Work life balanceI am going to be the first to admit, as a small business owner and working parent, it is bloody hard to get the work life balance right. At times I think it is as elusive as the magical unicorn.

We all know it is important to run your business effectively and still have a life outside the office, but how? How do you manage it all so that you get the best business possible, you spend time with family and friends and you also manage to nourish yourself along the way.

“Often something gives and I think as a woman, the first thing that falls off my priority list is myself. Always. Without a doubt. I come last.”

You need a good balance between work and play for your physical health and mental well-being. Small business owners often fall into the trap of working too hard, ending up exhausted from the constant work demands associated with self-employment.

So let’s revisit why you need balance

Working too much without taking time out for yourself and your family can quickly become counterproductive. You will be tired, stressed and irritable, leaving you unable to perform optimally in all areas of your life. As a result, you will be more likely to make mistakes and snap at people who are important to you and your business. And god forbid the errors that will creep into your business when you are stressed, overworked and out of alignment.

So what does Balance look like?

I think the thing to remember here is balance for every single person is different.  The old saying of “the grass is always greener on the other side” needs to be thrown out here. It is rubbish. Everyone’s business life and personal life, their needs, their demands, the things that bring them joy – they are all different.

So firstly – stop looking at other peoples so called perfect life on social media and focus on what balance looks like to you. For me, it is simply being happy. That could  mean working a 12 hour day, it could mean dropping work and picking up my kids if they are sick, it could mean taking the day off and working a weekend instead. For me, as long as I am happy, and my family is happy, then I think the balance will ultimately come.

Burn out sucks – so look for the signs

I have been there, and it sucks.  It sucks for you, your mental health and the relationships most closest to you are likely to suffer. Your health will deteriorate and you probably won’t even notice, as you just keep pushing through and telling yourself you will be ok and you will find balance once the hectic days are over.

So start to notice the signs.  Start to notice hose much sleep you are getting. Start to notice how many times you are checking your phone.  Start to notice how many genuine conversations you are having with those closest to you.

Delegation is not failure, it is prevention

We are not wonder woman or some kind of super hero.  And we can’t do everything in life perfectly, so asking for help in areas to lessen the burden will bring you more in alignment with some kind of work life balance.

Delegation could simply be getting a cleaner, ordering Hellofresh to sort out the weekly cooking, getting the kids to help with the never ending laundry.  Sometimes, if we can organise our home life easier, we suddenly feel far more in balance overall.

Create good systems for everything

Develop a clear operations manual for each process in your business. This lets you and key staff take a break, an actual holiday – and it speeds up training when someone new comes into the business.

It means if any of your staff (or you) are out of action for any reason, the remaining team members can pick up the slack and the business continues as usual without any kind of major disruption. It also means if you are sick, you can take the time out you need to get better.

Plan for exercise and movement

Often it is the last thing we feel like doing – when we are under the pump and business is hectic we feel we can’t take 20 minutes out of our day to exercise.  However, even just a walk around the back yard, going up and down the stairs a few times, going for a walk down the street at lunch time will make the world of difference.  The only way  can get this to work for me is to schedule it into my diary – exactly how I do with client appointments.

That time to exercise for me is time I value and give myself permission to take care of myself. I book the “appointment” in my diary and I turn up. Most days I could come up with 100 excuses why I can’t go, but I would never cancel on a client unless it was a major emergency, so I refuse to cancel on myself.

Sometimes, just 20-30 minutes is enough to give myself a break, a pep talk, a bit of self love and my work life balance seems to come more into alignment.

Take mini-breaks

Now I am not talking holidays as such but when was the last time you scheduled yourself a day off.  Not to work, not to do chores, but to have a day of “annual leave” to just chill, go to the movies, go get a massage, visit family – whatever it is.

Put mini-breaks into your diary. Schedule a day off once a month, a long weekend every few months – time to do something for yourself or your family where you can focus on things that make you smile (or just catch up on sleep to reset yourself).

Staying passionate about your business and motivated to do your best is important. If you find you just don’t have the energy you once had, your staff and business will suffer. To keep the work life balance on an equal playing field, take action before you start to enter a negative spiral.

You could try the following:

  • Set exciting and challenging new goals.
  • Share your goals with your staff so everyone understands what you want to achieve.
  • Set measurable ‘stepping stones’ to the main goals and celebrate each achievement.
  • Refresh your daily routine.
  • Schedule down time for yourself (yoga, exercise class, massage)

By staying motivated, giving yourself permission to have time to yourself and avoiding burn out you will have the foundations in place to enjoy running your business again, while also retaining a fulfilling life outside work.