What is work-life Balance anyway? Well, let me paint you a picture of what it is NOT:
It’s 5:05 PM and you still haven’t closed your laptop. Again.
You tell yourself, “30 more minutes to finish this project!” but you know even that means you’re still going to be missing out on quality time with your family. Or maybe you’re skipping your workout. You’re kicking yourself because you did this yesterday too. And every day last week, you worked straight through lunch. It feels like there’s no time for “you” and you’re desperate for that thing called “balance” people talk about. You end up finally going home, but you still open back up your email to “check in” one last time before bed.
Does this sound familiar? What’s the next part of this story?
For a lot of people, the next chapter involves continuing to work like this, grinding away until you’re miserable at your job and resent the company or your boss for working you this hard.
But for others, maybe that late night is just the wake-up call you needed to set some boundaries and find some semblance of balance with your work and home life.
I have definitely been both of these characters in the quest towards a fulfilling life in both work and…non-work. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my 3+ decades on this earth is that none of us are promised tomorrow, so we better live and enjoy each day like it could be our last. That means working hard, yes, but also making time for play, down time, and self care.
I made a choice a long time ago as a business owner: I will not let work get in the way of living my life. I can and will be successful at my job AND living my life outside of work. I’m not just a graphic designer or a business owner—I’m a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter, and a strong, badass wonder woman who takes good care of herself.
Here are some key tools I’ve implemented in my own life that has made being the best version of myself actually possible.
- Stay organized!
This one is big for me. I can attest that establishing some solid organization habits early on in my career has paid off big time now that I’m busier than ever. My employees and I know exactly where files are kept, calendars are kept up to date, and task/project lists help keep me on track towards project and business deadlines.
- Set working hours and stick to them
They say the most successful people in the world are ones with solid routines they follow without exception. Each day I wake up, take care of my family, have my morning coffee, and start work at my home office by 8:30am or so. I work through the day, and close up “shop” by 3pm so I can spend quality time with my family, get a workout in and unplug from work until the next day. Sometimes, I don’t finish what I wanted to before 3. It’s very rare that I break my rule and just work past that time—instead I make sure to get after it first thing in the morning and perhaps rearrange some other things that next day to make time. Both family and “me” time is precious and its part of what helps me bring my best to work each day.
- Establish boundaries with communication
This connects to the working time a bit. Make sure whoever contacts you for work knows when they can and cannot reach you, and stand your ground if they try to cross that line. If a client or employee wants to be able to contact me at 9pm at night and get a response, well, it just may not be a good fit for us to work together! Setting those boundaries can be scary, especially if you need the business. I’ve found if you set the precedent early on in any relationship though, people understand and will respect the way you do business.
- Only take on what you can realistically do in the time you have
If you regularly feel overwhelmed with the workload you have, it’s either because you’re not working efficiently (see #1, Stay organized), or you’re taking on too much for one person. Each time you receive a request, instead of saying “You got it!” right away, take inventory of what you’re currently working on, THEN answer accordingly, and don’t be afraid to say that you don’t have time. You might also look at your schedule and see if you can add it to next week’s workload, and offer the according expected timeline. Or, it might be a good time to start delegating work to existing or new employees, coworkers, etc.
- Live in the moment when not at work
Truly being present means unplugging fully. Don’t check your email, consider turning off notifications on your phone, and actively engage in whatever you’re doing. I’ll get a much better workout in and have much more joyous family time if I tune out distractions because then I can really BE there. This also helps me in turn enjoy my work more not only because it’s a creative and productive outlet for me, but because it gives me a break from the not-so-fun parts of everyday life, such as screaming kiddos or house chores!
That decision to work on my work-life balance has made me better at playing all the roles I play. Not every day is perfect—that’s impossible. Sometimes the boundaries I’ve set are hard to uphold. But each day is a new opportunity to be better and experience life to the fullest.
Are you a business owner with too much on your plate? Click here to see what Amber Design can do for you and your business and put your mind at ease.
Want to get more insights and advice on life as a business owner? Make sure you check out my new Podcast, Amber Energy! Available anywhere you listen to podcasts!