Raising two babies – a toddler and a startup – is extremely rewarding. It's also a lot of hard work.
I started my company VarageSale in 2012 while pregnant with my son. It was while I was decluttering my home to make room for our new arrival that the idea was born. I had been selling my stuff on other classified sites but found the experience to be a little creepy, so I asked my husband Carl (who happened to be developer) if he could build a better way to buy and sell with neighbours. After a bit of convincing, he got to work. We realized we had a something special when our son was still just an infant, and our first prototype was showing an outstanding level of engagement.
I'm often asked how I've been able to balance these two very demanding and important aspects of my life. The truth is, it took me half a year of very little sleep to figure this out for myself. As a new mom with a new business three years ago, I wasn't getting enough rest. It wasn't until I took a sleep-training course, and I left the workshop with a bunch of really great tips, that my son – and I – began sleeping through the night. This was a turning point for me, because running a business on zero sleep was just not manageable.
Still, there's a lot more to it than getting enough sleep. This is what I've learned along the way.
1. There's no shame in asking for help
The next step was figuring out my priorities (my son and my business), and outsourcing the not-so-important stuff. Since running a successful startup is a 24/7 endeavour, my husband Carl and I knew we'd need to seek out extra help at home. Lucky for us, we found a caregiver who loves our child almost as much as we do. Now, if we're going to have a late evening at the office, I know she's always there to care for my little guy. Having someone I trust to step in when I need her helps me focus on my business, guilt-free.
2. Create an environment where you can thrive
I like to use the tricks I picked up during my past life as a teacher to keep everything superorganized. Not surprisingly, our home looks like a VarageSale "after shot." It's free of clutter and exceptionally tidy. When it comes to keeping my daily life in order, Wunderlist is an invaluable online tool. It allows me to separate my professional tasks from my personal ones, and prioritize based on level of urgency. These lists are easy to share, so the right people have access to them at the right time – whether it be my son's caregiver in need of an emergency contact number or Carl at the supermarket looking for this week's grocery list. A tool like this makes communication and collaboration really easy, helping me to focus on what matters.
3. Make time for yourself and your loved ones
No matter how busy I am, I treat myself to 30 minutes of "me time" each day. It all comes down to recharging after a long day at work or clearing my head before the next big challenge ahead. Most important, though, is the time I spend with my son. Monday to Thursday, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., my staff knows I'm not available (unless there's an emergency) so that I can give my child my undivided attention during dinner time, bath time and bedtime – after which, it's back to work for me. On weekends, our son gets both parents for the full day – well, except Sunday mornings, which are "Daddy and Noah" time – and my time to sleep in.
Running a successful startup and raising a child aren't all that different. They're both your babies. They both require your time, attention and focus. And neither would thrive without you. The best way to succeed is to structure your life in a way that allows you to keep focused, whether by asking for help, getting organized, making time for yourself – or simply getting enough sleep.
Tami Zuckerman is co-founder and chief customer officer at Toronto-based VarageSale, an app for families looking to buy and sell pre-loved items with their neighbours.
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