Donald Trump once said (although I’m not sure if he said it first): “If you’re interested in ‘balancing’ work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead make your work more pleasurable.”
And when you make that decision to become self-employed, you probably do end up working on something pleasurable, something that you thoroughly enjoy and believe in.
Probably in stark contrast to the corporate 9 to 5, when you spent all day pushing papers across a desk, working for someone you couldn’t stand or couldn’t wait to see the back of.
But when you find work that is pleasurable and then set up office from home to do it, life doesn’t suddenly become easier.
There are times when you feel that you’ve mastered it, then life throws something at you to make you wobble.
A bit like mastering a high wire balancing act without falling off and then someone throwing something at you to juggle too!
Working for yourself isn’t exactly a precarious act, but it can be stressful if you don’t lay down some ground rules – for both yourself and those around you.
Here are 5 things I’ve learnt over the years which, now that I’ve mastered them, have finally helped everything fall into place.
It takes practice
That tightrope walker towering above the audience on his highwire makes the balancing act look effortless. And yet it obviously takes years of practice.
I’ve learnt that running a business from home takes practice too.
For me, that has meant finding a routine and sticking to it.
It’s not a rigid, inflexible one – it can’t be when you’ve got kids – but I do find that having one keeps me focused and stops me frittering time away.
I used to take a haphazard approach to my working day, ‘mix it up a little’ depending on what I had in my inbox.
But I had to remind myself that when I was employed, I still had to physically turn up to work at the same time each day. It wasn’t dependent upon what my boss did or didn’t have in his intray to give me.
So nowadays, I start work the same time each day too. I’ll check my emails between 7 and 8:30am before taking the girls to school and then I’ll start work promptly at 9:30am when I get back, either on client work or the blog here at Work Your Way.
I’ll continue until 12:00 or 12:30 when I’ll take a lunch break, which I find is the ideal time to catch up on social media updates or emails.
I’ll then work until 3:00pm when it’s time to collect the girls from school. If they (and older brother) have homework, I can at least continue working until they’ve finished. Otherwise, I’m theirs until they scoot off to bed!
I can then finish up, or switch to writing notes, from 8:00 to 10pm.
Real Business, Real Hours
While working for myself obviously gives me the freedom to choose my own hours, I won’t be productive if I don’t take my working day seriously.
I’ll set goals for myself throughout the day, for example: “I must finish this first draft by 12:00n,” which you could say holds me accountable.
Having my set working hours – which incidentally, I’ve made known to friends and family – reinforces that this is a real business.
I know I’m not alone when I say that my employed friends don’t completely understand, or even believe for that matter, that I’m doing real paid work at home. (“What, no day time telly?”)
I do think that as self-employed parents, particularly with young kids, the focus might not necessarily be on growing the business to go global, but you do still want to work smarter. You still want to work profitably.
You won’t achieve this if you don’t establish a regular routine. Albeit a flexible one.
I’ve learnt to outsource tasks that take up too much of my time.
For me, that happens to be WordPress maintenance. While I have become a dab hand at most WordPress tasks, it just doesn’t make sense for me to, for example, sit here fiddling over a plugin that’s suddenly decided to stop working and I can’t for the life of me figure out why.
Far better for me to let someone else take care of this, while I get on with the business of running my business.
In all honesty, it’s a relief to let someone else who is obviously far more knowledgeable than me take care of it. So it’s money well spent as far as I’m concerned.
Reduce The Pressure
Remember that old mantra, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”?
You go through life being told – and believing – that you can’t make a success of anything unless you work your darned socks off.
Yes, you do need perseverance when you work for yourself and you do need staying power to keep at it day after day.
But I’ve learnt that at times, you need to reduce the pressure.
You could spend all day and all night slogging away to meet a deadline. At the end of it, you’ve met the deadline, but you’re also a frazzled, miserable grump, who’s far too tired to play with the kids.
I’ve learnt to stop trying so hard and instead, put systems in place which allow me to step away from it all.
When I do, I find that ideas flow, creativity flows.
I can breathe, think and find a fresh perspective on what it is I need to do.
But overall, the most important thing I’ve learnt over the years is to lighten up. All work and no play will damage the close bonds I have with my loved ones.
One of the reasons why I decided to become self-employed is to be able to spend more time with them.
I have to remind myself of that every now and then. It helps to keep everything in perspective.