Meeting both business and personal demands has long been a juggling act for women entrepreneurs. Between the long hours, travel, meetings and employee and customer challenges, there’s little time left for personal needs. Still, leading a rich, well-rounded life is as essential to your business success as it is to your sanity.
We ask Canada’s leading businesswomen to tell us how they effectively manage work/life balance. Each issue we’ll bring you the tactics and strategies that help women grow their companies and careers, while still finding a little “me” time to help deal with the personal commitments of life.
THIS ISSUE: Penny Stevens is president of Media Experts, an media communications agency with offices in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Founded in 1982, the firm handles media planning and buying for corporate clients such as Aldo, Bombardier, ING Direct and Telus. Today, the firm is responsible for $250 million in media spending in new, traditional and emerging media across Canada and the U.S.
The term “balance” just doesn’t sit right with Stevens. ³Nothing is ever really balanced in anybody’s life, so, I think this notion of trying to balance things is an odd one,” says Stevens. So, her philosophy is to strive toward keeping herself “whole.”
At risk of sounding trite, she says, “The way I keep myself whole is to have great appreciation for the days that I live.” Stevens believes too many people live with the constant grinding of a ‘what if?’, ‘why can’t?’, and ‘why did they?’ attitude, as opposed to a more embracing idea of ‘just imagine if’ and ‘what if we could’, view of life. The result: many people see the glass half empty, instead of half full.” Instead of feeling guilty and making excuses for what you can’t do, suggests Stevens, focus on what you can do, “It’s all about making decisions. You make decisions along the way, and then you just sort of have to stick to them.”
Stevens, 55, chooses to prioritize her family. “I’m happily married with four average kids,” she says. Her three eldest children are currently away at university, but she makes a point of connecting with her youngest son by driving him to high school each morning, even though he’s quite able to walk or take the bus. Another rule is to always be home at dinner for regular conversation time, she says. “I hold pretty tight to that.”
Finding “me” time is also important to Stevens, who fits in hobbies and other activities around her family and work schedules. “I love gardening, I paint and I have a great group of girlfriends with whom I commiserate with when I need to,” she says. “Isolated individual actions, like painting, are extremely therapeutic. It’s important to disconnect sometimes from all the various parts of your life,” she says. “You have to be careful, particularly in work, not to get swallowed up by it, because it can take your soul.”