As small business owners, we are inevitably faced with the never-ending challenge to a find a balance between our work and life. I know if you are like me, you hear the buzzword “work-life balance” all too often without any real direction on how to find it. The cornerstone of my business, Laura Lee Creative, is to educate and support creatives in seeking (and achieving) “less work, more life” through courses and educational content (like this!).
Today, I want to focus less on business-specific ways to find this balance and shift to a more personal note. In this blog, you will find six strategies I use to create the balance between my work and life as a small business owner.
#1 – Start Your Day with a Morning Routine and End Your Day with an Evening Routine
When I started working with my business coaches a few years back, they stressed the importance of a morning routine. Simply put, a morning routine is time set aside each morning for you to take care of yourself and prepare for the day ahead (in an email free environment)! I’ve been working on tweaking and mastering this morning routine for the last year now. And, when it goes as planned, I am able to set myself up for success to have a productive day, all day long.
Here are a few examples of items in my morning routine:
- Getting 8 Hours of Sleep
- Working Out in the Morning
- Eating a Great Breakfast
Now, I am a realist and I understand that life happens and sometimes things like making a yummy, healthy breakfast take the back seat to a grab and go coffee and granola bar. I have a morning routine in place not only to follow it but to hold myself accountable for taking care of myself before I start taking care of my business for the day.
To read more about my exact morning routine, check out one of my recent blog posts: My Morning Routine for a Successful and Productive Day.
As for an evening routine, this is something I have just recently been working on implementing in my life. I think establishing routines in the evening is just as important as prepping your day for success. Some of the items I am working on implementing into my evening routine are:
- Reading 10 pages of a book
- Drinking hot tea with a lemon
- Dedicating the last two hours of my day to screen-free time
#2 – Understand How Long Things Take & Don’t Overestimate What You Can Do in a Day
The heart of an optimist always overestimates and over schedules their day because they believe that they can accomplish everything (and maybe even more). We all need optimism in our lives but when it comes to preparing for your work day, it is important to not over schedule yourself and set realistic goals/expectations for the day. Optimist meets realist. This begins with understanding how long things take in your daily, weekly, monthly task lists. Start by writing down everything you do. Then, take one task at a time and measure how long it takes you to complete it.
This leads me to my next point, setting timers & time limits…
#3 – Set Time Limits, Use a Timer, and Stay Focused
Now that you have a list of items on your task list that you want to measure, it’s time to sit down, do the work, and get the results. Multi-timer is my go-to app for timing myself on projects and tasks. Not only do I use a timer to track how long it takes me to complete a task, I also set time limits for myself and work diligently to “beat the clock”. I’ve even found that the quality of my work is BETTER when I am laser focused and working towards a goal!
Pro Tip: Turn off other distractions like email and social media to get a true measure of how long it takes you to complete a task. You will not get a fair assessment if you are trying to cull and jumping in and out of your email 5 times in an hour. I am guilty of this too often so I make a conscious effort to eliminate distractions and stay focused on the task at hand.
#4 – Set an End Time to Your Day
The home office, a blessing, and a curse. Closing the computer and leaving “the office” becomes a much hard feat when your office is only 50 ft away. This is one of my biggest challenges in finding balance as a small business owner (and I know I am not alone). And, with all the apps on your phone keeping you connected at all times, this task can feel impossible some days.
I take a few steps each evening to end my day and turn work off for the evening. First, I shut my computer down and leave it in the office. That way, it’s not next to me in bed or on the couch with the option to open the screen and respond to an email really quick. And second, I snooze all of my messaging apps. Let the messages come through, you can get back to them in the morning. And last, I shift my focus to the items in my evening routine and dedicate the last two hours of my day to screen-free time. Time for relaxation, conversations with my family, stretching, drawing, or whatever feels right that evening.
#5 – Schedule & Prioritize Personal Time in Your Calendar
Personal time is mandatory on my calendar. As small business owners, it can be easy to ignore personal time when you are responsible for every single part of your business, every day. Relaxing Saturday mornings can turn into 2 – 4 hours of “quick check-ins” too easily.
For that reason, it is very important for me and my relationships that I prioritize personal time on my calendar. The saying, “you always have time for the things you put first”, has never felt truer lately. If you want to make more of your daughter’s soccer games, put it on your calendar. If you want to make ladies night on Thursday’s at the local winery, put it on your calendar.
Whether it is attending some of Scott’s soccer games or watching football on Sunday’s in the backyard or grabbing coffee with a friend, I block time on my calendar for my personal life and I stick to it. While your business is a BIG priority, so is your life. And since we only get one, let’s make sure we have time each week to enjoy it!
#6- Create a list of non-negotiables
This goes hand in hand with prioritizing personal time. To start, you need to have a list of non-negotiables that you won’t budge on because of work. For me, some of those include, no work on Sundays, no photo sessions besides weddings on the weekends, and no meetings on Monday’s or Friday’s. Think of these as your life and business guidelines. By setting these guidelines, I have a framework to follow when I am making my schedule and putting personal priorities in the front of my mind.
Want to learn even more about creating a balance between work and life, for FREE? I have you covered! Last year, I created this workbook, Intentionally Designing Your Life and Business, to help creatives work through their priorities, non-negotiables, goals, and so much more. If you just finished reading this post and are ready to start designing a more intentional life while running your small business, then don’t wait. Click the link below to download this free workbook =)