones, emails, and computers for a bit of time each day and live fully in the present, with the people who are looking you in the eye. Like these little guys….

{Courtney Vickers Photography}

And the truth – I have had several people comment that they have noticed me being “quiet” on the social media sites, which is a little hard for me to hear….but at the same time I have also had my daughter tell me that she loves my “NO WORK” hours and I hear her talk about all of the things we do during that time. I completely understand that what works for me will not work for everyone. I know that I have a flexible schedule, and not everyone does, but I do think that many of the ideas can be used for people in many different situations.

 

27 thoughts on “Balance {and lack thereof}

  1. LOVE this post! It really puts into perspective how difficult it can be to be a work-at-home Mom and balance the lofty goals of excelling at motherhood and business. Kori, I think you’re amazing – talented and beautiful on the inside and out! 🙂 Have a fab weekend!

  2. Lisa I. on said:

    So proud of you – this is an amazing post. Something I definitely needed to hear, since I’m in a similar work situation as you. I definitely think I need to step away from the computer and set some “no work” hours. What an awesome, insightful post, my friend! 🙂

  3. Oh Kori, I completely understand what you are saying/going thru. Currently this is what’s going on in my life as well. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one. I needed some advise on how to. Your tips are going to be very helpful. Thank you for sharing your ideas and personal life. For me it’s much apperciated. 🙂

  4. Great blog post, thank you!! It’s always good to hear that other people struggle with balance and what they’ve done that works for them!

  5. What a wonderful post! Thank you so much for this. Your life sounds exactly like mine, same problems, same desires, everything! A crazy busy January has helped me to realize some of these problems that you have already tackled and fixed. I will be taking all of your thoughts, ideas and solutions to heart…love the no work hours idea! Today, for the first time in ages, I played in the snow with my daughter without the distraction of email/Facebook, etc. and had a blast. Thank you again!

  6. Claudia @ Tini Posh on said:

    Great blog post Kori! I think alot of mamas can relate, love your advice. I decided to shift some priorities around this year too, more focus on family, friends, me and less on work. I love work, but it cannot be my main focus this year. It has only been a month but so far so good! To be honest I don’t think I will ever find the perfect balance..but I have accepted I am ok with it. Accepting I can not do everything has brought me peace within, making me more happy, focused, and grateful for everything in my life.

  7. Nancy McPherson on said:

    thank you for the honesty and reminder to us all … a post i am saving and placing in my to do list book!

  8. i hope it gives you some comfort to know that you are not alone. this past week, i’ve been helping a friend with an event and have been answering texts immediately b/c she’s ‘at the store’. it is taking time away from my quiet time with hubby and i feel incredibly guilty. i love your idea of ‘no work’ hours. and i, too have been accused of having my phone all.the.time and denying it. it’s a hard habit to break, but thanks for the reminder to put away the technology. i find that if the phone is in another room, it’s easier. silly, i know, but it works. and i think you’re right that those quick glances at the phone are definitely noticed by the little ones. i need to get better at that, too.

  9. Hello friend! I call you friend because when I read your post, I feel as if I am reading about myself (my old self, thank God). 18 months ago, I finally answered the question I was complimented with all the time: “How do you do it all?” I admitted that ‘I do it all’ by missing out on life — the playing, memory-making parts of life … the parts of life that matter. From that moment, I began my journey to live “Hands Free” … letting go of distraction to grasp what really matters. I have been practicing each day to make small steps to be present and connect with my family … the results have been profound. I have been sharing my journey for over a year on my blog and am inspired by my readers who are striving to live “Hands Free,” too. I just finished my book proposal so that more people can receive this vital message that you and I have both discovered … living life distracted is not really living at all.

    I am so excited that a friend of “The Hands Free Revolution” brought me here. I am applauding you, friend, and wish you the best!

  10. Dear Kori,

    You have written with such passion and wisdom. You’ve learned what it takes many people a lifetime to figure out. Live in the present moment and give you complete attention to what’s really important. In fact, you’re making me feel a bit humble as I seem to a bit adrift right now, but somehow that seems okay for me at this moment. It’s truly amazing what you can accomplish without being involved with social media 24/7 along with so many other distractions. I love you and I know you’ll accomplish everything you want in your lifetime. Love, Cathy

  11. I fell so identify with what you’ve written. Since I got my degree in architecture I’ve been working at home, I’m used to it, but becoming a home workig mom, has made working very difficult!!! I’m a mother of three (10-7-2)amazing, patience and understanding beautifull girls but still they need time with mom!!! I’m gonna put into practice your NO WORK hours!!! Thanks for sharing your experience!!! You made me look things in a different way!!!

  12. thanks so much for this post! This is a great. As I was reading, I was sitting there thinking “this is me.” I’m truly addicted to my iphone and check it constantly…..pinterest, facebook, etc. There have been times where I’ve forgotten it at home or misplaced it and realized ya know I really haven’t missed much. I mean, how many updates can there be? This post has inspired me to just lay the phone down…..and in the other room. I work a full time job, plus run my business so I’m always challenged by the work/balance, but you’re right. Family should come before Work. Thanks again for the insight!

  13. Kori, your advice is great. I love how honest you are about the things you know you need to do and how difficult it is to execute them. I’m working on the ‘It’s OK to say NO’.

  14. Must admit that your post brought me to tears because I could truly identify myself with all your points. I am a 2 1/2 yr old and an about to be 1 yr old. And my business is almost 2 yrs. I feel I have 3 babies (LOL plus my husband that’d be 4). I LOVE all of them. However, I’m starting to see that the business will grow at which ever rate you want it to but my kids are growing fast and I’m missing it. 🙁

    My resolution for 2012 was to “Work Smarter not Harder” and slowly I am accomplishing this. I’ve hired help. I’ve learned to say No. I’m starting to prioritize tasks by their level of importance. I’ve set a new goal for my family and my business. And most importantly, I’ve realized that my family needs me and I’ll never be able to turn back the clock. It’s been tough but I feel better and more productive now. Not to mention, I am sleeping now.

    Thank you soo much for this post Kori!! Truly hit home for me.

  15. WOW! I’m so glad someone re-tweeted the link to this post because it is JUST what I need right now. As a business-owner and pregnant entrepreneur, I’ve been thinking about how I will juggle all that needs to get done once the baby arrives. Everything seems to be uber important, when you’ve made me realize, that’s just not the case. I too am a sucker for checking email as soon as I hear the ping in my inbox. I’m going to bookmark this and reread it when I need to remind myself to focus on the entire picture… not just work.

  16. Great post. Your kids and hubby are lucky to have you. But I have a question, when did you become so mature and insightful?

  17. Seriously amazing post, Kori! I swear you read my mind! 😉

  18. What a fantastic & honest post! It comes at absolutely the PERFECT time for me as I struggle with my new business. I have one child in elementary school and one still at home w/ me. I feel like my youngest always gets the short end of the stick because I’m always “working”. I am trying to walk away from the computer and the email because I am working EXACTLY in the manner you described which is pure chaos!! Thank you so much for this post!!

  19. Coolidge on said:

    I started working online in 2000. I learned exactly as you did. I noticed that friends who do not work online actually get MAD because I stay away from social media! They say , “Well, aren’t you on the computer anyway?” When I say yes I am creating products I sell for my business, they act as if I personally shoved them aside for business, but I just say “Well, isn’t that what you do when you go to your job everyday?” I get a blank look 🙂

  20. Coolidge on said:

    I started working online in 2000. I learned exactly as you did. I noticed that friends who do not work online actually get MAD because I stay away from social media! They say , “Well, aren’t you on the computer anyway?” When I say yes I am creating products I sell for my business, they act as if I personally shoved them aside, but I just say “Well, isn’t that what you do when you go to your job everyday?” I get a blank look 🙂

  21. You are not alone and I really enjoyed reading this! You are a wonderful mama and a very talented business woman! Keeping family first will be great for longevity!

  22. Well, I have been trying to comment on this all week!

    Amen to this Kori! Kori you have such a sweet spirit, that is so rare to find in people these days. To say that I can completely understand this post is an understatement. Last year I took off from Thanksgiving to New Years and I thought it was the best decision EVER. It allowed me to really think about my business and what I want from it – which means more focus on the important things and less FLUFF! I love that my Sadaia said to me… Mommy I love spending more time with you! – nothing will ever take that away. BUT I feel myself getting pulled back into the craziness and this reminder was RIGHT on time! Thanks Kori!

    ebony

  23. Well, I have been trying to comment on this all week!

    Amen to this Kori! Kori you have such a sweet spirit, that is so rare to find in people these days. To say that I can completely understand this post is an understatement. Last year I took off from Thanksgiving to New Years and I thought it was the best decision EVER. It allowed me to really think about my business and what I want from it – which means more focus on the important things and less FLUFF! I love that my Sadaia said to me… Mommy I love spending more time with you! – nothing will ever take that away. BUT I feel myself getting pulled back into the craziness and this reminder was RIGHT on time! Thanks Kori! ebony

  24. Whew! I thought you had a special machine that added 8 hours to your day, or you had 5 clones. 🙂

    It’s always wonderful to know that we are all in the same boat when it comes to trying to have and do it all, and still keep the most important things first, and not have our heads explode at the end of the day. I think mine may one day…and confetti will come flying out. Thanks for sharing, I’ve always said a rock star you are!

  25. Kori incredible post and very inspiring… Last year, I really struggled with managing my time between my part-time/full-time work and spending quality time with my family. I vowed this year to put my family first always and make time for them no matter what… it’s so easy to get consumed with keeping up with the Jones’, but I realized it’s okay if I don’t “post” on everybody’s party blog/fanpage or log off of FB and Twitter. Those things are definitely fluff and I’ve learned that the hard way.

    I love your website and I always stop by from time to time to see what’s going on – on your side of the world wide web : ) Keep up the great work, stay inspired, and keep those inspiring posts coming our way!

    xoxo, Latisha

  26. Hi i’ m from México and i run a similar business héroe in my hometown and this article make me realized that i have to put away my phone a few hours a day thank You for sharing your expirience

  27. Pingback: Resolutions and Free Digital Wallpaper | Kori Clark

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