‘Take time out for yourself’: Successful women entrepreneurs share mantra for work-life balance

Women's Day 2021: Entrepreneurship is a challenging journey, more so for women who are significantly underrepresented in the space

‘No two days are the same’ — you may often hear this statement from entrepreneurs, and rightly so. “I usually start my work around 11 am. But, I do not have a fixed schedule, or know when a day would end for me. My motto is to work till my employees are working. The field reports come in after 8 pm, so it is essential that those are reviewed to be able to plan for the next day,” shared Jyotsna Uttamchandani, 28, executive director, Syska Group. The story is no different for Divya Gokulnath, teacher and co-founder, BYJU’s with her “typical workday, including juggling son’s online classes, meetings, recording video lessons and spending time with newborn”.

Entrepreneurship is a challenging journey, and more so for women who have to manage their responsibilities at home, too. Considering the government’s push towards more women entrepreneurs for a larger “self-sufficient” role, in the words of President Ram Nath Kovind at the joint Parliament session during Budget 2021, representation of women in the space is only going to see a gradual increase.

But, given the hustle-bustle, how do women entrepreneurs find time for themselves? This International Women’s Day, indianexpress.com reached out to some of them to know how they push their boundaries and also keep their calm.

Integrating one’s passion with profession is the single biggest factor that helps entrepreneurs like Divya “not feel burnt out”. “While work-life balance is important, for me personally, work is an extension of my life. I thoroughly enjoy what I do and I manage to make time for my seven-year-old and my three-month-old infant at the same time,” the 34-year-old said.

Simply put, work-life balance means prioritising your professional as well as personal life at equilibrium. There will definitely be times where one will become more important than the other. “But it is how you define that line,” 28-year-old Jyotsna mentioned. “For me, as a leader, it is key that I am available at all times for my employees. But it is also crucial I set the right expectations with my team in case I am travelling for leisure. To maintain this balance, one must ensure to continue doing the things they love. If I know it is going to be a long day during sales closing and I may not get time to work out, I will choose to sleep 30 minutes lesser and use this time to go for a walk,” said the Pune-based businesswoman.

For Delhi-based Sonal Singh, co-founder and director, Fittr, mental fitness is as much important as physical fitness. “Even before I open my eyes, I make sure to do a five-minute gratitude exercise which helps me calm down my nerves and plan the day ahead,” she said, adding her typical workday stretches anywhere between 10-12 hours.

Divya concurred and mentioned how she takes time out for activities that “energise” her. “I have always believed in setting artificial boundaries that help me focus on my different priorities and multi-task. So whenever possible, I find time for fitness through a swim or a workout and I also try to spend as much time as possible with my children in their own learning journey. These are two things that never fail to energise me and I thoroughly enjoy them,” said the Bengaluru-based entrepreneur.

With women often being called natural “multi-taskers”, does it heighten the expectations and challenges, too? “It has actually helped personally to be a teacher, mentor, friend, businesswoman, mother, and wife – all at the same time,” remarked Divya, who has been a professional for 14 years.

“It’s not always easy to keep a cool head but I always make sure to evaluate any situation carefully before responding to it. This helps me rationalise better. I also make it a point to not take things personally. Most difficult situations are a chance for us all to gain new perspectives and looking at them from a positive point of view helps me stay calm,” added Divya.

For Jyotsna, all women “wear the superhero cap unknowingly” which helps “things get easier once the realisation dawns”. “But to get out, I mostly get some space. That means stepping away and listening to my favourite song or watching a funny video. If not, I give a loved one a call and try to change my focus,” she said.

“It is not possible to keep your calm always but I have learnt over time that it’s good to take a deep breath, think about the worst-case scenario and give yourself the moment of calibration to understand that these are only small glitches,” said Sonal.

Despite tight schedules, physical activity plays an important part in their lives. “Be it a sport, a dance form or something that brings you close to nature — only if you enjoy the activity will you be able to add it to your schedule with ease. I also think when you take the time out to care for your physical fitness, it contributes a great deal to your mental wellness, too! I find going for a swim nourishes both my mind and body,” Divya told indianexpress.com. Besides taking time out for a workout and squeezing in a walk, Jyotsna’s spends time with her mother, and dog as well as makes time for reading. “I love reading, so I often like to get at least 20 minutes in the day to read,” said Jyotsna, who goes gadget-free 6-8 pm everyday.

Sonal enjoys a game of badminton with her husband, or takes a walk with her dog to “switch-off”. “Even 10-15 minutes of downtime is a good way to keep you going,” she said.

“We all have days where we crave some junk or fast food. And that is okay. It is important to eat right, get adequate hours of sleep and get some time off your gadgets. I’d also say spend more time with yourself by reflecting on your day or your thoughts. Sometimes, that is all that is needed to motivate and inspire self,” added Jyotsna.

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