Amy Rose Gould

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How to find your work-life balance when you’re running your own business

Work-life balance is a hot topic, with many firms introducing flexible working arrangements and encouraging employees to leave work in the office. But what happens when you’re the boss of your very own venture? How do you decide what a good work-life balance looks like? And how do you make sure you stick to your own rules? 

Treat it like a real business

There are so many benefits to running your own business, and one of those is that you get to set your own schedule. If you work from home it’s tempting to set yourself up on the sofa and work in your pjs all day, and by all means, allow yourself a day or two like this! But long term you’ll be far more productive if you treat your business like a business, and structure your day accordingly. 

Although you don’t have to worry about things like taking your lunch break within a specified timeframe (yawn), it will help you keep on track if you have a structure to your day. So:

  • Block time in your calendar to carry out certain tasks (and make sure you finish the task within the allotted timeframe)

  • Set yourself reasonable action lists

  • Block time for when you’re taking time out (and stick with it)

Take a break

Go for a walk, have a coffee, read a book…….whatever you choose to do, take a break every day. Your brain needs to be recharged and that’s not going to happen if you stare at your computer screen for 8 hours a day. There are plenty of schools of thought when it comes to the best work:break ratio, so try out a few formats until you find the style that’s best for you. I know that I work best first thing in the morning and I have a bit of a lull during the early afternoon, so I usually take a longer break when I know I’m least productive.

Need some break inspiration?

  • Try the Pomodoro technique – work for 25 minutes then take a 5 minute break

  • Go Swedish and enjoy fika (coffee, cake and a break)

  • Read this article on the importance of taking breaks (and why you shouldn’t feel guilty about doing it)

How to find your work-life balance when you're running your own business

Automate/delegate

At the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey it’s natural to want to do everything yourself. And to some extent, it’s necessary. You need to keep your overheads at a minimum and you are the only one with the complete vision of your business. As your business grows you’ll hopefully be in the position to build a team and delegate accordingly (I’ve written a post on delegation - you can read it here). But in the meantime make the best use of your time by streamlining your processes and automating whatever you can, whether that’s email responses or your blog and social media updates. There are a bunch of tools that can make your life easier (Buffer, Hootsuite, Calendly, Mailchimp, Toggl…..) so swim with the tide and make your life easier. 

Manage expectations

It’s great for your clients to see you as reliable and responsive but there is a fine line between being reliable and being constantly available. In the beginning of a client relationship or in the midst of a big project it’s easy to get in the habit of replying to emails immediately, no matter what the time. If your 24 hour availability is something you’ve marketed (crazy person) then crack on! But if you want to steer clear of being expected to be ‘on call’, then start as you mean to go on. Only want to work on Mondays and Tuesdays? Then only be contactable on those days. Need to work only when the kids are at school? Then make that clear from the beginning. You can inform clients of your working hours and style in your initial consultation and you can reiterate this in your terms of business. And remember, if you experience a negative reaction when you state your working hours then it might be worth considering whether this client is a good fit for you. 

Which leads me on to……. 

It’s ok to say no

It feels a little against the grain to do this as a business owner, but sometimes it’s a good thing to say no. Unless you have a world-dominating sized business you simply cannot take on every piece of work that comes your way. And nor should you.

If a piece of work comes your way (or a client, an invitation to speak etc), ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this work aligned with my personal and business values? (read my post here)

  • Will I have a positive relationship with this client?

  • Is this work worth it financially?

  • Do I have the time to carry out this work?

If you can’t answer yes to all of those questions, then harness the power of ‘no’.