Work/life balance has been a longtime discussion, especially in the realm of mental health and wellness. We know how critically important self-care is when juggling hectic work schedules, on top of tending to familial responsibilities and of course, having some time for fun! And, despite how the juggle of work/life balance has been at the forefront of conversations in recent years, it doesn’t appear that things are getting better. Before the pandemic, it was reported that 66% of Americans lack a work-life balance, and that 77% of Americans are burnt out in their current full-time jobs.
Now that work-from-home has only blurred the lines between work and..well.. life, this conversation takes on new meaning. When we think about work-life balance, we imagine the standard 9-5 (or, in some high pressure jobs, the 9-9) with work-left-over, and balancing that with a family at home. Entrepreneurship paints a new challenge, and because many entrepreneurs work-from-home or make their own schedules, we’re at an interesting crux in time. In other words, the work-life balance definition has been turned on its head, and full-time employees and entrepreneurs alike are affected.
We sat down with Melody Yang, the founder of six apps, to talk through what it’s like to juggle not only work and life, but so many different companies! We’re all getting used to the juggling of multiple components, whether in our business or otherwise. She shared her best tips for setting boundaries and finding peace amongst the chaos.
Staying focused and organized
We’ve all been there – the to-do list keeps piling up, and we suddenly start trying to tackle everything at once, like replying to an email while on a phone call. This can lead to complete confusion and is actually a less efficient way to get the job done. Yang shared her two top tips for staying focused and organized in her career, even with so many balls in the air:
- Set short-term and long term goals. “It’s easy to lose focus in the midst of chaos, which comes with stress and frustration. Reminding myself of my short-term and long-term goals keep me on my toes,” she commented.
- Relying on a professional support system. “I reach out to my professional support system when I’m unsure of my current trajectory. The uncertainty may come from unrealistic goals, unattainable deadlines, and constant failures. Being in my head doesn’t turn things around. I lose focus. Instead, I go to my own “board of advisors” consisting of experts in different fields. They give me advice and directions to help me prioritize what’s important and what can wait. And sometimes, just hearing stories of their career and setbacks they overcame inspires me to keep going when things are hard.”
Creating Space for Creativity
Under stress and pressure, it’s virtually impossible for the brain to be truly creative. Stress causes a fight-or-flight response, which takes up a lot of the brain’s time and energy. So, creating space for creativity is an important, yet challenging feat. Yang combats this by learning new things every single week.
“Creativity gets lost under the pressure of getting things done. Therefore, I like to allocate a fixed time for learning new things every week. This can include exploring new technologies, attending business and tech conferences, and reading tech journals,” she shared.
“Keeping up with the latest innovations serves as a friendly reminder of why I’m juggling so much — because I love tech and innovation! Finding spare time to keep myself excited about my field sparks creativity.”
When in doubt, go back to the core reason you ventured into this career or started your business. The excitement may override the stress, bringing with it a new tidal wave of creativity.
Learning to Manage Multiple Projects
Along the way, Yang has picked up some tips and tricks for managing multiple projects at once. This starts with planning thoroughly.
“Before allowing any projects to hit the ground running, I plan thoroughly. During the planning phase, I’d ask these questions to my teams and myself:
What are our OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) for the current milestone? What are some potential blockers? Do we have enough resources within constraints?’”, she noted.
“Setting feasible yet ambitious OKRs determines the success of a project. For instance, if my objective is ‘to create a better UX for my iOS app,’ one of my key results will be ‘drive the number of daily active users to X.’ Numbers in OKRs help me track the progress, allocate resources, and measure the outcome.”
This ability to track and measure creates more control, which is important because not every part of building or launching something new will be in control. “While a great amount of planning can lead to smooth sailing of a project, something always goes wrong during the build phase. OKRs come in handy when I need to prioritize tasks or projects. This ensures my progress aligns with my end goals,” she added.
In addition to this, Yang stresses the importance of total transparency and open communication with team members.
“Making sure the team is informed as early as possible and that they understand the why’s behind decisions is an integral part of building trust. Additionally, frequent check-ins as a team is a must. It’s easy to not find excuses for not communicating when I have lots of projects on hand. However, when the team doesn’t communicate, people step on each other’s toes unknowingly. Frictions start to form. I learned my lessons. To succeed in managing many projects and working on multiple teams, trust is fundamental and needed from the get-go,” she advises.
Whether you’re managing two or twelve projects, Yang’s advice can be helpful. Planning ahead of time ensures less chaos once things get off the ground, which means more time for self-care. And, reconnecting to your excitement and passion for your work or your industry will always revitalize your balance.