There is a myth often shared amongst entrepreneurs and those working in startups that achieving work-life balance is within the realm of possibility. Not just a possibility, but after you put in the foundation and grueling first few years of work, you can switch over to a standard 9-5, while spending time with your family and friends, and unplugging on weekends. This is a myth. Not to say that there can’t be a balance between work and life for entrepreneurs, but more so a prioritizing of events, tasks, and experiences that fall under each.
Today marks nearly a decade of observance of International Women’s Day, a day that highlights the struggles for women’s rights. This year’s theme focuses on the need for bringing gender equality to the workplace, which has also led to a secondary grassroots spinoff called A Day Without Women, calling for a global strike today.
In our current political environment, now more than ever we see just how impossible it is to separate life, work, and the outside factors that affect both. With this in mind, we heard from sixteen entrepreneurs and professionals about how they balance work and life, or their own personal take on it:
Quality Over Quantity
Finding a work-life balance is not always an easy task. I love my family, but I also love what I do, so that balance is like a tightrope. I’ve made it a priority to focus on the quality of my time versus the quantity, so during the week I make it a point to be home for dinner and homework time, and as soon as I get home, I leave my cell phone charging in the bedroom so that I’m fully present and in the moment. My husband and I also make it a point to have date-night once per week so we can catch up and just spend time together. This small change has allowed me to let go of the guilt that I’m sure many working moms have and helps me completely focus on work when I’m in the office.
– Monica Klausner, Cofounder of Veestro
Presence Over Perfection
What I've learned over the years is that there is no secret to work life-balance. As a wife, mom, corporate executive, and now startup cofounder, work-life balance is less about balance and more about being present over perfect. What works for me is embracing a simple, full life that prioritizes a bit of adventure, good rest, moments of silence, prayer, and quality time with my loved ones. It's about keeping the main things the main things.
– Courtney Caldwell, Cofounder of ShearShare
Focusing Your Attention
I've often heard that women can have two out of three of the following: work, family, and friends. I choose not to believe that. I am a wife, mother, friend, entrepreneur, developer, manager, and a thousand other things at any one moment- the same as every other human being on this earth. We all decide what to spend our time on and how to prioritize those things. Personally, I decided to carve out time for each of these titles and be exactly that during the time I've set aside, and if something on my to-do list doesn't absolutely require my personal attention I delegate it.
A good friend recently reminded me that I could spend all day wearing my Mom hat and be no better connected to my children than if I carved out a very specific time to really focus my attention on them. It's 100% quality over quantity. You have to do great work in the time you're allotted. I've just learned to carry that over to my family, friends, & self-care.
– Belinda Hare, Cofounder and Operations Director of Launchpeer
So many women succumb to the corporate stereotype that they must choose between their career, their children or their marriage in order to be successful. By founding Interana with my husband Bobby, I have had the extraordinary privilege of being able to combine my career and family life. However, starting a company with your partner is not the only way to achieve this balance. We founded Interana with the core belief that every employee should have the flexibility to balance their work and home life and fostering this culture has been key in establishing and maintaining a work/life balance for myself.
An example of how we do this is by addressing the lack of public childcare – one of the biggest challenges facing women in the workplace today. In an effort to support employees with children, we have ensured that our office remains a kid-friendly environment with a dedicated play room equipped with toys and books, tracing back to the days where we operated the company out of our home.
– Ann Johnson, CEO and Cofounder of Interana
I don’t believe in work-life balance, but I do believe in work-life rhythm. Sometimes it feels like the work will never end. What’s important is that when you do have a moment to breathe, you take advantage of it – use the time to recharge and spend it with the people that have supported you.. I’m starting to get a handle on the ebbs and flows that are unique to my company, Knix Wear. I know that we have certain less intense periods and I make sure to use that time to do the things that in the busy months I don’t have time for. Conversely, I don’t stress about going off the grid during the busy times, because I know a downbeat is around the corner.
– Joanna Griffiths, Founder and CEO of Knix Wear
Get In Those ZZZs
For me, I'm not sure if there is a balance per say – you just try to do as much as you can, every day. I have a four month old son, and for the first three months, he just came with me everywhere – meetings, to the office, to trade shows. One of the big advantages of being a founder and startup CEO is that I can create a more blended life if I want (and I do); the culture of the company is the one that my team and I set, and we believe that feeling your best and working your best means feeling supported across your entire life. I also strongly believe in the power of sleep to help me feel good and like I can tackle it all – when sleep goes, all perspective goes.
– Dulcie Madden, CEO of Rest Devices
Don’t Go After a 50/50 Balance
There will never be a perfect balance. Don't stress about it. There will be times your business will need 100% of your attention, and also times your family will need 100% of your attention. At all times, you will need 100% of your brain energy to maintain both. Don't waste time worrying about finding a 50/50 balance. Spend quality attention on your work and family in the times that each needs it. And if those times ever overlap: that's when you're entrepreneurial creativity will become especially handy.
– Kristie Garduño, Owner of Clients Kneaded & Giving Soaps
Be A Model Example
It means working smarter and not harder. I didn't create — and don't encourage — a burnout culture at Seed&Spark, so it's really important to me also to model a healthy amount of time devoted to my family (even if that means doing an hour or more of work after the baby goes down for the night). My son is 7months old and has been on business trips with me to New York (twice), Washington DC, Boston, Austin and SF. I've brought him to many meetings and put him on a blanket on the floor with toys. You do what you have to.
Balancing work and life is a myth meant to make those of us who really passionately love and care about our work feel bad about ourselves all the time. In my experience “having it all” means having both a job and family I love but feeling guilty all the time.
– Emily Best, Founder and CEO of Seed&Spark
Work On What You Love
Work/life balance for me is an alchemy. It helps a lot to do something that you love and are passionate about. As a single mom entrepreneur of a now 14-year-old, I've made career decisions which sometimes felt like moving heaven and earth in order to work at home and be home and present with my daughter when she's home from school every day.
Things like starting my workday at 4am, outsourcing every single thing except what only I can do to my overseas team (thank you Tim Ferriss), and building tools and systems to shorten processes to achieve equivalent outcomes in a fraction of the time, are things that I do where the driving force. The why behind it all is to spend more time with my daughter, and have time for the things that recharge me like dancing tango, reading and learning, playing piano, flying (my love – but so time intensive), and gardening. The things that I find keep me in maximum flow and in the present moment, it’s total activation of mind and body.
Finally the thing I've found that is critical to the work life balance alchemy is basically a commitment to radical self care. Daily meditation practice, exercise and yoga, dense nutrition, hydration, and learning about neuro linguistic programming that helps me to stay in total focus and creation mode rather than reaction, which is the mind's default mode. When I say alchemy I really mean it, when one of these things fall off, things get difficult quickly! I'll never stop learning and refining as long as my why stays center stage.
– June Marshall, Founder of Repperio
Being the founder of a tech startup and mom to two kids under 5 is only possible because I don’t think of it as balance. My commitment is to doing one well at a time. My husband and I find the support and create the system to enable that for both of us.
That means it’s a careful mix of a full-time nanny and my parents, in addition us being upfront with our teams about what our week looks like. This allows me to focus on being the founder I need to be during work hours and a present mama when I’m with my girls. It also means being relentless and unapologetic about making choices on my time. There are many conferences, parties and coffees that I don’t do because they don’t clear the threshold.
– Avni Patel Thompson, CEO and Founder of Poppy
Mastering? No. Improving? Yes.
In the early days of building a company, there's no such thing as work life balance. In fact, five years later, I can't really say that I've mastered it, but I've become better at it. As SevenRooms has grown, I've learned that the secret to a work life balance is building an awesome team around you. Plus, the biggest advantage to having a team I trust is that I can travel. It makes a huge difference when you can completely unplug and don't have to be glued to your phone 24/7. Sipping a mezcal cocktail cellphone-free on the beach is the best way to hit the reset button and come back to work refreshed.
– Allison Page, Cofounder and Head of Product of SevenRooms
Understand The Bigger Picture
I don’t have a work-life balance to brag about since I work closely with my father and my husband. However, I enjoy every moment of it. It’s really special to share a common vision with the people closest to you and to see that vision become a reality. CuriosityStream grew from an idea for hosting lectures online into the leading destination for nonfiction SVOD globally in under 2 years. If you can keep a focus on a bigger picture vision for your life, it makes it easier to balance personal and professional ambitions.
– Elizabeth Hendricks North, President and CEO of CuriosityStream
Blending Work and Life
I don't believe in work-life balance–work and life aren't competing interests. I believe in blend–our personal lives sometimes need us at noon and our work sometimes needs us at midnight, and there's no reason to fight that. And I believe in serial balance, that sometimes your personal interests take precedence, and sometimes work does. In the end, a more fluid, flexible view of the role of work in our lives results in better work and better lives.
– Lucinda Duncalfe, CEO of Monetate
Use Self-Discipline, Stick To Schedules
Balancing work and my personal life requires a high degree of organization and the self-discipline to stick to a schedule. As a business owner, work can easily bleed into my personal life if I don’t set firm boundaries and stick to time commitments. I plan out my work and personal schedule the night before, and review what I accomplished at the end of the day, taking note of whether I ended up working during personal time, or doing laundry when I was supposed to be making business phone calls.
When I first started my business, I thought that I could easily separate my work and home life, and that I would be super woman, able to accomplish everything with perfect balance. It doesn’t happen. Expect a learning curve as you are figuring out how to create, grow and manage your business and personal life. If you have something you are passionate about and want to create a business, then go for it, but plan accordingly and make sure you have support from a good network of people to help out when things get a little out of balance, because they will from time to time.
– Laura Spawn, Cofounder and CEO of VirtualVocations
Living By The Calendar
Finding a work-life balance is important, especially since the two seem to blend together when you're starting a business. It can be tough, but having an organized schedule makes it possible. In addition to meetings and important goals, I also put non-work related events on my calendar, such as workout classes, dinners with friends, or even TV shows that I enjoy.
When you're working hard, it's easy to forget the little things (like plans with those closest to you, or things that make you happy), so putting them on my calendar makes sure I not only get them done, but can look back after a busy week and know that I've made time for myself and others.
– Alexandra Pierson, Founder and CEO of Springpop
Multi-Tasking, Like A Boss
Juggling my personal life as an entrepreneur and new mom is tough. Each day I prioritize time with my baby so I'm home for at least one feeding, a bath, or play time. I have to stay flexible around his schedule so often times I take a break during his bedtime and go back to work late at night. My favorite thing to do for myself is exercise so workouts now double as date time with my husband. We go to a soulcycle class on the weekends or pop downstairs to the gym together. We try to go out at least one night a week for dinner without phones so we can focus on real conversation and take time to travel throughout the year. The great part about work these days is that i can bring it with me wherever I go so I never miss a beat.”
– Jennifer Kapahi, Cofounder of trèStiQue