Yes, I’m a Female Entrepreneur. Yes, I Launched a Start-Up. And yes, it’s a good thing my product is based on time-management, because... yikes.
“When I started college, there were only two career choices for women. You could be a teacher or a nurse.” These were Mom’s words about why she became a teacher, which she gave up when she had her first child. Later, when Dad started a small business, Mom “helped” him with it, managing the office and playing the support role.
Mom attended college circa 1960. In 2017, times have changed. There are more opportunities than ever for women to envision, create and run their own businesses. The problem is that taking on the time and responsibilities of a startup does not alleviate the life pieces we are already juggling.
At home, I am both wife and mom. Fortunately, my girls are teenagers, so they and my the family can help with basic cleaning and cooking when I am spending 8-10 hours at my “day job” and then work another 6-8 hours at night on my burgeoning business. This was one consideration when I decided to jump off the start-up cliff; I have help.
But (and I would bet dollars to donuts that I belong to the world’s biggest club,) is that what I cannot delegate or disengage from is the mental piece -- the “planning piece”. The “what needs to be done and who can do it” of keeping the house running. The “whose birthday is coming up and when’s our next dental appointment and who can run the kids to practice” part. The “if Dad and Mom are going to watch the dogs next weekend, they need to get to the groomer on Thursday or Friday” piece.
How many times do we finally get into bed, only to be scrolling through “The List” (as author Allison Pearson dubbed it) in our heads? Women just think differently about the world around them. When my husband works from home, there is nothing – neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night -- nor a pile of dirty laundry the size of Mount St. Helen’s that could pull him away from his spreadsheets. In contrast, when I work from home it’s 45 minutes of work, 15 minutes of dinner prep, 30 minutes of work, 10 minutes of folding laundry.
In fact, my new business is based on this – we created a planner designed to manage a rich, full life. No one planner was ever exactly right, so after years of buying and swapping them out, I designed the “perfect planner” in that it allows complete individualization for each person’s schedule, activities, goals and relationships, as well as his or her layout preferences.
And as a “planner nerd”, I encourage every single woman to find a planner that works for her. There are many options in sizes, styles and functions. There are date books, and the trending bullet-journals, as well as planners that can double as journals and scrapbooks. Your fit is out there.
Studies show that trends are moving back to paper organizing after an initial surge in digital calendars. There are many reasons for this, especially among women. For one thing, we have a LOT to keep straight in our heads, and writing things down makes us seven times more likely to remember them. In addition, a written calendar allows us to “cross-check” the many areas of our lives. We can see simultaneously what our work commitments, family schedules and social obligations are on any given day. It allows, with the stroke of a pen, changes, additions and notes about what dish-to-pass we should bring. There’s also the benefit of flipping back for recall or flipping ahead to strategize.
I recently heard my business partner, Jody, telling someone that writing in her planner quiets her mind, because it is her “me time” and makes her more calm about managing her day. I write little notes in mine about the good things that happened during a given day. That way, on rough days I have memories to encourage me.
Naturally, I’m biased toward our planner because it’s so pretty and versatile. But still, the strongest advice I can give to fellow female entrepreneurs is to find an organizational system based on writing that works for you. You will find yourself more focused, prepared and confident, and not only managing all the pieces of your life, but enjoying them more -- and if we don’t love our lives, what is the point of all the things we do?
Jennifer Lasik an MPA and serves as the Cultural Arts Coordinator for the City of Evanston, and the founder of Starfish Living, LLC. She lives in Evanston, Illinois with her husband, teenage girls and their two dogs. www.starfishliving.com