Finding work & life balance is difficult for all of us - whether you are running your own biz, working at a start-up, or crushing it at a corporate entity; there is always an endless list of things to accomplish, and half as much time to get it all done.
I want to share with you a few of my tricks at finding balance, setting boundaries, and cutting myself some slack.
I used to dream of working for myself, as I sat in my windowless office staring at spreadsheets and praying no one would assign me another project I didn't have motivation or time to complete. I fantasized about the flexibility, the freedom, the ability to shamelessly take time off to recharge, and how I would get to just do my thing without someone tracking me down on my "off" days for help.
Now that I am living that dream, I am realizing the struggle for balance is just as difficult - granted, it is a different struggle, but still a struggle all the same. Instead of a supervisor approving my time-off, I do that for myself. Only, it turns out my brain is a real hard-ass about time off; bosses! amiright?
Say hello to what I call, solopreneaur's guilt. That feeling that you should be doing something, anything, at all times, to help your business.
Below are just a few of the ways I break through the guilt, and set myself up for success both in my business and personal life.
Letting go of the guilt I feel if I am not working straight through 9AM - 5PM has been very hard for me. This 9AM - 5PM hangover is a leftover frame of mind from working in a corporate office for the last 5 years, it is hard to feel productive if I haven't been grinding it out all day. Re-calibrating my mindset, reminding myself that I can work any hours if needed, pushes me back to reality. I am no less legitimate if I take a few hours in the afternoon to hike, play frisbee with my dogs, or spend some time at the beach. Scheduling my time around my energy ebb and flow, makes me infinitely more productive than when I am forcing myself to work when I don't feel motivated.
I have found that when I have a quantifiable way to see where/when/what I am spending my time on each week, it alleviates some of my guilt if I take a time out. I use toggl
(not an affiliate link, I just seriously love their free
service), to track my time based on admin/website/studio time, and some other random categories. When I am feeling guilty about shutting down early, I check my toggl report, and usually I am well on my way to 40 hours by Wednesday, so it is easier for me to justify the time.
Why 40 hours you ask? Well, this goes back to my previous point, 40 hours is an arbitrary number that is left over from my corporate job. I seem to cling to this number, so having all my time accounted for helps me calibrate.
This point builds on my time tracking trick. I hate having a schedule, which is part of why I left corporate jobs. I prefer to work on what is calling to me in the moment and deadlines generally freeze me up. So, what I mean by keeping a calendar, is keep a visual record of deadlines and projects, so you can see where time off might fit in.
Right now I am in the full swing of Summer Market Season, which means, when I have a market day I have a solid 15 hour day ahead; packing the car, traveling to, setting up, working, breaking down, traveling home, and unpacking the car.
These days are a blast, and I love them, but they wipe. me. out. As a result, I schedule the day following a market day as a recharge day (aka netflix and no real pants day). Additionally, I do not take on any projects that will have a deadline 2 days before, or 2 days after the market, as I know I need the time to prepare and regroup respectively.
Without a solid calendar, I wouldn't be able to confidently schedule these recharge/focus days that are vital to my business and self care.
In the hustle and bustle of running a small business, wearing all the hats, social media overwhelm, accounting, website admin, etc., it is really easy to lose sight of what made you take this gigantic, scary, exciting leap into working for yourself. When you are feeling especially overwhelmed, or guilty about taking a break, I urge you to Remember Why You Started, and then go do that thing. If you are a painter, photographer, blogger, mom, creative coach, social media guru - go do that thing that makes you feel excited. Shut down your computer and phone, walk away, and go back to the beginning, then take a nap. Naps always help too! While this might not feel like "taking time off", you would be surprised at how re-energizing and restful going back to the beginning can be for you mentally.
I keep this terrible painting of lemons next to my computer - this is the first painting I ever completed in college. It is sad, and a bit embarrassing, but it reminds me to keep perspective. Yes, I am a business owner, but I am first and foremost a Painter, I don't ever want to lose sight of that.
So tell me, how do you keep it real, and get some rest while hustling? I am always looking for new and awesome ways to keep my work/life balance in check. Tell me in the comments!
Until next time, I will be tracking the hell out of my time, and sneaking off the to beach whenever the crazy yo-yo New England spring sends me a little sun.