Smallbiz health tips: How this busy mum balances work, rest and play

Balancing home and work can be tricky for most small business owners, especially so when you’re a new mum or dad. We chatted to Gemma Nixon, one of our members who’s the mother of a 10-month-old, an occupational therapist and a small business owner on how she keeps it all together. Here’s what she had to say...

As an occupational therapist, one of the first things we were taught at university was the value of balance in our lives. This is a balance of ‘work, rest and play’ - our bodies fundamentally need this to keep us going emotionally, psychologically and physically and this has never been more obvious to me than when I became incredibly bogged down and burnt out with my small business.

Here are some of the things I do to strike a work-life balance:

1. Start the day with a to-do list.

I always make a list of things I can realistically achieve every day to focus on what are my top priorities. This helps me start my day thinking about all the important tasks ahead, and move on from the hustle and bustle of getting myself, a 10-month-old baby and my home ready before running out the door at 7.45 am.

2. Don’t multitask when you’re completing an important task.

When running a small business, it’s tempting to do multiple things at the same time. But that’s not necessarily the smartest approach. To prevent any distractions while I’m completing a demanding task, I shutdown my emails and ask for phone messages to be taken for me.


3. Be mindful.

Mindfulness is often associated with Buddhism or a treatment regime for people with significant mental health problems. I use mindfulness on a daily basis so I can complete each task with equal focus. I try to be conscious of when my mind wanders off during an activity or task and bring my attention back to what I’m doing at that moment.

I realised I can get much more work done by applying mindfulness to daily tasks. I also try to apply these principles at home when I am with my son or spending time with my husband - it makes my time more enjoyable, often more productive and I usually sleep better at night.

4. Take breaks.

It’s important to take genuine breaks through the day so you can rest your mind. That’s why, whether I am chatting to my colleagues or having a coffee, I try to do just those things and not worry about the work I could be doing at that time. I find that when I’m thinking about work while taking a break, the conversations take longer, or I procrastinate because of the all the worrying.

5. Squash frogs.

We have a term here at Integrity Therapy Services which one of my gorgeous, talented employees came up with - we all have those unpleasant / boring / mindless tasks or ‘frogs’ on our to-do-list that we avoid or procrastinate on.

So when we start feeling overwhelmed with the pile up of these tasks, we aim to put one of those ‘frogs’ on the top of our to-do lists and ‘squash it’ before the day gets away from us. It’s amazing what this does to our well being, not to mention our work load.

6. Prioritise yourself

Like most small business owners, I find I am very good at prioritising everyone including our clients, customers, employees, referrers, suppliers and networks, but not myself. We rarely stop to think about what we might need to maintain our current level of involvement and motivation in our businesses.

But we need to prioritise time for our families and friends, and for activities that nourish our personal interests. I plan to make exercise and ‘doing something nice’ for myself every month a priority.

Last but not the least, I try very hard to put aside any feelings of guilt, that I should or could be doing something else and use mindfulness to stay in the moment. This helps me strike a balance between those brief moments of down time and a healthy level of stress that keeps me on top of my game as a business owner.

About the author:

Gemma is an occupational therapist and started Integrity Therapy Services as a sole trader in regional NSW in 2010. She now employs four local allied health professionals and one admin staff. Given that her parents were also into small business for much of her teenage and adult years, she had some good knowledge and realistic expectations of what she was getting herself into when she launched her own business.