Balancing Acts: 5 Ways You can Achieve Harmony at Work and at Home

Balancing Acts: 5 Ways You can Achieve Harmony at Work and at Home
by Patrice Lewis

Courtesy of The Crafts Report
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"I don't know how you do it," I told a friend one day as we chatted over a leisurely cup of tea. "You have five homeschooled kids and your business is booming. Where do you find the time for tea, much less a life?"

This friend does indeed have five homeschooled kids, the youngest of whom is four. A couple of years ago she started a cottage industry making reusable feminine hygiene products (www.naturallycozy.com), and to her surprise, the business took off so fast she had a hard time finding a balance between the duties of home, children, schooling, husband, and business.

This, I learned, is a common problem. Every entrepreneur hopes their cottage industry or craft business will become successful; but too many people find themselves wildly discombobulated when it comes to juggling all the new obligations and duties with their regular cadre of responsibilities.

So how do successful craftspeople do it all? Naturally everyone uses different tactics, but they all seek the same result: balance in their professional and personal lives.

1. Like Clockwork
In my friend's case, one of the first things she had to learn was how to schedule herself. All the schoolwork is done by noon. After that, each child--even the youngest--is expected to pitch in and do chores, ranging from splitting wood (they're rural and off-grid) to sweeping floors to feeding livestock to planning dinner. While the children perform their expected tasks, my friend sews. "That way I'm here if they need me and the children are learning responsibility," she says. "Their chores are usually done by 2 pm and then they're free to play."

This kind of scheduling also works for Lydia Krupinski of Pierogi Picnic (www.pierogipicnic.com) who works outside the home in addition to her home-based business. "What hasn't worked is flying by the seat of my pants," she admits. "For me the key to having a day job and a successful craft business is to allocate time to each--well in advance. Organization is not a default in my mental capacity, so I have to make an earnest effort to force it into my daily existence. I keep a calendar that documents every tiny detail of my life. This allows me to also squeeze in time for my family, pets, and self. The beauty in having everything so regimented is that I know in advance what I'm doing. It sets my tone for the day and allows me to zero in on what needs to be done. Otherwise I'd procrastinate and the nitty-gritty would fall to the wayside."

2. Harmony, Not Balance
This orderliness works for any number of home businesses, but for some people, schedules are too rigid. Jenelle Montilone of TrashN2Tees (www.trashn2tees.com) is blunt: "I have to be honest, I think balance is bull," she says. "I'm a mom of two and an eco-craftepenuer: creating fun and sustainable alternative clothing and accessories made using 100% reclaimed materials. My life style is laid back, and I try as much as possible to run my full-time business without a rigid routine. PB+J by the creek, silly dance contests, and mid-day cuddles are all mainstays in my week-long plans. It's a challenge to create, edit photos, respond to emails, cook breakfast/lunch/dinner, pitch magazines, blog, vacuum, coordinate community events, and nurture the inquisitive minds of a three and six-year-old, but it can be done. It doesn't have to translate to an orderly datebook (or all get done on the same day). When you strive for this illusion of balance, you get a deadline, ear infection, or a genius idea. I work on weekends, I forget birthdays, and sometimes my hamburgers end-up like hockey pucks, but I strive for harmony, not balance."

3. Wakeup Call for Balance
Raquel Adena of Raquel's Mosaics (www.raquelsmosaics.com) fell wildly out-of-balance when she was building her business. "I was on the extreme end six years ago when my work was all-consuming," she says. "It was having major impacts on my health and relationship with my husband. It was like I had blinders on and could see nothing but mosaics, staying up as late as 2 to 3 a.m. I wasn't exercising and had little-to-no connection with my partner. I slowly emerged from all-consuming to a slightly more balanced existence, but was still staying up too late participating in too many art shows."

Sound familiar? In Raquel's case, it took a tragedy to change her life. "Four years ago a close friend was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer and that really did reshape my whole outlook on living in-the-moment. I realized I needed to be more grateful and to find more balance in my life. What I have changed in our house is structure and communication. Everyone knows what their task is and any additional needs of the day/week are clearly communicated. This frees me up from carrying the whole load. Each day is laid out."

Waxing philosophical, she adds, "An artistic business is more than just making money--it's looking inward and finding what success looks like in your life. For me it will be close friends, good health, art, children, discovering new passions, a close relationship with my husband, and a walk on the beach every now-and then ... really, living life with no regrets!"

4. All Hands on Deck
Many crafters have learned what moms have known for centuries: kids are eager to help. To that end, give them business tasks commensurate with their age and ability. (A paycheck can also go a long way toward convincing teens to help.)

Shelley Hunter of Gift Card Girlfriend (www.giftcardgirlfriend.com) was at first frustrated by her young kids' desire to "help" with her business (all moms know how much work this kind of "help" creates). But she learned to harness their eagerness. "I look for ways they can be part of the process," she says. "That might mean helping me on something they can handle or it might mean handing over the scraps and turning them loose on their own projects. But for a mom who must balance kids and business, this is my solution. As a bonus, my older daughter is getting pretty good at using the camera and posing for pictures, so I often have her help me on the media end."

Smart moms also know how to cultivate a work ethic as the kids get older. "When my kids were younger, I definitely had to work when they were napping or otherwise distracted," she notes. "As they are getting older, it's nice to be able to include them in a way that I'm still getting my work done, but without the frustration."

In our personal situation, the kids have literally grown up with a woodcraft business around their ears. Now that they're teens, we hire them to work during busy times. Their "help" is now truly helpful--and they appreciate the paycheck that comes at the end of the month.

5. Senior Needs
When most people think about struggling for balance, they think of families with young children. But for John and Emily McCoy of McCoy Toys (www.etsy.com/shop/mccoytoys), it wasn't a matter of balancing the needs of children so much as balancing the needs of seniors. Their retirement business of homemade toys boomed, but they found themselves struggling to find time for family events, keeping up with house and yard work, as well as health issues affecting people their age. To help alleviate the stress of too much work, they took a number of steps.

"We hired someone to do cleaning for us. We sold the lawn mower and hired someone to do our lawn work. In addition, we now use a local printer for the printing of our business cards and product cards (info that we attach to each toy)," they note. The McCoys employ a number of part-time employees ranging from their grown grandson, young granddaughter, two other seniors and a high school kid. "Our down-time is from Christmas through January," they add. "In December we choose a 'drop dead date'--no further sales, orders, requests will be accepted! We then begin to transition our work room into a family room…tables turn into dining tables with cloths and Christmas decorations ... then we host a Christmas Day Dinner for approximately 20 family members. Everyone is seated!"

Don't Waste Time
You'll notice the one unifying thing ALL these different craftspeople and their diverse balancing tactics have in common: they don't waste time. Primarily, they don't spend hours staring at a TV screen or surfing the web: television, computer games, and internet surfing waste an astonishingly large amount of many peoples' days.

For example, two hours of watching television per day equals (30), 24-hour days per year of doing nothing but watching TV--that's an entire month--gone! Worse yet, Nielsen Media reports that the average American watches, not two hours a day, but four. That's two solid months--OR, six months of eight-hour days--OR half of your work year! What could you do if you had an extra six months of eight-hour work days?

That's how these people have been able to bring balance to their personal and professional lives: they don't waste time.

So whatever tactics you use to bring balance to your personal and professional lives, I urge you to embrace the truly useful things and discard the time-wasting. Your two separate lives may thrive as a result.


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