Here, savvy women entrepreneurs share practical tips and advice.
Ten Steps to Managing Your Time
Woman entrepreneur Barbara May juggles her life as President of The Corporate Support Group Inc. and E Compu Wear Inc. (www.csg-now.com, www.canadarebates.info, http://ewear.promocan.com) - one of Canada's Top 100 Women-Owned Businesses from 1999 to 2001 - and as a mother of four children. Balancing her time between these two different worlds, she also manages to coach hockey and lacrosse, and is an active member of many national women's organizations. Her valuable advice on time management can help you have more of it yourself.
Start thinking of your time as a "return on investment." Don't spend time on a project or task that has no impact on your bottom line or on future business. Schedule tasks, considering the investment of both time and resources, and the due dates.
- Decide on what you need to delegate and what you need to do yourself.
- Save some fun tasks as a motivator and as a mental or physical break in between the tougher ones.
2. Delegate to qualified people
It seems almost impossible to get a vacation if you are an entrepreneur. My best three options are:
- Go out of the country, so no one can call you and vice versa (although you may worry the whole time).
- Work through your vacation time and return un-rested and in need of another holiday.
- ***Best advice*** Delegate the responsibility to your office Champions, people whom you trust to manage and handle a crisis for you.
Everyone needs a vacation, and you need to have an authorized and qualified back up. Bon voyage!
3. Share work with friends
If you're unable to hire a gardener, housekeeper and a personal shopper, one of the best solutions I have found is "sharing". My friends and I share the kids' sports travel (car pool), baby-sit for each other, and even get together for mom-child meals. It also works well to get a quiet night with your hubby, as long as you're willing to have one night with a house full of visiting children staying over with you at other times!
4. Use time-saving technology
If your life has evolved past the classic day-timer, then keep all your business appointments, sports schedules and to-do lists on a Personal Digital Assistant (Palm, IPAQ etc). There are a number on the market with many different features.
If you're working with a smaller-than-ever budget, staff reductions and limited time, consider outsourcing programs. You will find they are a cost-effective way of doing more with fewer staff members. Having an outside partner, who is able to provide the core competencies you require, is a smart and efficient way of handling business.
6. Empower others to share in the workload
Empower others to make decisions-slowly.
- Coach them at the beginning.
- Support them as they learn what they are doing.
- Empower and trust them to make the right decisions once they have mastered the ropes. If they can't handle steps one and two... replace them, because you'll end up taking care of a larger problem, or doing the job yourself later on.
- Give praise and recognition. Everyone wants to be recognized and feel that someone appreciates his or her time, energy and dedication.
7. Create an open-door policy
Having an open-door policy not only makes you more approachable, but eases communication between you and your staff. I like my staff to feel that they can approach me about anything, business or personal. The different perspective you gain on your business - and knowing what's going on with your staff sooner rather than later - helps in the decision-making process regarding what tasks need to be prioritized, delegated or outsourced to move business forward. It also helps to maintain a positive and supportive relationship with your staff.
Multi-tasking will help you accomplish more in the same amount of time. Have that pedicure while your hi-lites are setting! Combine an unpleasant task (folding laundry), while doing a pleasant one (watching the news). Accomplishments help you not only be productive and tick off the list items, but also become a personal reward incentive. At the end of the day, focus on your accomplishments and not on what you failed to achieve. This will help keep you motivated and less stressed.
9. Get a good night's sleep
A proper amount of sleep is just as important as the right diet and exercise as part of healthy living. Talk to your children and husband about all that needs to be done as a "family". This not only includes work, but the household requirements, hockey, lacrosse, homework, meals and personal time. Each should understand what needs to get done, and who can support by assisting in making it happen.
10. Invest in "me" time
Personal time is an "investment" - so invest it as you choose. One of my hobbies includes gardening, which is both relaxing and fun. My friends and I like to exchange plants (to help on the cost factor), and it's a great way to keep in touch with your friends who share the same interests! And if you have time to read only one book, or watch one movie, here is my personal recommendation: Eddie and the Cruisers - this movie is a classic!
Escaping the Superwoman Trap
Southmedic Inc.'s Lee McDonald shares work-life balance wisdom.
Lee McDonald admits it, right up front.
"I was Superwoman. I just didn't look or feel like superwoman."
President of Southmedic Inc., a medical
device manufacturer doing business in 45 countries. Supportive
wife, involved mother of three, keeper of a beautiful home,
hostess with the mostess. Etc., etc., etc. "I was flying around
doing everything, being everything to everybody," Lee says.
"But, my moment of truth came after attending a three-week
business development course. I stopped and thought and realized
that when I stripped all of these roles away, I didn't know
who I was. There was this big void. I just knew I couldn't
… and didn't want to … keep doing it all. I had to make some
Realize that no one woman really does have it all.
Many women tend to pick out the best
of everyone else's life and think "I can have all of those
things," Lee adds. We exhaust ourselves trying to get them.
Instead, we have to stop, smell the roses and realize that
no one woman really does have it all. And neither can we.
Setting our own priorities - without wistful hankerings for
Julia Roberts' looks, Melinda Gates' bank account or home
décor spreads in glossy, lifestyle magazines - is the best
way to find some time for ourselves and a great deal of contentment
with our lives.
Her priorities were spending more time
with her husband and children, and a little more time on herself,
especially to exercise. She found it. How?
- By re-prioritizing:
Instead of comparing your life against other people's, figure
out what's most important to you. Then, do the math. If
you want more time for family or yourself and your daytimer
is chocked full every day, something has to go.
- By delegating more:
Yes, your business is "your baby" too. You brought it into
the world and helped it grow. But, like sending a child
off to school, there's a time to let others take over certain
responsibilities and tasks. (Entertain the possibility that
they might even do some things better!) As your business
grows, you need to delegate more.
- By recognizing what stresses
you can manage: One big trick to managing stress
in your life is to realize you do have a choice when it
comes to eliminating some stressors (an unreliable supplier
or a client that's just not worth the time or money it takes
to keep him), while accepting that there isn't much you
can do about others (your child's illness).
For more of Lee's suggestions for balancing
your work and personal life, see Champions,