I hear it all the time. In the beginning, entrepreneurs have wonderful imaginings about working for themselves. You know … do a little business, wash a load of clothes. Do a little business, go meet a friend for lunch. Do a little business, travel for a few days.
All that can become reality, but — truthfully — it usually doesn’t.
One of two things typically happens when you decide to work for yourself, whether it is in a service-based business, an online company, or as an Amazon seller. Oddly enough, they are two extremes.
The first scenario is that you work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Especially in the beginning when you are trying to get your business off the ground. It’s just too easy to run over to the computer and type up that wonderful idea you had for a product. Rather than doing a little business and starting dinner, you do a lot of business and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches three nights a week. I know first hand because this scenario used to fit me perfectly.
The second situation is the exact opposite. It is also very easy to get caught up in all there is to do in daily life and totally neglect your business. Rather than doing a little business and running an errand, you set out for the office supply store and then get lunch. Then you notice a sale at Best Buy and see the taco food truck on the next block, so you stop for lunch. The next thing you know, four hours have passed and you have completely forgotten about your to-do list. Neither of these lifestyles is healthy — for you or your business. But how do you find balance?
I was able to find some clarity and balance by incorporating many of the tactics I used when working in the corporate world. I had scheduled everything back then. I knew what time I needed to be in bed so I could get a good night’s rest. I knew what time I needed to be up to make it to the office on schedule. I took one hour for lunch. I came home and started dinner, exercised, relaxed, ran errands, etc. At the end of the day I went to sleep and started all over the following day. I had a routine.
In order to maintain work-life balance as an entrepreneur, I had to create a schedule that applied to my new environment. Because I have clients all across the country (and in other countries for that matter), I could literally work 24 hours a day due to the time variances. A routine was a must.
Don’t get me wrong. I still take advantage of the freedoms involved with owning my own business. After all, that’s one of the reasons I decided to open my own company. But, for me, structure was a necessity.
If you are one of the many who suffer from the same struggles I did, you might find these work-life balance tips helpful.
- Set office hours. Decide what time you are going to “get to the office” each day. Don’t answer your telephone before that time. Let voicemail take a message. Likewise, decide what time you’ll end your workday. Once again, when your office is “closed” let vendors or customers leave messages or send an email that you can answer the next day.
Your schedule will probably need to be flexible if you have clients in a variety of time zones. Perhaps on Monday and Wednesday you’ll work 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday you’ll work 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Only you can decide which hours will be most beneficial to you and your customers.
- Allow a specific amount of time during your workday for lunch, errands, and personal work. Perhaps you’ll consider noon until 1:30 p.m. your lunch break. You might also decide to give yourself two 30-minute breaks during the day (or whatever amount of time fits your lifestyle). Unless something unexpected arises, stick to your schedule.
- Keep personal interruptions to a minimum. Even if a friend calls while you are trying to complete a project, let it go to voicemail. Staying focused will keep you from being forced into a last-minute panic over a forgotten deadline.
- Take days off! Yes, I know. There will be no one to run the business while you’re away. I used to have that same reaction. There are so many ways now to automate things while you’re out that any potential customers can be notified of your absence and about when you will return.
Place a message on your voicemail, use auto responders for your email and, if it makes you feel better, leave the number of your virtual assistant in case of emergencies. You need time away — take advantage of it!
- Realize you can’t do it all. One person is only capable of so much. If you promised yourself you would only work eight or nine hours a day, then do just that. If you didn’t finish today — finish tomorrow. Again, I understand that last-minute details can pop up unexpectedly. But as a matter of daily routine, stick to your guns.
- Prioritize. Decide, while in a quiet, thoughtful mood, what your priorities are. Choose, before you are put in the midst of a struggle, whether your kid’s baseball game or a meeting with a new client is more important to you.
Before things turn hectic again, consider which you will choose: dinner with an old friend who is only in town for one night or working all evening to earn a few hundred dollars. In the heat of the moment, no one makes clear decisions. It’s better to name your priorities now and promise yourself you’ll adhere to them.
Once you set your mind on following these new guidelines, stay with it for at least two weeks. Change comes slowly for most people. Allow time to adjust before deciding a routine isn’t for you. After two weeks, fine-tune your schedule if necessary.
There are exceptions to every rule, and these work-life balance tips are no different. However, it is a good starting place toward achieving balance between your work and your personal life. You can make it work. No doubt your family and friends will be glad you made the change, and so will your clients. But most of all, so will you!
- Avoid the Bright Shiny Object Syndrome. Do you suffer from Bright Shiny Object Syndrome? Are you constantly distracted by things you have to do or goals you want to achieve? Feel like you’re running yourself ragged and not accomplishing much?
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