“Work-Life balance is essential.”
Ask any life coach, guru, or expert and at some point of your consultation, that will come up in some variation.
In theory, they are absolutely correct. Finding a work life balance is “essential” for your health, happiness, and just plain sanity.
In actuality, it is almost impossible to pull off.
Finding a balance between the demands of your job when you are a small business owner and your life is like trying to get oil and water to mix.
Sure, you can put them both in a bottle and shake all you want but eventually, they will separate.
Each one takes its own form and doesn’t play nicely with the other one.
We all lead different lives, but I could probably look in my “crystal ball” and guess we have the same elements pulling our strings.
Whatever form your puppeteer takes, your life part of your schedule is filled with the demands of every day life.
Moving on to work…
For most of us, we have a to-do list somewhere in arms reach. Grab it and take a look (with an eye roll and a sigh).
Add to that the demands and expectations of your clients.
There are only 24 hours in a day and while DaVinci did sleep in 20 minute bursts every four hours to get things done, it isn’t the ideal way to live a life.
Da Vinci followed an extreme form of a polyphasic sleep schedule called the Uberman sleep cycle, which consists of 20-minute naps every four hours.
So, what can we do?
Why not enjoy some BRE!
Next to delegation, boundaries is another word small business owners try to avoid using. Some believe that setting boundaries limits the possibilities of their business and diminishes their client experience.
Could you image if one of your favorite retail stores didn’t create boundaries for their shoppers. Even something as simple as “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” is a boundary!
Boundaries allows you to give without sacrificing your sanity.
We, as human beings, are greedy and very narcissistic (you can disagree all you want but if you have ever been upset that Chick-fil-a was closed on a Sunday or something you wanted was sold out on Black Friday, you have proven my point!)
We create boundaries to limit how far someone can go on our resources.
Do you want a client calling you at 2am because they had a problem?
Would you be happy with someone delegating a project to you and demanding it to be completed within 15 minutes, no matter what else you are doing?
How grand would life be if you had to be on call every moment, of every second, of every day so you are available to your client at the ring of a phone, ping of a chat box, or notification of an email?
You couldn’t live!!
Boundaries allow us to say “No, I am happy to do this but I have a life too and you need to respect that” in the nicest way possible.
Decide what you want to do, what you can (are willing to do), and what is out of the question and stick to it – no exceptions.
If you bend once on your boundaries, you have set a precedent for it to be able to happen again: “Well I understand but that one time you did it so why can’t you do it again?”
Routines are AMAZING! They can be hard to form but once one is in place, it sets up the flow of your day to the point that a part of your life becomes somewhat automated, freeing you to mentally focus on other things.
Don’t believe me (geez..trust issues!) think about how many times you have driven the same route so much that now you don’t even check-in when doing it. It is almost muscle memory to get from point A to point B.
While majority of us know the dictionary definition of the word routine, routine for a small business owners can take many forms.
I was going to share my daily routine but that would make this post unnecessarily long so I will just say this, take a week to look at how your Monday through Friday flows.
- What do you find yourself doing each morning when you start your day?
- How do you move through your work day?
- How do you end your work day?
- How do you choregraph the obligations of your life with work on a given day?
- What do you find constantly drops off or is pushed out of the way?
- What do you find is essential each day (gym, coffee, dropping the kids off, reading your favorite comic strip)?
If you find the days that a particular structure brings more comfort, focus, and reliability – drill down to make that your routine. If you find that elements create stress and frustration (unpredictable emergencies, frustration of controlling your inbox, interruption of phone calls) – pull those elements out and determine how you can create expectations for yourself and your clients.
With great boundaries comes communicated expectations! You can create all the boundaries you want and have the perfect routine in place BUT if you don’t communicate that to those around you, they don’t exist!
The first thing with expectations is that you have to be willing to accept the consequence. As stated before, a lot of people care only about themselves and their needs so you “restricting” what they can do is not appreciated.
Oh well! Isn’t that WHY you decided to own YOUR own business?
If you no longer wanted a boss/manager/company to put restrictions and stipulations on you – why would you allow a client to do it?
The first thing I tell any potential new client is that I run my business a certain way and I am not the ideal fit for everyone.
During a consultation, I walk them through a typical day of working with me, what to expect, why boundaries are in place, and our standard work routine.
Boom, right out the gate – we are on the same page.
By creating expectations, I am able to create a daily routine and plan my life as my clients understand on any given day, this is when they will hear from me, this is when work will get done, this is what constitutes an emergency, and this what happens if I wait last minute.
I am able to balance the demands of my life because I clearly communicating the structure needed to keep work and life from clashing.
Does it work every time?
Of course not!
Emergencies happen within my personal and professional life – no system is perfect.
But we can plan for the unexpected by incorporating and communication expectations of what qualifies as an emergency and how those situations are handled – give it up for contingency plans!!
Expectations also involve what you expect from yourself. It doesn’t all have to be done today or tomorrow, it just needs to be done.
Try this: Create an ABC/123 list. Make a column for work, commitments (people who depend on you), and household. Make a list of what those tasks are in each column then number them 1-whatever.
Now you know your priorities, focus on the 1s, then the 2s, if the 3s get pushed to the next day, so be it!
Set a REALISTIC deadline for when your entire list needs to be completed and have a reward in place for when it is done (hey – motivators work!)
Work life balance is possible but it takes discipline on our parts to make it happen. While we may not be “people pleasers” in terms of personality, we may display the characteristics in our personal and professional life.
Listen – burn-out hurts EVERYONE so finding a balance allows SOME of your clients to be happy, SOME of the people in your life to be happy, and you to be able to meet their needs without sacrificing YOUR happiness.
Give it a try. If you are completely unsatisfied within a certain amount of time, return back to your regular daily life and receive a raincheck for a full meltdown…’cause it’s comin’!
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