You started your dream business after long hours, sweat, work, and possibly tears. The business model included working from home and creating a product or providing a service you love. There are challenges running your own business; some you were prepared for and anticipated. Others, you didn’t see coming. Perhaps the most challenging aspect for the entrepreneur, is finding a healthy work-life balance. This is particularly true when you business operates from your home. It is easy to fall into poor habits, erase boundaries, and lose your perspective. Whether you have already started your business or are in the planning stages, these work-life balance tips will help you maintain a healthy personal and work life.
Why Is Balance Important
Human beings must have time to physically and mentally renew. Physical needs such as sleep, physical exercise, and eating healthy are required for survival. They are not luxuries. Mentally, we all need time to relax, think, learn, nourish our minds and spirits. As social beings, we also need to connect with other people emotionally and intellectually. None of these activities are “extras” to life; add-ons to a work life. They are necessary for a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle.
Sadly, most of us, especially those who are small business owners, invest more of our time in work than life. We convince ourselves that everything rests on our shoulders; the business will succeed or fail depending upon the number of hours we invest. All the time, neglecting our personal relationships, health, and quality of life. Finding a work-life balance is critical for our health, our loved-ones, and the success of our business. After all, our family benefits from the best of us as does our business.
There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There’s work, and there’s life, and there’s balance. Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook
9 Work-Life Balance Tips
Working from home or in an office, these tips will help you find a healthy balance between work and life. I use some of these tips, while others are a work in progress. You are seeking perfection, rather a boundary between your work and your family life.
Create and Maintain a Schedule
List all of your daily tasks. Prioritize them by importance. Include personal tasks (dropping kids at school) and work (meeting with the insurance company). Don’t over pack your day. Be reasonable with your schedule.
To Do List
I’m a big fan of list making. Every morning, at my desk, I write a list of things I need to get done and a list of things I would like to get done. I include things like laundry, vacuuming, completing the Employee Handbook for my company. I also list them in order of importance. If I am running errands, I list everything in the order of my trip – starting close to home and circling back (bank, Target, Costco, oil change, Post Office, pick up kids, home).
Dedicated Work Space
This is crucial for a home-based business. Establish a place where all of the business is conducted. Perhaps it’s a spare room or a spare wall and corner in your dining room. Wherever it is, try to make it a work only space. My business is based in my laundry room. Yup, it’s a big room, the only spare spot in the house, and holds 3 desks. You do what you need to do! A dedicated space keeps you focused on the work at hand. And when you are done for the day, close the door and walk away.
Set Regular Work Hours
Working from home makes this tip especially difficult. There is always the temptation to get that one last thing done. To make that one last phone call. After 25 years of marriage and small business ownership, I can assure you, it is critical to establish and maintain regular work hours. It is good for you, your spouse / loved-one, your kids, and your clients. Start at one time, take a lunch, end the day at a set time. Set strong boundaries and adhere to them. No work after 5, no work after 3:30 (when the kids get home), no work at 8 pm. Period.
Speaking of boundaries, set them! Boundaries are not unprofessional or anti-business. Instead, they eliminate unrealistic expectations. Clients must understand you do not take calls after 5 (we have many clients who call our cell phones at 9, 10, or 11 pm expecting assistance), they need to understand you do not work certain days, and that if there is an emergency there is an appropriate fee charged. The same is true for your family. They must understand you are working between certain hours, you video conference at certain times, or you have an appointment during the afternoon. Boundaries are good for everyone!
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Take Time Off
Working too often, too hard leads to burn out. Self- care is important to keeping you energized for the responsibilities of running your business. Schedule time off during the week. Block out the afternoon to see a movie, get a mani/pedi, have lunch with friends, go fishing, or whatever you enjoy.
A healthy lifestyle is important for your well being, yourself, your family, and your clients. Don’t forget to get 8-9 hours of sleep (or whatever is best for you). Hydrate (lots of water – try lemon for a change), eat healthy. And get some exercise! Water and exercise are great for the brain. Both help it rejuvenate, results in good energy, and gives you stamina.
Working from home (especially if you have young children) means distractions. It is unavoidable in these circumstances. But you can avoid your own distractions. For example, my office is in the laundry room but I do not do laundry while I’m working. I close the door between the laundry room and kitchen. That way I don’t hear the home phone, I don’t visit the kitchen often, I don’t answer the door (we don’t have clients come to the house). You can control your own distractions.
Entrepreneurs tend to do everything themselves (guilty!). This leads to burnout – taking on too much for too long. Instead, outsource the tasks you don’t want to do, don’t have time, or are not skilled to do. Hire a house cleaner, babysitter, assistant, bookkeeper, social media expert, website help. Look for help to keep yourself on track.