The Loose Women panel recently had the pleasure of a visit from Deborah Meaden, the formidable businesswomen from the hit series Dragon’s Den.
Her appearance on the show got the tombola bingo team talking about what it takes to balance a busy career with your home life. We wanted to get some tips from some of the experts. First we asked Joanne Dewberry, the mother, blogger and brains behind Charlie Moo’s, for some advice, before seeing how her technique compared to one of our own CMs, Coconut-ice.
As a successful entrepreneur and mother of three, Joanne knows that getting the balance right can be a challenge, but she has some key tips that make things a whole lot easier, particularly for those working from home.
tombola: How do you start your working day?
Joanne Dewberry: I currently only work a three day week whilst my youngest is at pre-school, but I start as close to 10am as I can. Once the children are dropped at school, dinner is in the slow cooker and the breakfast dishes are done, I feel like I can sit down and start my working day. I generally start with a quick flick through my emails to make sure there isn’t anything that can’t wait – comments for an article, Charlie Moo’s orders etc. Then I start on my to-do list which will have 3-4 items that have to be completed that day.
I generally use the hours from 7-9pm to do most of my social media marketing, schedule updates on Twitter/Facebook, reply to comments etc. This doesn’t take up a large chunk of time, so I don’t find it a beneficial use of my three child-free days, plus it’s the sort of thing I can dabble in while chatting to my other half and watching soaps.
tombola: When do you spend time with family?
Joanne Dewberry: As soon as the children are collected from school, the laptop is off and I’m Mummy. This can involve homework, playing, taking them to after-school activities or just chilling out and watching Scooby Doo. I home-cook a meal each day (which is why a slow cooker is my life saver!) and we all eat together, which I feel is a really important aspect of our day.
Unless we are attending family blogger events we spend the weekends together. I try not to work over the weekend as I believe it’s important to have a break from the business. It’s also important for me personally, as I set up the business to provide myself with an income, but I also designed it so that it would allow me to spend time with my children. I’ve never missed any school assemblies, shows or teacher talks and I’m always ready to collect the kids if they fall ill.
tombola: How do you stay abreast of industry news?
Joanne Dewberry: Social media is a great way to learn what’s going on and what others in your industry think about it. It’s also a good idea to subscribe to any blogs that might be relevant to your line of work. Personally, I network on and offline with a variety of small businesses, both locally and nationally. Having a support network around you is key, especially for those who are working from home and being their own boss, as this can sometimes make you feel isolated.
tombola: What do you do to unwind after a busy day?
Joanne Dewberry: That physical act of turning off the laptop and leaving the house to collect the children is a great way to switch off from the business. My office is under the stairs, so I don’t have to go there unless I’m working, which I find is really useful. Previously my office was in our bedroom, and I found it hard to switch off, so if you’re working from home I’d recommend having a special space that you use only for work.
If I feel really stressed, the children and I will go for a walk in the New Forest instead of coming straight home. Being outside after spending the day sat at a desk really helps to calm me down and blow away any cobwebs. A long hot bath and glass of wine also helps!
tombola: Any other relevant rules that you live/work by?
Joanne Dewberry: I am very strict about my three work days working. My hours are 10am-2pm which gives me an hour to do dinner and some domestic chores before I start work. It also gives me an hour before the school pick-up to eat lunch and have a quick hoover round. I don’t plan to meet friends, go shopping or answer the phone (unless it’s pre-arranged). If anyone turns up unexpectedly, I am quick to let them know that I’m working.
When you work from home you often find that others around you maybe don’t understand that you are actually, erm… working! They don’t understand why your house isn’t spick and span and all your chores aren’t done, but working at home needs to be treated like any other working day.
I’m also very strict about the children coming first. I miss out on networking opportunities and conferences due to having a little one, but I’m not bitter because soon she will be at school and I’ll miss our quality time together. On the two days I’m not working I am solely Mummy, which involves going to play dates, soft play and swimming lessons. I am lucky, though, because a couple of my friends also run businesses and blogs around their family, so once in a while I’m able to mix business with pleasure.
- Have a working day schedule and plan your time carefully, to make sure you don’t end up being a busy fool or getting distracted by domestic chores.
- Don’t try and do it all. When your being Mummy, be Mummy. When you’re at work, be professional. Don’t try and do both at the same time as you will be inefficient at both. When they come home from school, don’t try and finish a major report, do homework and cook dinner at the same time, because chances are, you won’t get anything done to a decent standard!
- Aim for tunnel vision. It’s easy to allow your family situation, the age of your children and how much support you have to dictate your performance at work, but you need to learn how to separate the two from time to time.
Our tombola CM, Coconut-ice, finds that the key to juggling work and home life is all in the preparation:
“We like to prep as much as we can when we’ve got the kids off to bed. Things like packing the kids’ school bags, setting out their school uniform and even laying the breakfast table, help us to make things run smoothly so we can make the most of our time together.
“I tend to prepare quite a few of the things for my weekend shifts on a midweek night, once the kids are in bed. Things like preparing the quizzes, and looking for any funny or strange news stories that have happened during the week. I also now tend to read a lot of the forum information on a Thursday in preparation for my shifts.
“Doing the ‘prep work’ like this helps us as a family because we can then maximise the time we do have on a weekend, before my shifts start, safe in the knowledge that I’ve get virtually everything I need for the shifts.
It’s a system that I don’t think will ever change for us as it works well!”
Of course, we don’t all work from home, and many of us will take a different approach. Do you have any tips to add to those above? Perhaps you think you’ve nailed the secret behind keeping a healthy balance between work and play? If so, we want to hear it! Drop us a line in the comment box below.