Work/life Balance Does Not Exist – and That's Okay
Aquila Leon-Soon, WE NYC Mentor
Aquila Leon-Soon - Advance Talent Solutions Inc.

According to the 2013 Pew Social Trend Study, more women than men find  it difficult to advance their careers while raising a family. The pressure mounts in the  nearly 40% of all homes with children younger than 18, where women are the primary breadwinners. While many studies focus on the work/life balance issues of professional women, fewer studies document how women entrepreneurs tackle this issue. There’s even less support for entrepreneurs around managing the stress that accompanies seeking work/life balance.

Far too many budding entrepreneurs are unaware of the real challenges of balancing it all while keeping their dream alive. In recent months, I listened to many entrepreneurs share the same story of a tireless journey of starting a business from scratch. Limited startup funds, 18-plus-hour days, less time with family and friends and even marriage counseling were among some of the experiences I heard about from those who attended my coaching sessions for women entrepreneurs. Along with the typical challenges that often come with entrepreneurship, women shared issues of balancing their passion with family responsibilities and self-care. The reality is that some women entrepreneurs, including myself, struggle to find that often elusive work/life balance.

My personal entrepreneurship journey followed a similar path. Among my many successes were shadows that dimmed the light on those accomplishments. My work became my priority and I started to lose my family as well as my purpose. While I made significant progress in growing my company, I lost sight of what mattered the most my family. The hard truth is that I viewed financial success as an indication that I was creating a better life for my family but failed to take into account the cost of achieving that success. I became laser focused on spending every moment on my work. Eventually, it had to end.

Far too many budding entrepreneurs are unaware of the real challenges of balancing it all while keeping their dream alive.

Aquila Leon-Soon

It wasn't until I became completely physically and mentally exhausted that I forced myself to change. Though the journey has been rough, I discovered that work/life balance was never going to work for me. However, I did find ways to manage my life better without feeling like I had to give up my dream. I came up with these strategies to keep myself healthy and sane:

  1. Hire to delegate. It was hard to feel productive when I was too exhausted to work. Clients want to know they can rely on a system, not an individual, that can produce results. Through my conversations with other entrepreneurs, it became clear that I needed to delegate projects to others to regain control over my schedule and personal time. Within weeks, I hired two new employees to help alleviate my workload.
  2. Take at least one mental health day off a week. The entrepreneurship mindset screams “no time off” but your mental health depends on it. The airline emergency guidance says to put your oxygen mask on first before you help others. In the same way, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of your business. Working yourself to death is not going to make you successful. Success literally comes from within and it starts with good mental and physical health. Now, I schedule at least one day a week to relax and rejuvenate.
  3. Schedule time to pamper yourself. As a mom and wife, my personal time is limited. One of my favorite pastimes is a quick trip to a place that is going to pamper me. Schedule an hour for a massage or a manicure and pedicure. Put your feet up, dive into your favorite beauty magazine and enjoy being waited on for a change.
  4. Shift your mindset by changing scenery. Sitting behind a desk all day limits my ability to stay in shape. It is also hard to get to a gym when you have little ones at home and a packed social calendar. Instead of giving up, I schedule 15- to 30-minute blocks of time throughout my day to take walks. I choose scenic walking routes such as along the waterfront or bridge. I track my steps on my Apple Watch to ensure I am making progress toward achieving at least 10,000 steps per day. Not only do I melt away the calories, I also get to relax my mind and take a mental break from my work day.

Sometimes even simple, quick fixes like these can help to bring some normalcy back to your life. And for most of us, this is enough to qualify as balance.