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Work Well: Wearing One Hat at a Time

Dr. Sherry Walling, PhD

Everything but one’s self seems to come first when running a business — the employees, the quarterly goals, family, and so on.

But Sherry Walling, PhD and host of ZenFounder, thinks entrepreneurs should be prioritizing themselves to put their best foot forward.

“Startup folks tend to see themselves as exceptions to ‘normal’ humans,” Dr. Walling, said.

While this might be true in terms of say, determination or creativity, it’s not in terms of basic self-care. Lauren Berg Donovan, owner of PR and creative content house Style Architects, wears many hats as a business owner, wife, and mother of two.

“I’m always making sure that I prioritize myself as well; that I don’t get lost in that mix,” she said. “That can happen a lot with moms and entrepreneurs. [We] tend to put ourselves last.”

Having acquired Style Architects when she was pregnant with her second and amidst a transition to the Twin Cities, Donovan admits that period in her life held a lot of uncertainty and a serious amount of work. But at the end of the day, all of that up-front work has allowed her the autonomy to make decisions for her business that work best for her family.

“The flexibility of owning my own business has given me that balance,” she said.

Lauren Berg Donovan

Part of that flexibility is scheduling her work meetings around her workouts instead of the other way around. She tries to fill in her calendar well in advance, so self-care doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. But this wouldn’t be possible without the help of a great support system, such as leaning on extended family for assistance with childcare.

“I’ve really embraced saying yes to help and embracing that I can’t do it all on my own,” she said.

Bharat Pulgam, CEO of Pikup, an app that allows users to pick up items on grocery runs for other users, also lucked out with a great support system — but at work. Since he and his team of three young partners are all friends — which comes with its own unique challenges, he noted — they’re able to socialize at work.

“We joke about ever getting mad at each other, because it’s like the only three friends we have,” he said.

When there are disagreements, they try to resolve them as quickly as possible. The Pikup team has also started doing virtual happy hours every Friday to regroup and celebrate small goals.

“I’ve really embraced saying yes to help and embracing that I can’t do it all on my own” — Lauren Berg Donovan

“[It’s about] setting not just realistic goals but goals that are shorter term that allow you to celebrate a little bit,” Pulgam said. “Right now, everything changes week to week, so if you hit a weekly goal, allow yourself to celebrate.”

Bharat Pulgam

For his own personal wellbeing, Pulgam has been taking the time to cook more and set boundaries in lieu of a constant work-from-home life. One of his strict boundaries is going offline from Friday night to Sunday morning.

“Because the work/life distinction isn’t clear now, you’re expected to always be available,” he said. “That’s not ok. We still need to respect personal boundaries.”

Donovan also tries to set her boundaries by wearing one hat at a time.

“I try my best to compartmentalize instead of multi-task all the time,” she said, mentioning she tries to focus on what needs to be accomplished any given day while wearing a work hat so she can put the mom hat on when it’s done.

“Wearing those hats and really focusing allows you to be better at your work and be a better mom,” she said.

Laura Beier
Laura is a writer, coffee addict, and travel enthusiast who’s passionate about sustainability, vegetarian cuisine, and innovation. You can find her at a local coffee shop, going for a hike, or planning her next adventure.