Maintaining a work/life balance is easy when you’re a sole trader, right? You typically work from home and you have no one else to answer to, so it should be easy to switch off. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. In fact, many home-based sole traders struggle to strike a healthy work/life balance because the lines are more blurred. Ella Legg, founder of copywriting consultancy Ella Smith Communications, knows how difficult it can be to strike that balance, having experienced it firsthand. Here are her top 20 tips for achieving and maintaining a healthy work/life balance.
Play to your strengths
Don’t try and be all things to all people. Focus on your strengths and outsource the others. If you’re not a whiz at accounts or graphic design, outsource them instead of wasting time.
Prioritize your time
You may have a to-do list with 50 tasks on it, so you need to prioritize those tasks into four categories.
- Urgent and important
- Important but not urgent
- Urgent but not important
- Neither urgent nor important.
Know your peaks and troughs
Are you a morning person?
If you are, assign tough, high-concentration tasks to the mornings. Don’t leave the tough tasks until its night time and vice versa.
Plot some personal time
When personal issues arise, it can be tempting to bury yourself in your work. Don’t do it If you don’t make time for your personal life – your “me” time, including your family and your health – you won’t have a business to go back to
Have set work hours – and stick to them
Set work hours for yourself and do everything in your power to stick to them. Otherwise, before you know it, you’ll be working until midnight every night.
Find time for your finances
Whether you work for yourself or not, it’s important to feel confident about your finances. In order to do this, you need to get some accounting software in place and use it from day one. Cash flow is one of the biggest challenges facing small businesses. You should start using accounting tools early on so you know what’s going on, financially, from day dot.
Manage your time, long term
Create a timeline of your activities. Specific computer programs can help with this, or you can customize your own Excel spreadsheet or Word table.
Put dates across the top and activities down the side. Break each task into components.
Include family commitments – such as holidays, birthday parties, etc. – so you don’t forget that you are unavailable for work on those days.
Make your workspace work for you
Working for yourself does tend to require long hours and not much downtime, so invest in equipment that will support you.
That includes getting a comfortable chair, an ergonomic keyboard, a support stand for your laptop, etc.
An ergonomic assessment of your workspace is worth every cent.
Tap into technology
Instead of driving to a meeting, use Skype or conferencing technologies like GoToMeeting. But remember to switch them off.
Make exercise a must-do, not a should-do
It’s easy to cancel the gym, the evening run or the yoga class because a client wants something done yesterday.
Instead, ensure exercise is given as much priority as your clients and making money. A healthy body means a fresh mind, which means you will function better and complete tasks in less time.
Take time to make time
Invest in time-tracking tools. There are plenty of tools you can use to track everything from the frequency and duration of meetings, to chasing and converting leads.
Time-tracking software allows you to quickly build an understanding of how long a particular task takes.
That way, you can effectively estimate how long your next work task will take.
Know and nurture your network
Prioritise growing your network and have a structured lead/conversion system in place so you can track the time/cost involved to grow your network.
Set the benchmarks early on and learn the lessons early.
Do what you love
Make time for something you love – other than work – and give it the time it deserves. It will energise and refresh you, and enable you to nurture the creative thought that is essential to every business owner.
At the end of each working day, perform a little self-analysis. Ask yourself what worked today, what didn’t, what went wrong and how the issue can be fixed.
Remember there are thousands of businesses just like yours learning the same lessons every day. Don’t forget to tap into the valuable resources around you – your peers – for help.
Working for yourself can get lonely, so schedule some phone calls or coffee time with like-minded business owners to discuss ideas and offer each other support.
Get a business coach
Find the cash for a business coach. That way, you can find out sooner rather than later how to get rid of bad habits and implement good ones.
Meet clients halfway – literally
Don’t always agree to meet a client at their office. Instead, meet halfway, perhaps at a café or restaurant. This will save you time and energy, not to mention money spent on travel.
Manage your mind
When fear or self-doubt or anxiety creeps in, do some work on your mental health such as meditation or reading a business book.
Alternatively, spend time with someone who will lift you up and support you.
Take a break
Remember to take time out throughout your day.
Some tasks are easier than others, so if you find yourself with an hour up your sleeve, be realistic about whether you can “afford” to rest or not.
You might not have time every day to simply sit and “be”, but do your best to give yourself a lunch break.
Also, make a point of getting up and stretching every 15 minutes. It will help you become clearer, more focused and more productive.
Have that holiday
Make time for a holiday and book in breaks, at least quarterly. Even a long weekend every quarter is better than nothing.
But remember to advise your clients and customers as far in advance as possible.