Running a business and raising children is a tough balancing act, perhaps the toughest of all. Most “parentrepreneurs” (or "parent-repreneurs”) are stretched in all directions, striving to do the best they can in all areas of their lives.
But when you’re only one person, with only so many hours and only so much mental and physical energy available each day, how can you make sure you’re always giving the best version of yourself to both your business and your family?
How can parentrepreneurs succeed?
Traditionally, the two roles may seem to be at odds, but I believe that being an effective entrepreneur and a good parent are more closely aligned than people think. So with two roles that both require such high levels of dedication, discipline, consistent effort, leadership, and adaptability (to name but a few), one of the biggest challenges facing parentrepreneurs is how to be the best they can be in both domains.
In my experience, you need a two-pronged attack.
First of all, effective time management is an absolute must – you can read more about it here. On the other hand, a factor that’s equally as crucial to succeeding at work and at home, but is all too often overlooked or completely demoted to the bottom of our list of priorities.
Take care of yourself
Cliché? Tick. Much easier in theory than practice? Tick. But still, hear me out!
Much like the long-held entrepreneurial belief that the more time you spend working, the more successful you’ll be, many view parenthood in the exact same way. Again, this is a source of inner conflict and guilt for many parentrepreneurs.
But what many people don’t know is that “quality versus quantity” applies here, too.
As a parentrepreneur, it goes without saying that you want to give 100% to both of your roles, and neglect neither. So after working flat-out all day in CEO mode, our natural instinct is to race home and immediately jump into parent mode. But I don’t have to tell you that even on a good day, running a business is no walk in the park. No matter how hard we try, even the best of us aren’t immune to feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or drained at the end of a tough day.
No one is disputing the importance of parents spending time with their children, but according to a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, there is one instance where spending time with your children can do more harm than good – when you are feeling tired, stressed, guilty, or anxious. A survey of over 1,000 children and their parents reported similar findings. When the children were asked, "If you were granted one wish that could change the way your mother's or your father's work affects your life, what would that wish be?" 56% of parents guessed they would wish for more time together. But in fact, they were surprised to learn that the majority of children wished for their parents to be less tired and less stressed.
This is another reason why all the time management tips in the other How To Thrive As A Parentrepreneur article are so crucial. I know firsthand how difficult it is to maintain healthy habits and keep negative emotions at bay when you’re working long hours and battling a never-ending to-do list with very little to show for it. Being strategic with your time doesn't just provide you with more opportunities to push your business forward, it allows you to reclaim more valuable time to take care of your mental and physical needs.
Bring back breaks
Even if you are able to power through and work non-stop throughout the day, it doesn’t mean you should. It may help you get more done temporarily, which can be tempting when you’ve got deadlines approaching or issues to solve, but it’s not a viable solution for long-term success.
One of the main reasons why business owners are often all too happy to forego breaks is that we feel guilty. We think that we should be doing something productive, instead of wasting time. To the naked eye, it may look like simply “doing nothing”. But if we were able to see the numerous beneficial impacts unfolding in our minds and bodies, we’d never skip a single break again.
Based on the work of groundbreaking sleep researcher Nathaniel Kleitman, experts agree that humans experience 90-120minute cycles of high to low energy, which is now known as our ultradian rhythms. These cycles also apply to our ability to focus. So even if you did push past 90-120minutes of consistent work, according to the principles of ultradian rhythms, the quality of your output is likely to be lower when you’re lacking the energy to concentrate fully. Taking regular breaks helps you to consistently manage your energy levels throughout the day, as well as keep your mood, motivation, creativity, and stress levels balanced.
If you feel like you don’t have time for a “proper” break, experts say that micro-breaks are worthy alternatives. By definition, micro-breaks are short – no more than five minutes – and simple ways to break up repetitive work and give you a mental or physical boost for when you return. Whether it’s walking to the kitchen to make a hot drink or eat a healthy snack, stepping away from your desk to look out a window, or doing some light stretches to relieve your back and neck muscles, these little moments of respite may be all you need to rejuvenate and refresh your mind again.
Review your sleeping habits
Although we may feel like we can function perfectly fine on less than the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep, this habit can be much more detrimental than we realize.
In terms of our effectiveness both at work and at home, lack of sleep leads to lower alertness and concentration, as well as impaired judgment, memory, and learning. Not only that, it can significantly affect your mood and reduce your ability to cope with stress. Although there’s no denying that it comes with the territory of parenthood, few things have so many far-reaching, negative effects as sleep deprivation.
So if we’re to be on top form in order to successfully grow our business, and be the parents our children want us to be at home, we need to be well-rested. If sleep wasn’t high on your list of priorities before, it’s time for a reshuffle. Your mind, body, business, and family will all thank you for it.
If you find sleep eludes you more than most, approach it just like you would a new business strategy. Start by asking yourself: What needs to change for you to get enough sleep?
According to experts, the most common causes of sleeplessness usually fall into the following categories.
- An uncomfortable bed
- A bedroom that's too hot or cold
- An irregular sleep schedule
- Keeping the brain stimulated until late in the evening – e.g. working late, playing video games, or using electronic devices
- Eating large meals or consuming alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine late in the day
If you can pinpoint what’s likely to be holding you back from getting a good night’s rest, do whatever you can to find a solution that works for you. With so many different responsibilities vying for your attention throughout the day, putting new changes into action can easily fall by the wayside. But for the sake of your business, your family, and your sanity, it’s crucial to try.
Schedule time for yourself
In the hectic life of a parentrepreneur, it’s easy to get so caught up in our work and family commitments that our viable options for fun or relaxation can seem drastically limited. I remember back in the early days of my business, any spare time I had was usually spent scrolling social media on my phone. It was quick and easy, but did it make me happy? Was I really enjoying myself? Personally, no. Once I made the decision to cut down on my social media usage and replace it with things that actually uplifted and enriched me, I felt the difference almost immediately.
So whether it’s an episode of your favorite TV show, a chapter of your favorite book, a session at the gym, immersing yourself in a hobby, or playing games with your family, never underestimate the value of doing what makes you tick.
And as the saying goes, “Laughter is the best medicine”, but experts believe there could be more truth to that saying than we might have thought. Studies have found that the effects of laughter can range from physical tension and stress relief to improved circulation and stronger defenses against cardiovascular problems, a stronger immune system, and even a longer life!
This is another example where it’s easy to feel guilty for not being productive, but any time at all you can spend doing what you enjoy will never be time wasted. And if you’re still not convinced, a recent study suggests that we work harder and are more productive when we’re happy, so it’s yet another easy way for you to enhance your performance working in your business. Everyone wins!
What’s The Bottom Line?
Parentrepreneurship – the intersection of parenting and entrepreneurship – is often a stressful place to be. Both roles are traditionally associated with sacrifice, and as a result, our own needs often fall at the bottom of our lists.
But the truth is that the extent of our effectiveness as an entrepreneur or as a parent starts and ends with us. All the time and effort we put into our business and home lives could well be in vain if we’re constantly running on empty. These tips, together with time management techniques, can help pull you out of the weeds and onto the path of success.
Are you ready for a less stressful, more successful life? Are you ready to take back control of your time?
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