The Magic Ingredient in Work-Life Balance

A lack of time puts ever more pressure on the precarious work life balance. Hiring help can ease even the busiest mom-entrepreneur’s schedule.

Outsourcing small portions of your to-do list can free up more time than you think.

A lack of time puts ever more pressure on the precarious work life balance. Hiring help can ease even the busiest mom-entrepreneur’s schedule.

As I signed out a copy of Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think while soothing my infant daughter, rocking her stroller back and forth, I thought I caught a smirk cross the face of the librarian. Hypersensitive? Perhaps. But right now I’m acutely aware of the time I don’t have. The book is one I heartily recommend to business owners who are also new parents, although it’s not a parenting or business how-to manual.

The challenges of working parents

As a business owner and the mother of a bouncing baby girl, I’m asked one question more than any other: How are you making it work? The “it,” of course, is finding the time to attend to the unrelenting needs of an infant and doing the same for a business. While I don’t have all the answers – I regularly lean on girlfriends and colleagues with toddlers for advice – I do have one nugget of wisdom to pass on: Hire help.

Now, before I get accused of being Marie Antoinette, it must be acknowledged: Hiring help to free up time for yourself is an option only for the privileged. But it’s also a lesson I’ve had to relearn throughout my life as a business owner.

In my mind, hiring extra help has always seemed extreme. Need help with balancing career and family? Hire a nanny. Need help at the office? Hire full-time staff. While these answers may work for some, they haven’t always for me. Sometimes it’s because my finances wouldn’t support it; others, because I wasn’t interested in outsourcing that much of my life.

Prioritizing your time

In 168 Hours, Vanderkam advocates the same approach that Lauren and I proposed in our book, The Boss of You. When a fledgling entrepreneur considers hiring help, she must first assess her core competencies, then find help with the rest. As all new parents know, time is incredibly valuable. With that in mind, hiring help may be as simple as clawing back three hours a week by sending out your laundry or calling in a housecleaner. It can mean finding part- or full-time childcare to allow you to address business issues. Or it can take shape in an intern, part-time administrative assistant, or other contract worker to make your time more efficient.

Vanderkam recommends creating a spreadsheet and grouping your time commitments into like areas – family, personal time, work, etc. – then deciding if you’re okay with the breakdown. For those of us with wee ones, the “family” slice of pie will be bloated for a few years, and the personal one slender. My recommendation? Decide what you can offload.

Outsourcing: the key to time management

Since maternity leave, my re-entry into the workaday world has been a process of acquiring help. It allows my time at the office to be as efficient as it can be – and my time with my daughter to be as enjoyable as it can be. So far, that’s meant three outsourcing decisions: 1) hiring a part-time admin assistant to manage filing and drafting routine paperwork, 2) 24 hours a week of childcare to give me time to devote to the business, and 3) using a diaper service to reduce the domestic chore load at home. It’s not a perfect balance, but it’s more than workable. Most important, I feel the time I’m wearing each hat is well spent.

It’s easy for mom-entrepreneurs to think they can take on the world, raising a baby, running their company, and keeping their lives together. Some can, but a dose of reality alongside the chutzpah will pay great dividends. If you didn’t have tons of free time prior to the baby – and what entrepreneur does? – you’re not going to magically have a bunch of new time, post-birth. It’s simple math. A better solution is figuring out where you’re comfortable letting go, and where you could use a little help. That’s when you can start enjoying the juggling, if even just a little.