Many of us may cringe at the notion of work life balance, knowing full well that we are guilty of spending way too much time at the keyboard.
If I asked for a show of hands to see how many people felt like they didn’t spend enough time working on their business I’m sure I would be met by the sound of crickets.
The truth is, as an entrepreneur it can feel almost impossible to step away from your business, especially in its infancy.
What is work life balance?
The importance of work life balance is a concept that most of us are familiar with. It’s one of the most crucial things we can do to ensure we feel productive whilst at the same time not working so much that we burn out.
If you work as a freelancer, virtual assistant, coach or designer for example, you’ll know that sometimes it seems like you’re a real life example of the saying “all work and no play makes Jill a dull girl.”
Achieving work life balance can be tricky if you are working for yourself as there is no one else to whom you can delegate tasks. You also give in to the temptation of working longer hours than you would do if you didn’t work for yourself. Your eight hour work day can morph into an eleven or twelve hour marathon, day in and day out.
Chances are, unless you are Supergirl, you will be unable to continue working at this rate. The quality of your work will be the first to suffer, closely followed by your relationships outside of work.
How can you create the perfect work life balance as a female entrepreneur? It seems like the holy grail that we are all searching for. Follow these work life balance tips to boost your productivity whilst reducing the amount of time spent at your desk.
Achieving work life balance
1. Plan your time
Identifying your goals is the first step in planning your time. Effective time management is the second step to successfully take control of your working day.
Many uber-organised people suggest that you should write your to-do list the night before. This way you are ready to hit the ground running as soon as you get to your desk in the morning.
Make sure your to-do list is achievable. I know that sounds a little silly, as most people’s to-do lists are usually the length of a small novel, but staring blankly at a mountainous task list is not going to be motivating.
Separate your list into your top three to four tasks for that day, plus two to three tasks that would be good to tick off if you have time.
All the other items on your list, such as cleaning the bathroom (yep, that makes it on my to-do list as well!) can go into the moveable category of weekly extras. As you plough through the rest of your list, these tasks can make it into the ‘if you have time’ category, but can also be postponed until next week as their urgency is lower.
Build up your schedule around your immovable blocks – i.e. the things that are really important in your day such as dropping the kids off at school or heading out to an appointment.
2. Try the Pomodoro technique
Once you have set your goals for the day, maintaining your focus can be the next challenge. Many mega-organised people swear by the Pomodoro Technique as a tool for keeping yourself on track.
Using your to-do list with its streamlined goals, the Pomodoro Technique promotes working on these tasks in 25 minute intervals followed by a five minute rest. After four Pomodoros you take a longer 15 minute break.
You can schedule in as many Pomodoros into your day as you feel you can fit in.
The key to this success is to ensure all distractions are minimised. Put your phone on airplane mode to avoid temptation and set a timer. You can even use a browser tool such as StayFocus that blocks websites such as Facebook on your computer so you cannot drift aimlessly onto the site. You can install it here.
One task on your to-do list may take several of Pomodoros to complete, but working on it in short, concentrated blasts helps you keep on track.
Read more about the Pomodoro technique here.
3. Learn to say no
Branding, design, content, client outreach, technology – the list goes on and on when you are a solo-preneur. There is no one else at your side to help you with your goals and you may feel the pressure on your shoulders.
In the early stages of your business you may feel like you are unable to say no to client requests or other claims on your time. The trouble with this is that you end up spreading yourself too thinly and the quality of your work will suffer along with your sanity!
Learning how to say no is a crucial support system you can put in place to protect yourself from burnout. If a question comes in that is out of your sphere of knowledge, remember that you do not need all the answers. You can delegate tasks you don’t have time or knowledge for by reaching out to people on freelance websites such as Fiverr or Upwork.
For example, if designing the look of your website is giving you nightmares, I can step in to support you with one of my beautiful WordPress themes. It’s all about building up your networks and seeking ways to make your own life easier.
4. You don’t have to be perfect
Accept that everything doesn’t always have to be perfect. Going above and beyond in the name of your business is of course vital, however, the processes by which you do so need not be immaculately polished, or your desk spotlessly clean.
Cutting yourself some slack will mean you are not slaving away in your office until midnight every day.
The longer you work at your business the more comfortable you will become with what you need to do. Tasks which previously took you several hours can be achieved much quicker. Not setting your own bar ridiculously high will ensure that you don’t run out of steam and strive for more achievable goals.
5. Stay physically healthy
Healthy working lives begin with looking after ourselves and our bodies. Exercise can take a back burner, especially if you are working from home. The old joke of working from home in pyjamas may unfortunately be the reality for too many of us, but failing to even get dressed in the morning will not bring out our best and most productive self.
Whether or not you do work from home, prioritise time to move away from your desk and take in some fresh air every day. Either before work, after work or during your lunchbreak, make sure you step outside to get the blood flowing and to clear your head. Time spent exercising will re-energise you, reduce stress levels and of course is beneficial to our health and weight.
Munch on healthy snacks during the day to avoid the inevitable energy slump in the middle of the afternoon when your sugar levels come crashing down and always ensure there is fresh water on your desk.
6. Carve out some me-time
Seeking time away from the computer is energising and helps to give your motivation a boost.
Planning social engagements means that you have to get away from your desk on time. Organise some non-work time in advance and stick to it, such as a dinner date with your partner or a weekend activity with the whole family.
Seek solitude when you can. Grabbing that hour to yourself can be incredibly revitalising, especially if you have to be ‘on’ so much during your working day.
7. Stop feeling guilty!
As a proud business owner, the temptation is there to not stop working until all the to-do lists have been ticked off and emails answered. You are working towards your goals and don’t want to stop whilst you are getting things done.
As a female entrepreneur myself I understand where you are coming from. The passion I feel for my business is undeniable and I often feel guilty when I am not working.
But working constantly on your career is unachievable no matter what industry you are in. Yes, the most successful people in business are the masters of hustle, but they also know when to give themselves a break.
Even more crucially, they’ve learned to not feel guilty in doing so.
Remind yourself that your to-do list and entire business will still be there tomorrow. Powering down your laptop and giving yourself a break is the ultimate thing you can do to create the perfect work life balance.
The benefits of a work life balance
Your determination to succeed as an entrepreneur will definitely start you off on the right path. However, working all hours of the day and night is not a sustainable way to run any business. You will soon be overcome by the pressures of your work and this will affect time spent with your family and friends.
Achieving the perfect work life balance is not something that can happen overnight, but taking steps to build a routine that prioritises both you and your business will help make sure that you maintain the energy and focus to commit to both work and personal life.
What productivity tips do you have for maintaining a work life balance? Share your favourite productivity apps with me! I’d love to hear your experiences so we can support one another.