When DSB was looking for the right person to speak to about maintaining work-life balance, we needed to look no further than Clare Loewenthal, publisher of DSB for the last 12 years. As a business owner herself, she knows all the right and wrong ways to keep the balance between work and home life.
I might be the wrong person to be talking about work-life balance; I have never been good at moderation. DSB has been a huge part of my life for 12 years and my staff would tell you I am a complete workaholic.
Certainly when I started the magazine, it was essential to work long hours and make personal sacrifices. Over the years the financial pressure on the business lessened and the quality of my life improved.
But in April this year, as DSB changed from bi-monthly to monthly, it has meant I am again putting in long hours and dealing with a good degree of uncertainty.
So looking at how to achieve this illusive balance is a very timely exercise for me. I am forced to look into why achieving a balanced life is so important, what are the practical tips on how to improve the quality of your life, and what has worked for me.
The Big Picture
It’s ironic that we go into a small business because it can be more flexible and give us more control over our life. As business owners, we know most often the opposite is true. We work hard to earn money to improve our lifestyle but often don’t stop to enjoy the pleasure that money can bring. But this isn’t just for the businessowner, it also applies to the workforce.
Work-life balance means different things to different people. So the first step is to define what it means to you. Audit your life:
- • work
- • family
- • health
- • friends
- • education
- • hobbies
As you work through the list, ask yourself what it is within each
part of your life that makes you happy. The trick, then, is to organise your life in such a way that you get more of the things that bring you pleasure.
A company called Managing Work/Life Balance International has just released the 2005 Way Ahead Report, looking at workplace initiatives which improve the quality of life for employees.
The survey found best practice companies reported increased productivity, less staff turnover, less absenteeism and improved customer service, so as business owners we should be looking at these issues.
What has worked for me:
- • setting realistic goals and timeframes
- • learning to say no
- • finding outside reality checks
- • recognising physical signs of stress
- • delegating in both my personal and professional life
- • scheduling time-out (holidays)
Because of the different definitions we have, we need to develop a personal action plan, where you commit to achieving balance in the same way as you would a business goal. This may mean an investment in learning new skills, such as time management, or finding a coach. Identify your needs (this requires some self awareness to understand what really brings you joy and makes you feel alive). Prioritise items into must-do’s, should-do’s, could-do’s and nice-to-do’s. Eliminate energy-draining commitments and obligations that are unrealistic. Understand stress, it can’t be avoided but it must be managed. And finally, find your personal stress releases: publishing is a deadline-driven business and I have become something of an adrenaline junkie!