As I mentioned in my last post, another business owner and I were talking about work/life balance. He asked for my tips. Here are some that I’ve used over the years that have worked for me. Most or all of these I probably was given by others in a similar situation.
First of all, while I do have a real office, with a door to close a business phone, and all the things required in a real office, it is actually in my home. As such, I have be especially careful or work and my personal life will encroach upon each other. To avoid that, here are some of my rules for myself:
- Don’t be a slave to the phone: When I started my business, I took my cordless phone out of the office and carried it all over the house — JUST IN CASE SOMEONE CALLED!! These days, I try to set the ringer only so I can hear the phone when I’m in my office and I no longer take the handset with me.
- It’s difficult to show people they’re important to you when you always drop everything for someone else. When you tell someone, for example a spouse, that they’re number one in your life, you have to find a way to show it to them. If you ignore them to work all the time, that doesn’t show it. (This applies to customer’s as well, even though it isn’t a work/life balance issue — if you tell a customer they’re important but spend your time at their site on the phone with other customers or postpone their work when some new customer comes along, this doesn’t convince them that you think they’re important to you.)
- When on vacation, take a vacation. I no longer check messages when I’m on vacation. When you spend your vacation making apologies for why you have to return a call, the person or people you’re on vacation with notice your lack of attention. Also, even if vacationing alone, you don’t get much real vacation in if you continue to work through it. For me, I’ve found that setting expectations with customers isn’t usually that hard. Most customers are fine with it as long as they know ahead and the whole thing is organized. Along with that, don’t take your work phone or your laptop with you.
- Try not to do the things that waste your time. For me, my hardest task is to stay away from e-mail. I read long ago that we let e-mail be our biggest time-waster, although, today, texting might be a close contender. We spend way too much time on things like e-mail because they makes us feel like we’re doing something and keeping busy, but if you look at the “important/not important/urgent/not urgent” grid they show us in time management classes, e-mail doesn’t normally meet the “important and urgent” box in the grid.
- Find some routine time for the people in your life, including yourself. Find something routine that you can commit to and just do it.
- When you’re at work, work. Your office is a place of work. Many people have a “when the door is closed, don’t bother me” rule for their spouse and children and have set hours that they’re working. That way, the make good progress when they’re in there and have less need to work as much extra time, for one example.
- Take the projects of least stress. When you speak with potential customers, evaluate how out-of-control the project sounds. If they’re calling to have you get it under control and if that’s something you can do, then that’s the project for you. If the situation is that it’s merely out-of-control but you need to come in and perform some kind of extraordinary task in the midst of it all and it sounds undoable, trying to do it will just burn out even faster along with the stress of the work/life balance you’re already struggling with.
- Never blend the work phone and the home phone. If your spouse calls you on your work phone to say they’ll be home, late, that’s something that would happen, regardless where you were working. But, if you start blending the two phones, you’ll find yourself on vacation with your personal cell phone getting work calls. You’ll find your separation of work and home disappearing. I do not give out my home phone number to anyone from work. Nor do I have discourse with family members on my work phone.
What are your work/life balance tips? Please share them with us all as comments.