Maintaining a work-life balance is something that pretty much everyone struggles with regardless of their job. But, when you work from home and you are your own boss it’s hard to know where to draw the line.
It’s all too easy to work from the minute you wake up for 20 hours straight. Saying “yes” to every job that sounds good and agreeing to 2am phone calls (because, you know, clients in different time zones) will soon catch up with you!
Working this way isn’t sustainable. You’ll find yourself burnt out before too long and unable to get anything done at all. It’s counter-productive.
It’s not just about getting work done and being productive either, it’s also about your health. You need to maintain a good work-life balance to stay sane.
So, here’s 10 ways to manage your work-life balance and stay healthy and happy.
1. Set working hours
One of the best things about working for yourself is setting your own working hours. Being able to work completely flexible hours is one of the best things in the world! No exaggeration!
But, it can be detrimental too. Sometimes you’ll find yourself putting things off ’til later and before you know it, an entire day has passed by. Other times, you’ll find yourself so totally absorbed by work that everything else in your life gets ignored. Including friends, family and eating!
The best way to maintain your work-life balance it is to set yourself working hours.
Some people work best with a start and finish time – like 9-5. But this isn’t for everyone.
It certainly isn’t for me.
Instead, I set myself “working blocks”. So, if I want to work an 8 hour day, I’ll do a 2-hour block in the morning, 4 hours in the afternoon and then another 2 in the evening. The timing of when those blocks happen, doesn’t matter. What does matter is that each block has a start and finish point and, during that block, I will just work and not do other things.
The key to maintaining your work-life balance is separating out work time and “life” time and making sure that you don’t ignore one of them.
2. Start your day right
As tempting as it might be to roll out of bed and turn your laptop on, it’s bad for your creativity and productivity.
I know we will all do this from time to time and it’s a great perk of being your own boss and working from home.
But it shouldn’t be a regular occurrence.
Instead, get yourself ready for work like you would do with any other job. Create a morning routine that works for you. Go to the gym, make time for breakfast or just sit with a cup of coffee in front of the news for a while.
The key thing for me is getting showered and dressed before I start working. This puts me in the right mindset for work and helps separate work days from days off where I might lounge around in my PJs for a little while!
How does this help maintain a work-life balance you ask? By clearly identifying and separating out your work time and your “life” time. If you let the two merge together, it’s so easy to get consumed by work time and forget about everything else!
3. Take regular breaks
No matter how you structure your working hours, remember to take regular breaks.
Being creative for 8+ hours each day is hard work! Actually, I’m not entirely sure it’s possible. So, it’s important for your concentration and mental health to take regular breaks.
Whenever you get up to make yourself a coffee, take 10-15 minutes away from your workspace. Pop the TV on or read a couple of pages of a book. Whatever it is that you do, make sure it’s not work related. Give your mind a break.
Taking regular breaks throughout the day might sound detrimental to maintaining a work-life balance. After all, surely taking breaks is a waste of valuable work time so you’ll need to work longer hours, right? Wrong! Taking regular breaks will keep you refreshed and on track. This means that during your working time, you’ll be more productive and efficient, meaning fewer hours required to get the job done.
You see the thing is when we’re tired but push ourselves to keep working regardless, we work slowly. And more often than not, the quality of that work isn’t up to our usual standard so we end up going back over it all again anyway. It’s time-consuming and will inevitably lead to you working long hours, meaning less time for everything else!
Taking regular breaks means that you’ll get things done quicker and be able to finish your days “on time” more often.
4. Stay active
Following on from the last tip, why not use some of your 15-minute breaks to stretch, do some yoga, meditate. Don’t be afraid to step away from your work to keep active throughout the day.
It’s all too easy to get up, work, go back to bed and forget about exercise, especially when you don’t need to leave the house every day. This was one of the biggest work-life balance downfalls for me. I used to love going to the gym and going out running – I used to do it on my way home from the office but it’s so easy to forget about when you’re home all day.
I didn’t actually realise the impact it was having on me by missing out on staying active. For me, exercise is a huge stress reliever and without it, I was grumpy and anxious and stressed all of the time. It impacted upon the enjoyment of my own time as well as the quality of my work. Of course, I blamed all the stress on work itself which meant I started to dislike it.
I’m not saying that this will be the case for everyone but it’s such an easy trap to fall into.
Obvious health benefits aside, staying active is great for your brain and concentration too. So, make time to fit in a workout during your day and don’t forget to get up from your desk, wander around a bit and stretch every now and then too.
5. Eat well
Eating rubbish can leave you feeling sluggish. So, it comes as no surprise that eating well can help your energy levels.
But, this post is about maintaining your work-life balance, not nutrition.
Make time for your meals. Make a point of having home cooked meals (created from scratch) where possible. Even if you’re not the one who’s doing the cooking, take time out from your work to hang out in the kitchen with the chef!
Dinner time is a great excuse to call it a day at work or to take an extended break if you plan to work in the evening. Committing yourself to cooking an evening meal is a great reason to step away from your desk, catch up with your loved ones and refuel.
It’s also great to spend time with family. It’s important not to shut yourself away in your home office. Just because you are physically in your house doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily spending quality time with your loved ones! Get the work-life balance right by ensuring that you do take time out for them.
6. Switch off afterwork
Once you’ve finished work for the day, switch off. And I mean switch off everything.
No checking emails over dinner or going on Facebook whilst watching a film with the kids.
One of the best ways to manage your work-life balance is to keep the two separate. Now, I know that sounds really obvious but I’m sure we’re all guilty of not actually doing this.
I know for a fact that every time me and the other half sit down to watch a film together in an evening, I’ll check my emails, Facebook notifications and blog stats 2 or 3 times during the film. Not only does this annoy him, but it means that I never truly switch off. In fact, last night when I went to bed I spent just over an hour on Facebook “networking” with other bloggers. My mind was then racing for at least another hour with all of the brilliant ideas and opportunities I’d seen.
The best way to switch off is to delete all the social media apps off your phone but I know this isn’t possible for a lot of people, myself included. I’m on the move a lot and having all of those apps at my fingers tips is a blessing throughout the day. Instead, what I’ve started doing is putting my phone on the other side of the room so I’m not tempted to pick it up every 5 minutes. Keeping it on loud means that I can hear calls and texts etc. in case someone needs to get hold of me but turning off notifications on social media means that it’s not beeping every two seconds!
7. Make time for family and friends
Be a “Yes (Wo)Man!” Unless you have a strict deadline for a client, put your family and friends first.
I hate to admit it, but there have been times where I’ve said no to a night out and cancelled plans with people because I felt under so much pressure to be working on my business. And you know what, I never felt like I’d done enough work. On top of that, I was miserable. I missed my friends and family.
What I actually found was that time with friends and family was refreshing. It made me happy, it allowed me to completely switch off from work and, when I did start working again, I could concentrate better because I wasn’t completely wiped out mentally.
So, next time you’re about to say no to friends and family, think carefully about the impact it will actually have on your business. Will a couple of hours off really be the end of the world? If the answer to that question is “no”, then the answer to the invitation is “yes”.
8. Plan ahead
Planning ahead is one of the most useful ways I manage my work-life balance.
It works in two different ways. Firstly, if I’m planned ahead with work, I’ve got posts scheduled ahead of time and my social media updates are all ready to go, I can be more spontaneous and say “yes” to those last minute offers of dinner out or drinks after work. Secondly, if I make plans with friends in advance, I know what work I have to do before then. If I make sure anything urgent is done well ahead of time, it means I can completely switch off, relax and enjoy the time with my friends.
Keeping track of key dates will help you stay on top of both your work and your life. So, grab a diary or a planner and get scribbling. It will also help you avoid any date clashes so you won’t have to say “no” to work or to life.
9. Ask for help if you need it.
This is something that people, especially business owners struggle to get to grips with. It’s hard to let someone else take responsibility for any element of your business, especially if you started it from scratch and built it up yourself.
But, even if after you’ve tried out all of the tips above, you’re spending all of your time working, this is something you could try to get some of your life back.
The fact is that, there are only 24 hours in a day. And, if your blog or business continues to grow and thrive, there will come a point where it’s not physically possible for you to do everything anymore.
There will come a point where you are faced with a decision. Either your business stops growing or you enlist some help.
Whilst asking for help is a big step, it could lead to more free time and a much better work-life balance. Even if you’re not ready to employ a whole team of people, you might simply enlist someone to help you with the school run which will give you an additional 2 hours a day.
10. Remember that there’s More to Life than Work
If you’re like me, this is a tough one! It’s incredibly difficult to not let your own business become the centre of your universe, your reason for getting up in the morning, your raison d’être! But, unless you remember that there is more to life than work, all of the other tips written here are pointless!
No matter how much you love your work or how badly you need the income, always remember the other things in your life. And make a conscious effort to make time for them.