2015/2016 has been an overwhelming year to say the least! It started off with working a full time job, closing negotiations for Enda’s intellectual property rights, planning the launch of Enda’s Kickstarter campaign and finding out that my husband, David, and I were expecting our second baby in a city far away from home!
There have been many ups and downs in the [continuing] journey and a number of people have asked me how I do it all. That question that is subject to a whole write-up by itself because I am always battling with its correctness in the context of gender. However, I choose to look at it as more of a question regarding the best way to balance different aspects of life, especially for female entrepreneurs.
Here are the few lessons I am learning about building a career, raising a family and being an entrepreneur:
1. Get Help
David and I are both perfect introverts and asking for help has not been easy. We have been lucky though to find and be part of a supportive community of friends that have been super helpful in helping us settle down, baby sit our five year old, and prepare for the baby’s arrival. Knowing that I have people on call has in many instances averted small crises and allowed me to focus on my work.
With regard to managing my work, my personal Chris Paul (hey, it’s NBA play-offs season :)!) has been technology. Enda has a very small team and we handle everything ourselves. I was drowning in emails at some point and dying in the guilt and shame of late responses until I discovered voice dictation on Mac. My computer could literally type out my emails as I speak and all I had to do was do a final edit, rather than compose the whole thing from scratch! Streak has also been a great tool in managing our investor pipeline and management of mass emails (this was after we tried to individually customize over 1,000 emails and ultimately realized we had no capacity to manage it). Technology is your friend, my friend. Spending 30 minutes to find the best tool for the job could save you hours in the long run.
2. Accept That Your Body Is No Longer As You Knew It
Different women have different pregnancy experiences. My first was super smooth compared to the present experience. From random bouts (more like attacks) of sleep at odd hours during the day, to sleepless nights, odd cravings (I never ever thought in my life I would consume clay — there is an edible type by the way, and eating it is not considered odd in my culture), nauseating multivitamins and not forgetting the stretch marks, you actually feel like a stranger in your own body. The cumulative effect for me was that I could no longer work late nights or early mornings, especially in the first and second trimesters, which of course led to frustrations because it’s not like work and life stop just because you’re having a baby.
A flexible schedule, and convincing myself to be flexible as well, ended up being my saving grace. If I had a good night where work just flowed, I’d extend it for as long as I could, trying not to go past mid-night lest fatigue spills over to the next day, and vice versa. I also stopped having evening meetings when I knew all I would want to do was just go home and rescheduled them to lunch hours whenever possible. Most of the people helping on Enda are also freelancers and hence have flexible schedules as well. That helped a great deal. It became easier to manage the day to day running of Enda once I accepted the changes going on in my body and [tried to] worked around them.
3. Keep On Keepin’ On
There’s no magic formula or silver bullet to this. What has worked for me hasn’t been sticking to the plan. Rather, it has been more of putting one foot in front of the other, even on days that we totally deviated from the plan.
The best thing I did for myself this year was do a Prince2 Project Management course where I learnt about management by stages. Basically, break the entire project into manageable stages (depending on the size of the project and risk levels), focus on one stage at a time, execute it, evaluate it and then make the decision on whether or not to move to the next stage, rather than getting stressed by the big picture. The method of evaluation of each stage depends on the technicality and skillset required for the project, for example, construction of a dam may require an assessment by a structural engineer while stress testing a running shoe prototype may require assessment by both the developer and the athlete.
So whether it’s a good day, a bad day or both, I force myself to keep moving forward. A little progress is always better than no progress. Before you know it, time has gone by and you’ve achieved your goal for the particular stage you’re working on and can then move on to the next one.
These three lessons have been key for making everything work for me, my family, and Enda. There are of course little choices every day that make things work, but if I were to write up every one of those I’d be turning this into a novel! Do you have similar or different experience and tips, whether your own or from observations around you? Feel free to share them as a response below. It’s 4:00 a.m. and time for my second dose of sleep!