First of all, very few people can achieve an authentic Work-Life Balance.
So, if this is true, should we even bother to try to find this balance? My answer to this question is, yes. It is an ideal to inspire us, something to strive for, which is very worthwhile.
I could argue that Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”, has been massively overused. And most of you would agree with me on this. But to me, living in the present, recognizing that each day is a step along a journey, is a worthwhile goal.
Conventional wisdom on work-life balance, leaving work at work, is primarily aimed at traditional types of employment, i.e., being employed in a full-time job, usually 35-50 hours a week. Some people can leave their job behind at the end of the day and only have to think about it again on their next workday. For others, work overflows into their personal time.
For self-employed or small business owners, personal time is highly elusive. We often work long hours, missing quality time with family or friends. We can be stressed or overwhelmed by work to the extent that we are not eating or sleeping well. The line between work time and personal time blurs. Even when we take time off, some corner of our minds is still occupied with thoughts about our business since we are ultimately responsible for its success or failure.
Lori Greiner of Shark Tank said, “Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week” for someone else.
So, if a work-life balance is so difficult to achieve, why do we aspire to do so?
Some of us say:
- We love being able to make our own decisions and follow our passions.
- We prefer the flexibility to set our schedules,
- We feel good about having the ability to build something from the ground up.
- We like the satisfaction of knowing that we’re at the root of our success and have built something we can be proud of.
I’ve used various strategies and practices to achieve a sense of balance between my work and personal life, with differing degrees of success. It would be almost impossible to feel balanced 100% of the time. But I’ve managed to reduce the stress of being self-employed with a “little at a time” approach.
Before starting work, I begin with a little “me” time. I enjoy a quiet cup of coffee, a walk, meditation – anything that helps me feel centred and calm is a great way to start the day. Look after yourself with a healthy diet, exercise and getting sufficient rest.
I try to manage my time as efficiently as possible. I use time-blocking on my calendar app to schedule work, personal/family time, business networking, and continuing education /professional development. Events may shift position on the calendar as the day progresses, but having a plan ensures that I remember all my business and personal tasks.
Another thing to consider is your business goals. Planning for the future of your business could involve upgrading skills, outsourcing work or hiring new employees. Feel free to delegate work when it makes good business sense. Brainstorming with colleagues or bouncing ideas with your business networking contacts could shine a light on sound alternates you may have yet to consider.
One of the most challenging areas that many entrepreneurs who work from home struggle with is that the boundaries between work and personal time tend to blur. If you work from home, keep your workspace and personal space separate. Establish boundaries – work during work time (unless it’s an unavoidable family emergency). Similarly, don’t let work intrude into your personal time.
While I try to stick to these practices, I’ll admit that they don’t always work. Accept that there will be occasional setbacks and challenges in your business and personal life. A child who is under the weather? Do you or one of your clients have an emergency or an urgent deadline? There are no perfect parents, just as there are no ideal entrepreneurs. Don’t let problems derail you from your overall personal and professional goals. Don’t dwell on your failures; always look forward with plans for success. When I get off-track, I pick myself up, dust myself off and get back in the saddle.
One last note – don’t forget to reward yourself regularly for your hard work. Something as simple as a daily cup of your favourite coffee or a major treat like a travel vacation. Indulge in your favourite hobbies and sports and connect with loved ones. Remembering to treat yourself well will help recharge your energy so you can direct it back into your business and personal relationships.