Well, it has been about 3 months since I wrote the initial blog article asking questions about life-work balance, technology and my personal desires to achieve and have time for the things I love and my family. And the good news (for me anyway) is that they are going pretty damn good. These “life” articles are somewhat of a personal nature. I believe being honest in what you are doing and how you are doing it is the only way to be realistic of your situation, reflect and improve. This is true of everyone out there, including you. Trying to separate work from other parts of life is not only impossible but ludicrous. Work is a major component of life. Getting the best out of yourself in the work environment, for yourself, your employees and your clients, means looking at the totality of the life experience and assessing where improvements can be made to bring more enjoyment to all of these facets

I am still busy with work and we have a raft of new clients, but the key is with a few changes, my stress levels have gone down, I have more time with my family and I feel healthier and happier. I’ve always enjoyed what I do and work with an amazing bunch of staff and clients, but with increasing pressures came the dilution of enjoyment. I am happy to say that I have managed to find my passion for what I do again, my creative and strategic juices are flowing, one might say. Not only has this increased the enjoyment of my own personal life, but my work life. I enjoy going to work and I love what I do … again.

So how have I managed to achieve this balance? Well, its a mixed bag of positive changes, mistakes and life giving you lemons which actually turn out to be Pineapples.

Firstly, positive change that I have embedded into my life. I have stuck to my fitness regime and workout 5-7 times per week. This really does keep my mind and body sharp, allows me to deal with pressures easily and provides me with more energy and motivation for work, family and play life. As anyone who knows me knows, I am no angel. I like to be cheeky and I certainly like the odd tipple. I haven’t had a drink for 8 weeks. Now this wasn’t a conscious decision in the terms that I was thinking of not drinking. It sort of just happened. I was busy, I was training and I didnt have the time to drink (or be hungover). It was about 4 weeks after not having a drink, it was a Friday night and I was looking forward to putting my feet up, watching rugby on the box and having a few top shelf’s. I did, but I didn’t enjoy it, god only knows why … I guess it had something to do with living clean for four weeks and then having alcohol and sugary coke just didn’t go down how I thought. I am not holier than thou and certainly not an angel, but I am going to roll with the not drinking. It feels good.

Secondly, time management and actually sticking to it. Everyone knows that good time management is essential for balancing your day, completing your tasks and having time for you. This doesn’t mean we all practice it. Since having a family, there is now a consequence of not time managing properly. I miss out on time with my daughter, and this is something I am not prepared to give up. Its amazing how, with real and personal consequence, do actions actually change. I used to have a “plan” for time management, but I would always put other things first before myself and then there would be nothing left for me. This has changed. Priorities are now family, health, work. These three simple priorities feed off each other with a synergistic effect. If I keep to these priorities and principles of time management, I achieve so much more than not implementing time management without consequence (even though there are). These include:

  • I am happier, my daughter is happier, my family is happier .. as I have the time to spend quality time with them everyday and I don’t work weekends (most of the time, there will always be a need here and there)
  • I am healthier – getting up and training cardio 5 days a week makes you feel great!! I have more energy, I am much more active and my mind feels sharp. I am able to complete work at a higher brain level for longer
  • I am more productive – even though I spend less time in the office than I used to, I am far more productive. I have set times, milestones, projects and deadlines. I feel fresh in the mind and am able to meet these deadlines with ease.
  • I am more creative – with a fresh mind and body, I find my idea generation and creative approach to marketing, design, strategy and our client issues is going off the chart; not just returned. I have found the passion for what I do and it is simply pouring out.

Thirdly, I have implemented a new piece of cloud software in the business for all staff called Asana. As we are in technology, we try all the latest and greatest for job scheduling, client and project management. They all have their pros and cons. I love Asana. Its simple, easy to use, connects all staff, provides client portals with updates, advanced project management tools and, did I say, it was simple. The apps also make it so easy to use on the go. This has helped immensely with managing staff and my own time. I am actually such a nerd, I am using the project module in Asana to timeline my own home renovation projects  …arrgghh, nerd.

Fourthly, a customer centric approach to client selection and work has been implemented. Essentially, I have become more selective with clients, and this is for the client’s benefit. I do not say yes to every client that comes through our door. Now this might seem counterproductive to business and revenue generation, but in reality it is the complete opposite. We have to know our strengths and weaknesses as a business. We need to understand our position in the marketplace and the ideal client that not only fits with your business, but we fit with theirs. There is plenty of competition in the marketplace and they all do great work in their own right. However, the market has become crowded and if we fall into the trap of trying to compete in this crowded space, everyone loses out. The amount of work available to the industry is diluted and clients are perhaps not getting the right business to meet their specific needs.

We are now busier than ever. Not because the volume of clients has increased, quite the opposite in fact. For clients that we believe are a better fit with another company after an initial consult to understand their requirements, we suggest this and explain why. There are a lot of quality design and development companies in Taranaki and we are happy to refer them if this is the best for the client. However, many of our clients have more detailed requirements that just a website or a business card design. They need assistance with strategy, governance, research, implementation, websites with advanced functionality, software, app development or a pick and mix of all of the above. The work is much more involved, longer in duration and larger in value. We get to work closely with the client and their staff, drive results and enjoy in their success. Its great!

This is not saying we dont have clients that want one-off jobs, such as website development or re-branding. It is more of a feel with the client. But, even though it seems counter productive to revenue generation and business success, I implore all businesses to really understand your strengths and place in the market. Then implement a customer-centric approach and put them first, even if this means suggesting that another company would serve them better. In the end, you will have the clients that best fit your business model, services and revenue will increase without over-promising and under-delivering. Your staff job satisfaction will increase as they are working on projects that inspire and challenge them.

The lemons that weren’t lemons after all ….

Now come the mistakes or the positive things I have stumbled across. Some of which I thought were negatives … who knew they would turn out to be positives!

  • Early, early mornings. With a young baby who has developed an inclination to wake at between 4:30am and 5:30am (usually closer to the earlier value), I have been getting up at this time on weekdays. At first, the body was not used to this and it complained a little. But, how could I complain as it was actually giving me the opportunity to spends an extra 2 hours per day with my daughter. We play, we laugh, we read, we dress up dolls … and it’s the best part of my day. I absolutely adore Summer (my daughter). Jess (my partner) then leisurely wakes at 7am and I’m off for a run or cycle, then a shower and I am in the office by 8am. End result = more productive and way happier. Who would of thought I would wake up early and realise this as an opportunity to REALLY utilise this time. Its fantastic.
  • Getting Older – even though I feel fit, look quite healthy and try to convince most people I meet that I am in my early 30’s, I am 42. That’s a fact. I get a bit more achy when training, I have been having headaches and have started to grind my jaw. I can be quite stubborn, so I ignored this for over a year. However, I decided this was stupid and went to the doctor, which lead to a few specialist appointments. And god forbid, medical professionals actually know what they are talking about, did you know that!!! After having dental appointments to build the back teeth up and realign my jaw, the ear and jaw pain are now gone. After a pair of glasses from the optometrist that reduce glare and blue light emissions from the computer screens I stare at all day, the late afternoon headaches are gone. Its a miracle and I feel great. All I can say is that if you have any issues, go and see your doctor sooner rather than later. There professional advice and solutions can make day to day life so much easier. And on the aesthetics of glasses, I’m still undecided. For now I think they make me look smarter (probably then I am) and take the attention away from the lack of hair on my head. So taking this as a win.
  • Education – I have had my PhD paused for about 3 years now and the the longer I wait to get back into it, the more I feel disenchanted with the whole process. However, an opportunity came across my lap, in the form of an email from a friend at WITT, asking if I would be interested in tutoring. Long story short, I said yes and WITT said yes, so I am now teaching Research Methodology to 3rd year Social Science degree students … and loving it. It has given me the passion to reignite my PhD and I love being in an environment where you inspire others and they inspire you. These students inspire me, keep me up to date and provide an environment that makes we want to learn more.

We’ll, time management is kicking in and its time to go shower my daughter .. no exceptions. I guess what I am learning myself from even writing this is that opportunities are there for improving your work and home life, but it is up to you to take those opportunities by the horn and make them happen. Your the only one that can.