It’s happened to all of us – when you’re running a small business, the lines between work and home start to blur. Before long, you’re answering emails at 9 p.m. and you can’t get the idea of the next big project out of your mind, even when you’re on a date with your loved one.
This is all about work-life imbalance, and it’s something we all need to fix if we’re going to have productive working lives and happy families.
Fortunately, there are several simple, practical steps that you can take right now to improve your work-life balance, keep you sane, help you reclaim your peace of mind and support the effort that you make in both your personal world and your business.
Remember that you’re “working to live” rather than “living to work,” and having effective boundaries in place around your business and personal life is essential to getting this right. There are four practical steps that you can take right now that will help you separate your work life from your family life. They are as follows:
- Create the right small business office environment.
- Limit the time you spend running your small business.
- Value your personal and social time.
- Unplug from your small business.
Try out these steps one at a time. Choose one that’s easy for you and try it for a week or two. When that’s a habit, introduce the next step.
Create the right small business office environment
Create a quiet, distraction-free environment where you can focus on your most important small business tasks. At the same time, a sense of human connection is important, and you’ll find it easiest if you strike a balance between human contact and peace and quiet.
Natural light is also important, so sit near a window and surround yourself with things that you enjoy looking at – art prints, a desk ornament, pictures of your family, or whatever else inspires and motivates you.
Limit the time you spend running your small business
When you’re working for yourself, it’s very easy to blur the line between work time and personal time. To avoid this, set very specific office hours – it’s only during those hours that you’ll work. Start work at the same time each day, work for around 7 – 8 hours, and build in times for breaks and lunch when you’ll leave your office.
Limit your business activities to the hours you’ve set for yourself. Don’t be tempted to check email, statistics, tasks and the like outside of those times. There are very few things in a business which are genuinely emergencies and can’t wait until the next day. You will be tempted, but fight it!
Value your personal and social time
Getting things done for your small business is important, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of your personal time and the personal relationships you have. Don’t let your personal time take second place to your business.
Remember that time is the only finite resource that we have: we can never “earn” more time, but we can always earn more money. That means you need to spend your time wisely, with the people and interests that matter.
Unplug from your small business
Try and get out of the office and go for a walk at least once a day, giving you time to think away from your business, as well as get some gentle exercise. Your mind and emotions need a break from working all the time, and you’ll need to honor that.
It’s important not to let your small business become your entire life. Continue to cultivate your own interests outside of your business: completely unplug and get away from the computer screen.
Read a book, spend some time in nature, listen to music and enjoy your hobbies. You need to ensure you keep feeding your interests, exercise, look after yourself and get enough sleep. Overwork is an easy way to kill your creativity and passion.
Although these are all simple steps, they do need practice and a commitment from you to work. You need to take these boundaries seriously if you’re going to get the most out of them. If you use these on a regular basis, you will find that your business productivity improves, that you’re calmer, and that your loved ones don’t feel that their time is encroached upon by your work.