Tag Archives: entrepreneur

Work life balance… it’s like spinning plates

16 May

I recall fondly the days when my two children were young – I was a twenty-something entrepreneur whose daily life felt like I was constantly spinning a dozen plates.  Between dance lessons, soccer practice, karate, girls choir, homework, teachers conferences, school volunteerism, business trips away, marketing, volunteerism, finding new contracts, running a household, and catering to a husband who was either in school or busy working 12 hour shifts (3 times a week), there were months and years where I felt a little harried (to say the least).  I was overtaxed, but considered that I was happy as I could be – spinning so many plates at once. Multi-tasking was an understatement!

I have high respect and regard for women (and men) worldwide who struggle to keep so many plates in the air at the same time. Now that my children are grown and on their own, and I am in a new life of singledom, I can view my former busy life with 20/20 hindsight.  In retrospect I wish I had done a few things differently and I’d like to share them with you:

1. Realize that there is a limit to the number of plates you can spin at once!

When I look back, I realize that two kids + too many activities + pursuing a business + living away from supportive family + volunteering at school + out-of-town travel + a competitive husband = overload.  I wish that I had taken on less, nurtured personal friendships and sought help from friends and neighbors. Over time, this overloaded situation caused me fatigue and kept me from feeling personally fulfilled.

2. You don’t have to be all things to all people.

As a person with high ideals and a harsh inner critic, I sought to keep all the plates spinning all the time and at the perfect tempo.  I sought to be the best mother, the best school volunteer, the best homemaker, the profitable entrepreneur, and the perfect attentive wife – I now think that was an impossible feat. Similar to being a jack of all trades and master of none, I regret thinking that I was a superwoman who could succeed with so many demands on my time.  If I had only known then that 20% of the effort in the right places (my children) would give me 80% of the benefits (healthy happy adults), I would have sacrificed perfection in the other areas.

3. Accept support from everyone!

I remember times during my busy years that people would offer support or help — and I turned down the offers because I didn’t want to be a burden.  Instead of looking at offers to help as exactly that (genuine and giving), I viewed it as  take and give. I felt that if I took help, I’d be indebted to return the favor double.  My advice?  Accept the help when it will ease your burden, and don’t feel that you owe double.  Others will appreciate that you trusted them enough to take their help!

4. Keep your own “Cookie Jar” full!

One of the most life changing anecdotes I’ve ever read outlines how women (primarily) are taught to make sure to take care of others first. In other words, we make sure that we keep everyone else’s “cookie jar” full before we fill our own.  When we neglect our own needs (our own self-esteem and our own cookie jar) we find that no one else is looking after us (they are looking after their own needs) – and we have nothing to eat.  Instead, we need to fill our own cookie jar first so that we can then give to others.  I wish that I had learned this a long time ago.  I wish I had concentrated on self-love and acceptance before those same needs of my family, and then given more without regret.  I realize (too late) that I gave away my power and money (paying for three separate sets of schooling for my ex-husband) and accepted his needs before mine (friends ask me how much he actually worked). As a result, I regret that I neglected my needs in favor of those of my family.

5. Nurture YOUR friendships.

This goes hand in hand with #4.  Too often we give up our own needs for friendship in favor of becoming friends with our children’s parents, our spouse’s coworkers or choice of friends, and as such we lose our identity.

When your identity consists solely of being so-and-so’s parent, and so-and-so’s spouse, your uniqueness and identity is lost. (Fortunately I had my work reputation to fall back on!)  When I was no longer a spouse, and when my children moved away, so too did a big part of my identity.  I’ve since built up my own circle of friends who love me for me, but it was very lonely to discover that no one saw me for me – I was merely a mother and a wife.

Keep, meet and nurture your friends – they love you for who YOU are, not the role you’ve taken on.

In retrospect,

I loved spinning plates and raising two wonderful children, and I recall fondly the memories of the busy times.  I miss the challenges of spinning multiple plates and the feeling of being needed by so many for so many things.  I wouldn’t trade my past work life balance challenge for anything. Today my life is simple with far fewer plates to spin at once – and it is an easy task to balance work, friends, and pets.

I applaud everyone who spin multiple plates and do so with grace and skill.  As one who has been there, I share my observations with the hope that your spinning might be a bit easier.

Have a productive, happy week!


Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

Update on Kanban – It’s common sense for teams

9 Apr

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about trying Kanban techniques to everyday life in the hopes that I’d be more productive and achieve more output by focusing on less things at once.  I have to confess that this was an ambitious quest, one for which I was ill prepared.  I attended a Kanban for software development workshop and figured that it should (and probably could) be an easy task to apply the principles to my daily routine – kind of like thinking that a silver bullet found on the street would change my life.

It wasn’t so easy. I had my list of how I’d start using Kanban that week, and focused on the principles of flow and limiting WIP (work-in-progress).  As I continued to research Kanban (did I put the cart before the horse?), I discovered that I really needed to start with a routine or a standardized process.  And that’s not how I my days go today.

First of all, as an entrepreneur who works out of a home office with tons of email to digest every day and no set schedule (unless I am working at a client site in which case there is a structured routine), the discipline of Kanban was something that I hadn’t really examined.

Secondly, as a veteran multitasker (I’ve got 6 windows open now), it was going to take some major structural changes to adopt the Kanban principles. Yes, I realize that multi-tasking may impede maximum productivity but it works for me at this point with my business.

And, thirdly, when I am working on tasks alone (I am an independent consultant) there isn’t problem with bottlenecks like there is when working in a pipeline with teams and dependencies.  I could easily see how Kanban could simplify my workload when I had employees in my business, balanced with small children and a husband in the household (in other words a teaming environment).

The experiment, however short, was not without its merits.  I realized that by taking closer notes on what I was doing from day-to-day I started to prioritize the incoming tasks with more rigor, and focused on the important few things instead of the many trivial tasks.  I also realized that as a creative person, the multi-tasking works well for me.

I also appreciate that there are great benefits to be gained from Kanban principles when working in a team environment rife with changing priorities and moving targets, project budgets and customers awaiting software delivery.  If you are working in a team environment and finding bottlenecks and workflow challenges (nothing seems to get done on time, there’s too much rework, and too many interruptions) then I’d urge you to check out Kanban for your workplace. The costs of training are far outweighed by increased productivity and increased team morale (did you know the number one source of workplace conflict is lack of good process?)

Consult one of our own U.S. experts for Kanban training (I’d recommend my instructor and mentor David Anderson) – and let me know your results.  I’m willing to bet that your teams will performance better, your customer loyalty goes up, and your professionals are happier.

While my own personal encounters with Kanban are premature – it’s the nature of my days and my work that rendered the method not perfect for me – but in the process, I am surprised that more businesses, not-for-profits and general corporations are not yet using Kanban.  It’s the perfect, common-sense approach to simplifying your workflows and making work, well work.


Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

Copyright 2010 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ———————

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