The world’s perception of the self-employed as kings-of-their-own-time, with leisurely mornings and Friday afternoons spent in the pub, is often a million miles away from the truth. In reality, most self-employed individuals know that the opposite is more likely.
Being your own boss does of course brings some freedom to set your own agenda and hours. However, when you’re driven to succeed, that requires diligence and a dedication to the business that the employed folk simply don’t ‘get’.
This can be particularly true in the early days of a business. It’s not uncommon to see self-employed people putting in long hours at unsociable times. The pressure to do more – work harder, succeed better – can be enormous.
Yet, for many reasons, from health to relationships, you need to know how to carve out a healthy work-life balance despite these pressures. Here are some strategies which can help.
Have boundaries and respect them
It takes self-discipline but one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is boundaries. These are boundaries with yourself, with your business, with your clients.
The purpose of boundaries is to stop one area of your life unnecessarily and negatively impacting another. When this happens you end up burnt out. Therefore, establishing your boundaries and sticking to them is essential.
Use routine to your advantage
One way to set and maintain boundaries easily is to use routine. We are, by nature, creatures of habit. In this way you’ll be able to easily slip in to work and home modes.
The nature of your routine will differ depending on the nature of your business and aspects of your personal life (for example, whether you have children). Work out a routine that works well around this and, again, stick to it.
Be firm with yourself, but also with others
If you’re running your own business the chances are you’ve proven yourself to have great self-discipline already.
However, it won’t stop others trying to breach those boundaries. People’s perceptions of the self-employed are often wrong. You’ll probably need to reassert the realities of your working life time and again with friends and family. Allowing things to encroach from home life in to work life, and vice versa, is a fast-track to overloading yourself with demands.
Have a defined work ‘area’
If you work onsite then you have a natural workplace, making this part easier. However, if you are one of the multitude of self-employed who works from home then things get trickier. It can be helpful to define clear work areas. This may be an office or desk space, it may be a coffee shop.
If you are setting up in your own home you need to be able to clearly define that space and switch off from the household demands around you. At the end of your working day, it’s helpful to be able to step away from your work area so you don’t end up overdoing it.
Without realising it, we can end up wasting time on processes which could be done more efficiently if we knew how. Look at what drains your time. Can it be made more efficient by outsourcing, using technology, or implementing a different process?
Prioritise self-care, your well-being and health
For many people the first thing to be dropped when we are busy is taking care of ourselves. However, this is a fool’s game.
Being healthy, both mentally and physically, will enable you to balance work and other things more easily. This means ensuring that your self-imposed boundaries also respect things such as taking time to exercise, meeting your health needs, and eating well.
Take time out
For the self-employed, taking time out can seem a daunting prospect. How will the business manage without you?
With planning and firm boundaries it is possible to take time out for friends, family, hobbies and even holidays. What’s more, you’ll then find you’re more invigorated and energised, ready to continue with the demands of self-employed business life.
How do you ensure a healthy work-life balance? Do you struggle with boundaries? Please share your thoughts in the comments.