Making work "work" for you PDF  | Print |  E-mail

Mothers often put the needs and wants of their families before their own, which means their own work and business takes a back seat. Women's Business, Women's Wealth by business expert Amanda Ellis (Random House) is full of good advice on how to make work ‘work’ for you.

For the majority of mums who choose to go back to paid employment, trying to juggle the demands of a job with the day to day demands of family life is a full time job in itself.

And for women who have their own businesses, the burden can be enormous.

Amanda Ellis, who works for the International Finance Corporation in the World Bank Group, has worked with many women to help them set up their own businesses and their financial future, so she knows the challenges first hand.

It’s the reason why she has put together a book combining the wisdom and experience of scores of successful Australian women who are in business for themselves or juggling paid work and family commitments.

“There is real value in reading the stories of other women because we can learn from how they have dealt with their challenges,” says Amanda. “There are no mistakes, only lessons, and if we can learn the lessons from others without making the mistakes, it can move us along that much faster.”

Fortunately, Amanda believes the landscape of the paid workforce and small business sector is changing – for the better.

“I feel there is a big shift happening in Australia at the moment,” she says. “Women are supporting each other more and more. It’s particularly the case in small business that rather than people fighting over the same small pie, there is a real abundance mentality. So there can be competition and we can be competitive, but with a co-operative strategy.”

One of Amanda’s favourite quotes comes from former Victorian Premier Joan Kirner: “When women help women, women win.” And it’s a philosophy that was borne out in her many interviews.

“One thing I found incredibly uplifting when writing this book is that women were so honest,” says Amanda. “They would say there are moments when they lack confidence and when it’s all too hard, even if they were really high powered women. I found it wonderful to discover that these amazing women were really just like you or me.”

Check out these tips from Amanda Ellis' book:

  • Think of yourself as a business. Says Amanda: “We all need to become CEOs of our own personal corporations, where we are personally responsible for making money (our salary, wage or business income), marketing the product (ourselves or our business) and managing the money we make (planning to look after ourselves in retirement).”
  • Get rid of the things that really won’t make a difference to your life. Dr Judith Slocombe, former Telstra Businesswoman of the Year and mother of nine has a five-point plan to cope with life as a working mum:
  1. Stop worrying about the little things. Prioritise.
  2. Make a list of the important things you must do and cross off all but the top five. The rest won’t be important enough to worry about.
  3. Is one of the five tasks critical? If so, do it now.
  4. Next choose the easiest and most convenient task and do it.
  5. And so on, until the list is complete. Then make another one. You will find that soon you can’t find five things to put on the list and you’re dealing the most important thing straightaway.
  • Learn how to manage your time effectively. Belinda Paul, managing director of Clockwork Advertising Agency, found her life went more smoothly when she got her wider family involved. Her dad and brother help out daily and she has a business mentor. Her tips include:
  1. Get things in perspective – a day out to contemplate can help.
  2. You don’t have to do it all on your own.
  3. Touch base regularly with a business mentor.
  4. Go for a walk every day to clear your head – simple fresh air can make all the difference.
  5. Invest in your own wellbeing with massage and beauty treatments.
  • Remember that real skill is not only because we know it, it’s because we live it. Karen de Tysson is a time management specialist. Her tips include:
  1. Keep things in perspective by consistently reviewing the most important areas in your life - don't forget family, friends, ‘you’ time etc.
  2. Be prepared to throw out any concept, no matter how brilliant, that simply does not work for you.
  3. Don’t let daily issues or trivial matters cloud the vision of your life.
  4. Prioritise how you spend your time each day. Ask yourself – what is the benefit of me doing this today? What is the consequence if I don’t do this today? Keep your responses objective.
  5. Remember, no living being has ever had more or less time than what is available to you on a daily basis.
  • Work out why you want to return to the workforce: Financial needs? Mental stimulation? Self-esteem? A desire for your own job and wage? Your job is better paid than that of your partner? More?
  • Work out why you want to stay at home - Once in a life opportunity to spend with your baby/children? Can’t afford/don't agree with childcare? Your husband has a job with extreme hours/travel? You have chosen to make a successful career as a full-time modern-mum? More?
  • When you have worked out your reasons, examine them to make certain they are things that matter to you and your family.
  • Try to leave the guilt behind - especially any guilt others place on you.
  • Don't compare yourself and your values to those of your mother or other relatives or friends.
  • Network - stay in touch with work colleagues, other mothers, women you admire.
  • Stay positive - motherhood provides an opportunity to redefine yourself and your priorities in life.
  • Give it time. Whatever you choose to do, reassess your decision to stay home or to go with the first job - whatever you pick is not forever.
  • Get organised. Build a support network of family, friends and/or work colleagues to help-out with pick-ups, drop-offs etc.
  • Make time for yourself - it is the first thing to go when working and managing a family on any level.
  • Accept your decision and the trade-offs that come with it.
  • Remember the wheels will fall off every now and then - just accept this will happen and put them back - on when you can.
  • Choose whatever you enjoy doing - a job which makes you happy or more time at home.
  • If you choose to return to work from a home office or as a consultant do your homework. Research suitable courses at TAFE or similar. Join a business network to avoid becoming isolated.
  • Going back after years at home - offer to volunteer in a job that interests you. A great way to colour a CV or find out if you really do enjoy it.

Discuss your choices with your husband/partner to ensure support when you make your move and talk to people who believe in you.