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These days, just about every working man or woman wears several hats. Whether these multiple roles are due to changes in the economy, career transitions or converging professional fields, our work boundaries are drawn in pencil, not ink. We’re many things to many people, and not just in our business lives.

Solopreneurs running a one-person company may be a custodian and a coordinator for both clients and family. These dual demands can be taxing (just as the dual achievements can be rewarding). The joys of parenthood may commingle with the practical necessities of self-employment, resulting in a kind of push-pull tension. Backpacks, homework and sports practices chew up as much time as updating your website and handling database clean-up do (not to mention the Conference Call that Would Not End).

The latitude afforded by being your own boss stares eyeball to eyeball at professional commitment and reputation. The figurative noose created by corporate PTO, sick hours and time-off requests may disappear when you work for yourself (nanner, nanner), but that doesn’t mean you can run willy-nilly into taxi duty, bake sales and classroom aide assignments. Not if you want to keep earning an income.

True work-life balance may be elusive, but it’s not impossible. You need to find a process that’s flexible and adaptive yet sturdy enough to structure to your day. Let’s strive for something up a few notches from Chaos and down a step or two from Fully Choreographed.

You only need a little creativity, some organization, a few tools and a couple lifestyle goals to be the type of parent you want to be – and the type of business owner your clients (and bottom line) need.

Decide what you (really, really) want.

The ability to prioritize and consistently accomplish a multitude of tasks is the subject of many Lifehacker posts (and for good reason, too). We write more emails, clock more meeting minutes and tuck more information into the recesses of our gray matter than ever before. (Do you remember 3-step division circa 4th grade or the capital of West Virginia? Yikes!). Since we lack four robotic arms and a second central processing unit, it’s critical to focus our attention on the things that matter most.

Some people may opt to concentrate on family needs first while sliding work projects in between gaps. Others may approach work and home life like a relay race by coordinating tasks and times with a spouse or über-nanny. (Hooray for the clean hand-off!)

Something has to be first.

Whatever your choice, it’s obvious you can’t properly manage the demands on your time without putting your objectives in hierarchical order. And no, two items can’t share the number one spot. If you struggle with this, look back at the times you’ve had to sacrifice or make hard choices at work or home. Those decisions can help you be more objective about choosing your top priority now.

Paint outside the Lines.

Life is fast. It’s demanding. And if you’re averse to popping gross tons of Tums (chalk gets old after awhile), you’ve got to be creative with how you get things done. This ain’t your momma’s work era, so appeal to your inner MacGyver for improvisation and resourcefulness.

Share the task love.

My husband and I use a shared Google calendar to keep track of activities for our family and kids. I enter items like dentist checkups, baseball tryouts, teacher planning days and sports practices and games into the calendar. We keep a copy on the refrigerator (helps the kids think ahead and be responsible, too), and my husband keeps another in his office at work (he chooses not to stay logged in to the calendar online). Each evening, we quickly talk through the next day’s activity to map out logistics of who, where, what and how. We have a font and label color dedicated to kid stuff and another pair dedicated to my work appointments so we can sort through to-dos at a glance.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2…

 

Photo credit: wwworks

As Principal of Insights & Ingenuity, Heather helps brands earn customer preference. Specializing in digital channels, Heather’s firm provides brand-building positioning and content strategies to B2C and B2B companies. She’s a contributing author to Social Media Explorer, Content Marketing Institute, Shareaholic, MarketingProfs, and other media outlets. Find Heather on Twitter as @heatherrast or circle her up on G+ at gplus.to/heatherrast.