I used to work in the City of London, thinking work-life balance is impossible when you’re spending 12 hours a day in the office. Then I started my own business, thinking, finally, I will capture that elusive unicorn of a notion, because now I have all this flexibility right? Wrong! Running a business is a 24/7 job and anyone that has ever attempted it will tell you so. So as women who want to achieve professional realisation and personal bliss, how can we even begin to overcome the feeling that we’re drowning??
There was a time, in the early days of the business, when I thought all hope was lost and this is just going to be my life now. I’m sure the same goes for anyone in a highly stressful and demanding career. Waking up with my laptop in hand, running from meeting to meeting, sitting at dinner with family and friends, while actually working on my iPhone 7+ (because when you stare at your phone for 10 hours a day you need the biggest screen possible). Not being able to fall asleep till the small hours of the night because you’re constantly thinking about how to make things better. Totally neglecting house chores or really anything or anyone non-related to your work…and worst of all constantly feeling guilty for all the above. For months and months, the vicious cycle was intensifying until one day the body inevitably gives up and you find yourself going through panic attacks, uncontrollable crying and shortness of breath that leaves you scared and totally knocked out. Something had to change.
Right around that time, which was about 8 months ago, by some sort of cosmic coincidence I came across a Forbes article that said “Gone are the days of work-life balance, work-life integration is the new norm.” A notion so simple, yet requires a seismic shift in attitude and perception, especially for anyone over 30, as younger millennials have been accustomed to this lifestyle from earlier on. It took me a bit of time to put this in practical terms, but since then, little by little, I have been making changes in my life that have helped me be more calm, focused, productive, and most importantly, emotionally and physically healthy.
1. DROP THE GUILT
First and foremost, whether you are an entrepreneur or an aspiring corporate star, you need to have a strong support group of family and friends. And even though as a woman you naturally have a heightened sense of obligation to please others, you need to stop punishing yourself and feeling guilty for not giving everyone enough attention. After all, if they are truly loving and supportive, your family and friends will understand that what you are doing is building something that you hope will last, and will benefit not just you, but everyone around you. Don’t feel guilty if you have to take that call during dinner, or if you can’t make that Sunday lunch or if you have to stay in the office till 2am. It’s not personal, it’s business. And you’re not being selfish, you are being responsible.
2. FORGET CONVENTIONAL WORKING HOURS
Unless you are bound by super strict market hours, nowadays, a lot of employers will allow flexible working conditions to fit around your life better. Take advantage of that, understand your body clock and adjust your schedule and habits accordingly. Work when you feel you’ll be most productive and break up your day with other activities. Some people are early birds and wake up at the crack of dawn. I most certainly am not. I’ve had enough of the early morning struggle during my 10 years as an investment banker. Nowadays, I am rarely in the office before midday. Much like Richard Branson, I like to spend my mornings at home or running with my dog (always a good way to relieve stress). In my previous corporate life, I used to sneak in a 30 min spinning class during lunch, which felt like hitting a reset button on my mind and helped start the second part of the day fresh. I don’t mind staying late in the office, as it’s actually quite nice to catch up on admin after 5 pm when everyone else has left. Dinner out or in, is usually till 11pm and most days I’ll stay up till midnight to catch up on more emails, as the quiet hours of the night also give me a more serene environment to work in. Everyone’s body clock is different and in order to achieve professional longevity and not burn out, you need to find a way to work around your clock, not around the company’s clock.
3. OUTSOURCE ANYTHING YOU CAN
There has never been a better time than now to be a businesswoman and still manage to keep the rest of your life in check. In London especially, you are a couple of clicks away from finding anything you want, anytime you want. At the end of the day, the one thing that no-one can produce more of is time. So any service that saves me time, is welcome in my life.
Used to take me at least 2 hours a week, but now with Ocado, it’s 10 mins a week. Unless to find some specialist foods, I’m surprised that anyone still goes to the supermarket?!
HOUSE REPAIRS AND SPRING CLEANING
Broken doors, plumbing or electrical problems used to send me into a right old panic. I had to spend hours trying to find a repairman to come. However, there was usually never anyone available less than a week away and god knows how good or trustworthy they are. Spring cleaning was something I had heard about from my mother, a mythical ritual, something of an urban legend that is supposed to bring freshness and good fortune to the household…but who has time to spend a whole day cleaning every nook and cranny of the house, right? Now I’ve discovered Fantastic Services and well, they are absolutely fantastic! It’s a London based company that provides anything from repairs, moving services, gardening, cleaning, and even pest control. I’ve gotten so spoilt by them, now I even call them to change the halogen light bulbs in the kitchen (they’re very high up and hard to remove, don’t judge! J). You can book Fantastic Services online or by calling 020 3404 1753, and you can get £10 off your first booking with code USPAAH.
LAUNDRY, DRY CLEANING, IRONING
I must admit I was very hesitant to let someone else handle my clothes, especially the more delicate pieces. But one must embrace innovation and one day when I was faced with a particularly mountainous pile of laundry, I decided to give Zipjet a go. It’s an app that literally takes the dirty work off of your hands! No more ironing and no more hung sheets around the house because the dryer didn’t dry them properly. With a few clicks I booked a laundry collection and delivery time, and suddenly the scary mountainous pile was gone. Now, the iron comes out in my house only in last minute crease emergencies. Try Zipjet, and get £10 off your first booking with code USPAAH.
WELLNESS AND BEAUTY (self promo alert)
Remember when you wanted to book that 8pm massage, or last minute pedicure before travelling, but the salon was closed or there were no appointments available last minute?? I DON’T. Because I haven’t been to an actual salon in almost 2 years. Thanks to USPAAH, I can literally get any of the wellness and beauty treatments that I need right in my home, or office, whenever I want them. For me, it’s important to maintain a polished appearance, so a weekly manicure is a must. I usually get it in the office while having a conference call or a team-get-together. A regular massage is an integral part of my wellbeing routine, and I try to get one every 2 weeks or so, usually on a Sunday. There really is no better way to calm your mind and prepare for the week ahead. Any special occasion that I’m going to, I’ll treat myself to professional evening make up, because even though confidence comes from within, a little extra help never hurt anyone J. If you haven’t surrendered yet to the convenience of having all these treatments at home, I strongly suggest you do. Download our app here, and use code BLOG for £15 off your first booking.
There are many more services one can use to make their lives easier. From pet walking, to mobile car washing, the resources are endless. You just have to embrace them and welcome the help of all these companies into your life.
You see, becoming a Superwoman is not a physical transformation, it’s a mental one. Having gone through a very real physical and mental burn out, and coming out on top, I know that anything is really possible because I don’t have to do it all myself. We are blessed to live in a cosmopolitan city which gives us many tools and resources to really enhance our lives and become the best version of our #bossbabe selves.
CEO and Founder, USPAAH.