I have always procrastinated. I remember in junior high and high school waiting until the very last minute to study for an exam or write a term paper. This bad habit continued when I got to college. I have struggled with time management all my life.
When I first started my business out of my apartment, I handled every facet – the baking, the selling, and the delivery. I was happy with my routine and very hands-on. But even being an energetic workaholic who can run on very little sleep, it took a lot of discipline to not get distracted. My procrastination pattern reemerged: I would wait until the last possible opportunity to do what was required.
This all changed when my son William was born. I no longer had the luxury of time. Any opportunity I once had to procrastinate was gone upon the arrival of this blessed bundle of joy. The minute I became a mother, my priorities shifted. This helped me focus on what really mattered and actually helped me manage my time better. We all wear many hats as business people. Whether or not kids are part of your priorities, you can take advantage of some of what I learned along the way to help you in that age-old quest for balance.
Don’t intermingle work and home life – when you are at work, try to not fret about your kids; when you’re at home, know that the office can wait until the next day.
TIP 1: Find good helpers and trust them to do their jobs.
I had to divide my time between running a business and raising a family. I applied everything I had learned in ten years of business to hiring a nanny. It proved to be one of the smartest things I have ever done. When I was at work, I could feel 100% confident that my nanny Ewa was taking perfect care of William. When I was home, I knew my bakery staff was more than capable of running the business smoothly. This was the beginning of learning how to balance work and home life. Thankfully, a lot of good practices were in place before Sophia arrived fifteen months later. Nannies and babysitters are God’s gift to moms. Use them as needed. And if you have the luxury of grandparents, let them spend quality time with your children now and then so you can enjoy some one-on-one time with your spouse.
TIP 2: Be in the moment.
Walk in the door, put your phone away, enjoy your children or spouse. Give them your full attention. Be present.
TIP 3: Prioritize.
When the kids first started school, I felt I had to be there for every big occasion. Owning your own business allows you to create your own schedule, but this meant I had no restrictions on my time off. So I attended everything – the assemblies, the PTA meetings, the field trips – and then had to work late nights and weekends to compensate. By the second year the kids were in school, I had learned to discern which occasions I could miss and which I could not.
TIP 4: Bring work and home together if you can.
A great friend said to me, “Oh, you’ll get time for yourself when the kids turn 20.” For some weird reason, this gave me peace of mind. In the meantime, I make my kids part of my work to the extent that I can.
The great thing about my job is that it is a bakery. My children love to visit, play, make cookies, design, get involved and learn about the process – from manufacturing to the equipment to payroll. I try to involve them in everything; I discuss challenges at the dinner table. Since we began looking to expand our retail presence, they scout opportunities all over Manhattan with me. And Sophia’s play group of two year olds sparked the idea for a line of coloring book cookies that became Color Me™ Cookies, one of our most successful product launches to date.
TIP 5: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
There is a lot to be said for just getting the job done, whether it’s doing homework or preparing an annual report. Don’t seek to be the perfect mother, wife or businesswoman. Just do the best job you can. When I get overwhelmed, I try to breathe, walk my dog, and tackle one task at a time before I move on to another.
TIP 6: Focus on planning.
I set aside 30 minutes at the start of every day to plan for the kids, then move on to work and drop any interference until the next day. My advice for finding and maintaining the balance? Don’t intermingle work and home life – when you are at work, try to not fret about your kids; when you’re at home, know that the office can wait until the next day.
Can women really have it all? I asked my kids about six months ago if they would prefer Mommy to quit her job and sell the bakery. Both immediately responded no. I was shocked. Then it hit me – all they have ever known is a working mom. Eleni’s New York is not only my namesake but a family business that is partly theirs. Giving up the bakery would mean giving up something they hold as near and dear to their hearts as they do me. Despite their young ages, they were able to articulate that they understand the balance it took me so long to achieve; that they enjoy their time with me but also love all that my job provides for them.
While I secretly hoped they’d want me home full-time, their unexpected answer relieved me of much of my working mom guilt. I’m grateful that I get to be a role model and share this journey with both of my kids, and show William and Sophia, who will one day struggle to find balance themselves, that you can have it all.
Besides, my kids want the bakery someday. Sophia states that she loves the pink and can’t wait for it to be her name on the door.