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The No.1 Priority For Work-Life Balance

I realise how fragile life is, how easily I could have left loved ones, so I make sure to enjoy quality time and having fun with family and friends, even if that means working late once everyone's in bed.

Me and my friend Solange before the Ealing Half

You know, when you run your own business, juggling, juggling, there's very little slack (and a whole lot of worry) if you are not able to deliver for whatever reason.

I mean, I have a great team of people to help make things happen, but the 'engine' of my start-up is, at the moment, essentially me.

I've read countless articles on to manage my time better, how to prioritise and how not to procrastinate. My favourite productivity tip ever is about writing down the six most important things you need to do that day and just focusing on those. Then move the ones you don't get done to the next day. That's it.

Also saying "No." more. I read a life-changing book called 'The Power of Less' by Leo Babauta and it helped me cut back immensely (although my husband would struggle to say what on; I'm terrible at 'doing nothing'...)

I know a lot of mums like me who are managing the school run, homework, after-school clubs, childminders, meetings, housework, shopping, organising parties and presents for birthdays, cooking...and having a job or, increasingly, running their own businesses on top of that.

The clichéd 'ideal' is of a mum who puts her family first. I know loads who run themselves ragged, rarely thanked for that level of self-sacrifice. OK, maybe a card on Mother's Day.

So you might think this sounds selfish, when I say, "I'm the priority in this family".

I didn't always think that way.

Three years ago my hubby had been travelling with work a lot leaving me to look after two children under 4. One got chickenpox. Then the other. I was in quarantine, solo-parenting and stir-crazy. I'd also been studying for a degree, volunteering and training for a half-marathon raising money for Cancer Research in memory of my friend, Lizzy.

I was burning all the parts of the candle and was exhausted but thought I was 'too busy' to look after myself.

My immune system started collapsing. Having always been healthy, I ignored the signs my body was breaking down, telling myself I'd get better, I 'didn't have the time' to go to the docs when I got a bladder infection...then a stye on one eye...and a cyst in the other...

Ten days later, fed up with feeling crap and looking even worse, I went to the doctor. After my first antibiotic, I spent the next 48 hours vomiting, shivering and burning up.

I thought it was flu or a bad reaction to the drugs. In the end I stopped taking them; I wasn't keeping anything down. Monday, hubby drove me to the doctor, severely weakened and dehydrated.

I was admitted straight away, put on three drips and had tests. The bladder infection had spread to my kidneys - and into my blood.

In my delay to get treatment, I had developed sepsis, which can lead to "shock, multiple organ failure and death'.

I was hospitalised for eight days. Christmas was a write-off. I wept as I missed my three year-old's first nativity. I lost a stone in a week and was incredibly feeble.

Apparently, I'd had a 60% chance of dying.

Friends nurtured me with love and fruit, homemade soups, herbal teas and smoothies (I couldn't face the hospital food).

It took a nutritionist, PT and months to feel normal again.

Since then, I've prioritised myself: I eat better than ever and exercise to stay strong, to be able to look after my boys, be a good friend, run my business, look after my clients.

I realise how fragile life is, how easily I could have left loved ones, so I make sure to enjoy quality time and having fun with family and friends, even if that means working late once everyone's in bed.

I don't sleep much (bad, I know) but I reckon years of clubbing set me up perfectly for a life of sleep-deprivation!

I have to be selfish too though; if my kids aren't eating, I ignore them and enjoy my meal. Once I'm fed, I'm able to deal with them; not annoyed and ratty because of hunger.

I also always go to the doctor if I have a health niggle (which is, thankfully, rarely).

Oh, I did have a mild skin condition recently. One night, I went on Google and of course every article led me to conclude I definitely had cancer. Worried sick, I went to the doctor.

She prescribed an antibiotic cream and it was gone in days!

So the number one rule in work-life balance is to look after yourself first.

Don't keep going to the point of extinction as I nearly did.

Because if you're not around, fit, rested, healthy and happy then I guarantee you, nothing else will happen.

Sapna is a branding consultant, business-owner, partly-tamed party-girl, wife and mum to two karate-mad little boys. This article was originally published on her InnerVisions ID website.