Achieving work-life balance is difficult When you run your own business, or you’re self-employed. But it can be done. Use these tips for keeping your work and life on an even keel.
Work-life balance is something millions of people dream about but many find elusive. Employees often imagine that they’d have a lot more time for their families and themselves if they were running their own business. But many self-employed find that the opposite is true.
When you’re self-employed, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that working harder and longer means better production and more income. The same line of thinking will tell you that a day off is a day when you haven’t produced income, met with potential clients, filled orders, or done any of the myriad other tasks the self-employed are responsible for. And that can make you feel stressed and irritable instead of “balanced.”
What Is Work-Life Balance?
Work-life balance means being able to divide your time and attention in a meaningful, relatively stress-free way between your business, family and personal activities. How much time and attention you give each is somewhat subjective. What brings balance to one person’s life, won’t necessarily do the same for a different individual. Furthermore, at different stages in your life, or even on different days of the week or month, necessity may make the scale tip to one side or the other temporarily. The goal is to be able to pay enough attention to the things that matter at the appropriate times.
Here are ways to reach that goal.
Be Clear About What’s Important to You and Why
You’ll never achieve balance in your life if you aren’t clear about what you want to achieve. For instance, if you’re single, just out of college, and embarking on a high-level career, your idea of balance might be working long hours and setting only a brief amount of time aside each week for non-work activities. However, if you’re retirement-aged, work-life balance might mean taking on occasional contract work or freelance assignments that won’t interfere with the travel and leisure activities you and your spouse enjoy.
No one other than you can decide on the right or wrong way to apportion your time between work and non-work activities. That’s a decision you have to make based on your long and short-range goals. For instance, if becoming a senior partner at the law firm you work at is very important to you, your work hours may prevent you from coaching your daughter’s soccer team.
Learn to Prioritize Your Activities
Projects and tasks have an uncanny way of multiplying and expanding if you let them. Whether you’re getting ready for a tradeshow, researching information for a blog post, trying to boost sales, or planning a family party, it’s easy for the number of details you want to address to get out of hand. To make more time in your life, you need to learn to prioritize activities by their importance and to eliminate activities that are unimportant.
Learn to Delegate
If you have employees, delegate some of your workload to them, being sure to give them instructions and authority to do the work on their own. If you don’t have employees, find a virtual assistant or freelancer to delegate jobs to. Social media, setting up and maintaining a website, setting up your office computers, writing content for your blog, and creating your marketing materials are all jobs that could be handled by freelancers if you don’t have enough work to hire an employee to do them. You’ll free up time by outsourcing the work and may get better results than if you tried to do it yourself.
Understand Work Cycles
We often think of our work schedule as something that happens weekly but often the ebb and flow of our business, especially as an entrepreneur, feels more yearly. If you’re a retailer, your busy season is probably November and December. Wedding planners see their prime time in the summer.
Your balance will shift to your work during busy seasons but as long as you commit to paying yourself back later on, that still counts as balance.
Related: How to Take a Vacation When You Run a Small Business
Be Ready to Sacrifice
Let’s be clear—if you want balance, you’re going to make sacrifices. Saying yes to one person or activity means saying no to somebody or something else. Sometimes your “yes” is for a truly noble reason. You might have said yes to help a local charity fundraise but in doing that you said no to your family or business.
With balance comes focus. You can’t be everything to everybody. Instead, you’re being a little to a lot of people and that makes everybody unhappy.
Think about what is important to you. You probably don’t want to give up your family or your business so put those at the top of the list. Health should be up there as well but most everything else might not make the cut.
Learn to Say No
Face it. You can’t do everything, and you can’t make everyone happy. So, there are just some things you will need to say “No” to. If you already have as much work as your business can handle, let new clients know you won’t be able to start their work until the current projects are finished. Or, if your current workload is steady, just don’t accept new clients at all. Warn clients ahead of time about the days you’ll be on vacation and unavailable. Consider firing clients who waste your time or cause stress. Be a worker – and not an organizer – for nonprofit fundraisers and events. Let someone else host the family gathering this year. Saying no to the things you’d rather not do will give you more time to focus on the work and life activities that do matter to you.
Related: Are You a Slave to Your Small Business?
Learning to Balance Takes Time and Practice
Be realistic. If your work-life balance is out of whack, you probably can’t make sweeping readjustments overnight and have them stick. Instead, try implementing one change at a time. Do you want to spend more time with your family? Maybe you change how you work during the day in order to put the computer down at night. Want to find time to work out three times per week? Make it a family affair but pick one out-of-balance area and address it. Once that becomes normal in your life, move on to the next.
Related: 3 Ways to Stop Your Job from Ruining Your Life
Don’t let others dictate your balance but whatever you decide, commit to it. Constantly reevaluate and remember that working harder and longer doesn’t produce better results. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, right?