Balancing the Work-Life Equation
I am a nerd. A cool nerd mind you, but a nerd. I always have been. I care about what I do. I love brainstorming, creating, and coming up with new ideas. But these ideas don't automatically convert themselves into tangibles. That takes work. So, when I came up with the idea for Happy Family, I worked. All of the time (and I still do).
In fact, I'm pretty sure that the only reason my husband, Joe, and I made it through the first years of Happy Family is because he essentially worked with me...for free. Date night was often spent in my kitchen--equipped with a blender--pureeing odd mixes like spinach, pears, and mangoes...which would eventually become one of Happy Baby's top sellers, Grrreat Greeens. And this was okay with Joe! I mean, the guy's good-looking, enthusiastic, unpaid labor, and testing out baby food recipes--what's better? I could have my cake and eat it, too. Work was my life. The rest was just details. And I was happy with that.
When you start a business, you immediately give up that precious little thing called time. At first, it doesn't matter to you. You're passionate about your idea, and making that idea a reality is your number one priority. Because I'm a nerd, I like to think of it as a simple, well-calculated mathematical equation:
Time (t) = Work (w) + Life (L)
L = 0
∴ t = w
But give it a few years and some key life changes (getting married and having a baby, for example), and BAM! All of a sudden, the equation changes:
Time (t) = Work (w) + Life (L)
L = Marriage (m) + Baby (b)
∴ t = w + m + b
Even if the changes were well-planned, everyone has a moment where the reality of this change blindsides them. And unlike theoretical algebra, you can't just subtract (m) and (b) and have everything be A-OK. Instead, you have to work with the fact that you now have more than one priority but the same amount of time, and you are craving that thing you've always heard about but never believed in: balancing the work/life equation.
I've got to be honest with you: I'm a nerd, but I'm not a Mathlete. As simple as it seems, I haven't yet figured out the solution. I'm still a walking imbalanced equation, but here are the top three things I've been doing to help balance it out when the nanny calls in sick, Joe has the stomach flu, Zane, my son, has decided that sleep is not something he will sample tonight, and I have to get out the board agenda, an investor update, and edits to a new set of package design iterations. This scenario was very real two weeks ago. So, what do you do? Take a deep breath. Then:
1. I ask for help.
Whether it's personal help with the baby (call Joe, my mother-in-law, or a friend), or it's professional help (learning how to delegate responsibility to employees--really, you can't do it all), learning how to ask for help when you're overwhelmed is hugely important in re-creating a sense of balance. Besides, in my experience, I've found that people really do love to help--all you have to do is ask.
2. I schedule one hour a week for myself.
I actually put this in a physical calendar. It is a block of "Shazi Time," and I treat this appointment with myself as if it is just as important as a meeting with a big investor or potential customer. This "me" time keeps me grounded, and feeling grounded makes me a better mother and a more effective CEO; and it allows me to pause and see the bigger picture.
3. Speaking of the bigger picture, when work and life are in conflict, I take a step back and prioritize the two issues at hand.
What is more important for me, my company, and my family in the long run? Sometimes the answer is work, and sometimes the answer is life, but by forcing myself to take a step back and think about the potential outcomes of my decision to do (a) instead of (b), I am able to reclaim some of that balance that is so often lost in the whirlwind of decisions I'm faced with on a daily basis.
SHAZI VISRAM | Columnist | Founder and CEO of HappyFamily
Shazi Visram is the founder and CEO of HAPPYFAMILY, the leading premium brand of baby and toddler meals in the U.S. HAPPYFAMILY is sold in over 13,000 stores with 9 different lines of optimally delicious organic foods.