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How to maintain work life balance

Updated: Feb 24, 2021





It’s time for a fresh start.


Perhaps you’ve reviewed your working habits and you’re not happy with what you’ve seen, or perhaps you’re absolutely exhausted and ready to take a more gentle approach to work and life.


Well, luckily for you, you’re freelance/self employed. One of the most wonderful things about working for yourself is the ability to set your own schedule, and to work when you want to. Total flexibility means that when the pressures of life increase, work can be dialled back. The downside to this is that, in theory, you can work anytime at all. Drawing the lines between work and down time is especially hard when you can work from your phone, or from your spare room, or from bed.


Strictly- the answer to having a good work life balance is boundaries. Have time and space for work, and when work is over, you don’t go back to it. Once you set your boundaries, you are going to have to reaffirm them regularly. To yourself, especially. No, don’t check that work email. No, don’t reply to that social media request now. But, you’ll also have to reaffirm your boundaries to anyone or anything that wants your time or energy. You owe it to yourself to be your best self at work and your best self when it’s time to relax.


Here are the seven ways to establish those all-important boundaries:


Planners

I promise this isn’t me justifying my crippling Paperchase habit. Ok, maybe it is. But, one way to keep my well-being in check is that I keep organised. I not only buy ridiculously beautiful planners, but I use them consistently, regularly, and enthusiastically. I recommend you block out time for each task. Be generous. Yes, it might take you 30 minutes to check your emails in the morning, but why not allow yourself an hour. You will become better at estimating your time for each task. You can physically see the time which is set aside for each task (use highlighters!), and you have enough time to complete the task. This should stop your tasks spilling over into you own time.


The Right Fee

Know what you are worth and charge it. This will stop your workload being too high as you take job after job to earn enough. Charging the right fee for you means you’ll be able to stop chasing clients and customers at all times of the day. Calculate your day rate and make sure you charge it. Not sure what your daily rate should be? Calculate your outgoings, add on holidays, sick days, admin days and the costs for insurance, equipment and any training you do. Add it all up and divide it by how many days you’re planning to work. Add on 30% to cover taxes, and that’s your minimum day rate. Don’t be tempted to charge less than you’re worth, for the sake of your wellbeing.


Delegate

You are not an island and you cannot, cannot, do everything alone. You have skills and abilities which mean you are successful and accomplished, but you can’t do everything. For example, I can write website copy all day with joy in my heart, but the actual logistics of making a website is totally beyond me. My website, for example, has been a LEARNING CURVE. One I am grateful for. It took me (and this is not an exaggeration, friends) THREE HOURS to set up my business email address as bonnie@wordsbybonnie.com. Three. There are many things I’d’ve loved to have done with that three hours instead of messing about with my website. Reading, for example. Eating. Sleeping. Cocktail making. Cocktail drinking. Writing. Baking. In fact, I think I’d rather repeatedly poke myself in the eye than sort out the ‘make a website’ shenanigans ever again. What did I learn? PAY SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT. Lovely Charlie, my website creator can solve a website malfunction in two clicks, not two hours. Why wouldn’t I pay an expert to do something I can’t, or don’t want to, do? It’s the quickest way for me to manage my work life balance and get those jobs ticked off the to do list.


A workspace which works for you

Where are you most productive? Best-selling author Matt Haig cannot write at a desk because it feels like work. As soon as you feel forced into something, resentment can grow, which is the very opposite vibe you want when you’re getting in the hustle mindset. In the Guardian he explained his writing process, “After the run, if I have time, I… spend the rest of the morning writing. Although I still have a room set aside for writing, I rarely (never) write in it. I have long fantasised about building a Roald Dahl‑style writer’s shed in the garden but I know, deep down, I would never end up going there”. Perhaps you are the same? You need comfort, familiarity and relaxed vibes. In which case, make sure you hide away your work stuff away from you when you’re done for the day, so you have a proper break.


You might be like me- I only get my good work done while I’m sat in my desk. The idea of writing on a sofa is utterly tempting, but it would result in hardly any work done, and of terrible quality. I need to be completely removed from the relaxation spaces, so I can focus on the work. I’m lucky to have a spare room, but if you don’t, perhaps invest in a bureau desk so you can hide your work away. Or give yourself a ritual of tidying away your desk every evening so you can properly switch off.


Classes to learn a new skill

Give yourself a total shift from work to fun. Choose something you cannot do on a laptop, or on your phone. So, no video tutorials, or Duolingo, or video games. This might be quite a challenge in lockdown, so I wholly recommend reading. Bonus points for a real book, and not on a kindle. I have nothing at all against eReaders, but if you spend your day looking at screens, a simple black and white page is balm to the eyes. Not only is reading absorbing and entertaining, it also significantly reduces stress. Reading for just 6 minutes reduces stress by 60% and is more effective than listening to music, gaming or walking. If reading is not your thing (and it should be!) then why not try something creative. Crafting, painting, drawing or sculpting will all keep your hands busy and your mind occupied off work.


Sleep

You may think this is obvious, of course, but life without proper sleep is miserable. Whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, whatever your circadian schedule, you need to make sure you have enough sleep. A well- rested business owner is key to success. It’s when your body heals and recharges. Try to wake up at the same time every day and go to sleep at the same time to give you a routine. Even if that’s 6am, if you don’t start until 12pm. If you’re starting to feel like your work and life are out of balance, the first question you need to ask yourself is what your sleep pattern is like. Use Headspace to send you off to the land of nod and use Alarmy to get you out of bed in the morning.


Noticing what burn out looks like for you

Burn out is serious. The WHO has redefined it a syndrome linked to chronic work stress. “Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when an individual feels overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to meet constant demands.” It is career ending, and it can affect anyone. I know from experience. Sometimes it can creep up on you and take you by surprise, or it can smack you in the face. Knowing what burn out symptoms you’re prone to means you can take a step back from work and assess how you’re health is being affected by your work. If you’re starting to feel resentful, frustrated, cynical or critical about your work, this is a warning sign. If you’re finding it hard to concentrate, or you’re overwhelmed with thoughts of work when you’re not at work, or struggling to find the positives, these are all indications. Sometimes burn out can be physical, with headaches, digestive problems, grinding your teeth, biting your nails, or having trouble sleeping. You might not have all of these symptoms, maybe only one or two, but if you do, it’s time to assess your workload and to see what’s causing you to feel like this. You don’t have a boss to speak to, or HR to request time off, you can just take a few days to properly switch off. Do it. You deserve it.


There you are, seven ways to manage your work life balance as a business owner. You can do it! Let me know how you get on.





PS: want to just delagate? Fair enough. Let's do a discovery call to see what writing/ editing/ proofreading I can help you with, and you can just tick it straight off your to do list.

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