Managing The Big Juggle

Thursday, 18 August 2011, 23:11 | Category : General
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I thought I’d follow on from Marc’s post about the importance of taking a break. As any part time working mum knows, this is all well and good but without proper support behind you on the home and work fronts it’s hard to completely switch off during the holidays. As a ‘veteran’ juggler of work and home of five years standing, here are my tips, which are hopefully useful to juggling dads too (far be it from me to be sexist!).

1. Organise the best childcare you can afford. This one is a biggie and applies in and out of the holidays, but if you are going to be able to take a break, you will probably need to have put in some good stints on the work front to clear your desk before getting on the train/plane/camper van. So get family, friends or professional help to ensure the kids are happy and entertained while you are working.

2. Furthermore, aim to have set times when you are with the kids and time when you’re working. As anyone who has taken a new biz call while simultaneously changing a nappy knows, when it comes to small children and business, never the twain should meet! Your kids are unlikely to let you make calls and emails in peace, and even understanding clients won’t appreciate constant interruptions during an important call.

3. Share your plans for the holidays with your colleagues and suppliers so they know when you’ll be available, when you are working and when you’re taking that complete break. If you’ve got the right team around you they will understand family commitments and know when they can contact you to get 100 per cent of your attention.

4. If you don’t have a team yet, be sure to take the same approach with your clients and customers. As long as the focus is on when you will be available rather than on when you won’t, the majority of clients are reasonable and will appreciate the heads up. The caveat here is that if you are the business, you will need to make yourself available in an emergency and make a contingency plan for this eventuality.

5. Crisis plan – if something crops up that must be dealt with immediately, have some child management strategies down pat. This might involve some light bribery such as a treat or promise of such later on, but preferably (see point 2!) you could make a deal with a local friend to be available at short notice to help with each others’ kids in an emergency.

6. Set up a support network. There are now loads of groups available for women business owners to join to share knowledge and best practice for business (and juggling!). Have a look at what’s around – or even set up your own. Then should you need practical help during the holiday season (or even just to maintain your sanity) you have people to chat to who can relate to the issues of managing the delicate balance of work and home life.

7. Get organised at home. Like our grandmas did (let’s face it, probably not our grandads 50 years ago), have set days for big chores like food shopping and laundry and know what you’re cooking in advance. Less time on this stuff means more time for quality work around the family. This is definitely one for the boys as well.

8. Delegate. Don’t be a control freak and try and do it all yourself either at work or around the house. It is not going to work and it means it will take you twice as long to relax when on holiday, probably around the time you need to galvanise yourself to start packing up to go home…

9. Use technology to your advantage to keep on top of things but don’t become a slave to it. As long as you have the nerve to turn off your phone/laptop/email/voicemail (with appropriate provisions for clients as above) during the times you are supposed to be taking that break, you’ll find it liberating.

10. Practice makes perfect. This is the first summer I have been able to put all the above into practice and the good news is – it works. Now, where did I put those passports…


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