I set up Spabreaks.com less than four months after my first son was born – I must have been mad. But, as the saying goes: ‘If you want something done, give it to someone busy’.
Spabreaks.com started, as all things do, as a minor player in the spa industry. Today it’s the leading spa booking agency in Europe. There were other spa booking agencies who were doing extremely well at the time, while the likes of Lastminute.com were dominating the booking scene, and Groupon was pioneering the discount concept in an unprecedented way.
When it all began, it was just me and a couple of interns working extremely hard to get the agency off the ground. My background was in PR, working in-house for spa hotels and then running my own agency, Pink Fudge.
I knew my idea was a good one, but, equally, it has evolved in the eight years that it’s been running into something I couldn’t have predicted. It’s wonderful to look at the whole venture today and see more than 50 members of the team, and a projected turnover of more than £20million this year.
Over those eight years I have had two more children and experienced a catalogue of life events that have been as unpredictable as one might hope. In short, life started to get busy in 2008 and has continued to be so ever since, hence the reason why it is important to stop once in a while and recognise that you’re doing well.
As women, we are remarkably talented at criticising ourselves for all the things we should have done, rather than applauding all the things we have achieved. This Weight Watchers study of 2,000 females found that women criticise themselves at least eight times a day.
We are apprehensive about many things, such as whether we’ve worked hard enough, pleased a client or a supplier, done the right thing by our children, said the right thing to a member of staff.
Outside of work, we’re burdened with thoughts of pleasing others, such as whether we should have gone to a birthday party when we were so tired we needed toothpicks to keep our eyes open, rather than cancelling and falling asleep on the laptop.
It’s a generalisation, but for the most part, I’ve met that woman a thousand times over, myself included, and the absurd thing is that from the outside, we can all see she’s doing great.
I read an article in the Daily Mail recently about high-flying women who have it all, and I couldn’t be happier for them. However, I suspect what isn’t mentioned behind the gloss are the periods of slog, angst and hard work that got them to where they are today.
Yet I am not entirely sure if there’s such thing as the perfect work–life balance. It seems to me that you have it for a moment, then life happens again and you’re back to juggling, but that’s part of the joy – and sometimes trauma – of it all.
Perhaps through my career in the Spa industry, or from personal experience, I have discovered that the key to a work–life balance is to find a little of it in every day possible.
It is important to have a moment to yourself every day, whether it is five minutes to read a book on the train rather than checking your emails, take a stroll on your lunch break or even taking moment in the evening to give yourself a figurative pat of on the back.
Research has shown time and again that taking some time out to relax and refocus your mind can help to boost productivity and create a positive outlook on the future. Indeed, mental health professionals recommend taking at least 20 minutes a day to focus on yourself.
I find these moments at 5.30am when I walk the dogs. It also acts as a time for reflection and meditation, as I stroll through the fields in Berkshire and enjoy the quiet with my two old friends before I get on the train to London.
A study, Vitalizing effects of being outdoors and in nature, suggested that being outside in nature provides some great benefits to the brain; it makes us feel more alive and helps to de-stress our mental faculties.
For me, it’s the time that I get my best ideas so it actually makes me more productive. It also allows me to be the best boss, parent, colleague and partner that I can be.
So whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or setting out on your first venture, I think it’s important not to underestimate the power of a little time out, and decide for yourself what that means to you, especially if you’re in it for the long haul. It might sound fluffy, but in my experience it could be the key to success.