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: Tauyna Woods Richardson is president & CEO of Powerhouse International Inc., a Calgary-based organization dedicated to building cost-effective advisory boards for small business owners who are primarily in the start-up to $2 million revenue range.
It’s no wonder most women never find balance, says Woods Richardson, 37. It’s because we’re always putting ourselves last. ³You have to start putting yourself first.”
A loved one recently gave her this fresh perspective about the value of taking care of yourself. “I’m in a great relationship with a gentleman who just got through Stage Four cancer,” she says. As a young, driven entrepreneur, he was forced to put an end to the 18- to 20-hour days he usually spent working, to take care of his own needs. The happy result? “He got through it. He took a year, had the partners run the business, and now he looks at everything very differently,” she says. “I take my inspiration from him.”
Entrepreneurs often think that the more they work, the better their business will be. Ironically, says Woods Richardson, the opposite is true. If you are calm, collected and centred, she says, your business will reflect that.
Here’s how Woods Richardson puts herself first:
- Exercise: Squeezing in a workout, even if it’s as little as a half-hour walk to work at the beginning of the day “makes a huge difference for me,” she says. Besides the health benefits, “It’s a moment for me to collect my thoughts so I don’t feel rushed.”
- Eat well: “Eating is very important to me – eating consciously, not just stuffing food in when I get a minute. Eating the right food, eating good food and also sitting down and appreciating it.”,
- Be yourself again: As her business has grown, says Woods Richardson, “I’ve really lost a sense of myself. I keep thinking of myself as just my business.” She now makes time for favourite hobbies and activities that have nothing to do with driving her company forward, including learning a new language, cooking, having friends over for dinner regularly, “even reading a cheesy magazine in the bath,” she says. “Small little things feed the soul.”
- Get away: Take a few days off work each month, she says. “No phones, no e-mails, no computers, no business books or business magazines. Just disconnect from the whole process. It’s amazing what that will do for your spirit and your energy levels.”
- Unwind: We’re often aware of stress but don’t know how to control it, she says. “Sometimes controlling it is actually just letting go of it.” Woods Richardson’s bedtime routine includes listening to a CD that teaches breathing, relaxation and de-stressing techniques.
- Commit: Block off “me time” appointments in your calendar, and keep them. Don’t bump yourself from the schedule thinking you’ll squeeze in a run sometime later, she says. “That never happens.”
- Keep a journal: Writing about your progress can help track your successes, build your confidence, demonstrate how far you’ve come and illustrate the positive impacts on your business, says Woods Richardson. Like keeping an exercise log, it will show you what’s working and what you need to modify or change. “It’s about recognizing how you’re evolving through this.”