How to Balance Work and Life: The Ultimate Guide
Do you ever feel overwhelmed? How about stressed, busy, and overworked? If you own a service-based business, the answer is probably something like “Yes… All. The. Time.”
We feel ya! Work-life balance is tough to achieve. It’s also slippery: as soon as you think you’ve got this whole be-an-entrepreneur-without-killing-myself thing down, something happens and you’re back at square one wondering where the time went.
It doesn’t help that countless TV shows and Instagram posts make owning a business seem like a cakewalk. In fact, it’s enough to give anyone a serious case of imposter syndrome.
But what if we told you that a balanced life was possible. Better yet, what if we actually showed you how to balance work and life using practical tips and strategies that *anyone* can implement? Would you be interested?
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about bringing balance to your life so that you can quit stressing and start living again. Let’s do this!
What is work-life balance?
First things first, let’s start with a definition:
Work-life balance happens when one’s professional responsibilities exist in perfect harmony with one’s personal life. Neither is given priority over the other; both work and play are equal.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Imagine *not* rushing out the door at 6:30am, spilling hot coffee on your hands, and wondering why in the world you scheduled an appointment for so early in the morning.
Or *not* running the day’s numbers at midnight because you were booked up until 9:00pm and still had to pick up dinner, help your kids with their homework, and spend time with your significant other who you haven’t seen in… wait, how long’s it been?… before slamming your nose back on the ol’ grindstone.
For many small business owners, living a balanced life seems like a pipedream. We’re here to tell you it’s not. By making a few important changes, you can find harmony between the demands of your chosen career and your personal life.
The benefits of better time management for business
You shouldn’t have to wrack your brain to pinpoint the benefits of better time management for business. Work-life balance is clearly helpful because it leads to:
You’ve heard the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” It may be totally cliche at this point, but that’s only because it’s totally true.
If all you ever do is work, you’ll become both bored and boring, neither of which is ideal. But learn how to balance work and life and you’ll become happier. This is because social interaction is one of the biggest predictors of happiness. A well-balanced life makes time for personal relationships, which studies prove are intimately connected to feelings of joy.
Can’t kick the stress? Seem to catch the sniffles (or worse) more often than your friends? Experienced a serious health scare in recent months? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, there’s a good chance your work-life balance is off.
Achieving equilibrium between your career and your personal life can be super beneficial to your physical and mental wellbeing.
We’re going to go out on a limb here and say you didn’t start your own business to feel *more* stressed, deal with health issues, and have zero free time. The opposite is probably true.
Unfortunately, you took a wrong turn somewhere along the way. But that doesn’t mean those benefits aren’t still out there waiting for you.
Proper work-life balance leads to total freedom — freedom to do what you love and be well-compensated for it. To achieve the kind of lifestyle you’ve always dreamed about. And to spend more time with the people and activities you care most about.
The perils of an unbalanced life
If learning how to balance work and life has benefits, it stands to reason that *not* balancing them has consequences. Unfortunately, in this instance, the consequences are serious…
“Burnout” has become a popular term in recent years. But it’s actually pretty misunderstood — or worse, seen as an excuse for low enthusiasm and/or shoddy work. The truth is, burnout is very, very real, but *not* the sudden avalanche of negative feelings that many believe it to be.
According to Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D, burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to:
- Physical and emotional exhaustion
- Cynicism and detachment, and
- Feelings of ineffectiveness
Burnout is often caused by working long hours, dealing with unrealistic client expectations, and being connected 24/7, among other things. Hmmm… definitely sounds like a lack of work-life balance is a leading cause of this malady, doesn’t it?
When your work becomes your life, your health suffers. A recent study by UCL found that working 3+ extra hours per day causes a 60% increase in heart-related problems.
Even if your work-heavy schedule doesn’t hurt your ticker, it can still create unnecessary stress and emotional exhaustion. And who wants to live like that? Learn how to balance your work and life instead. (Don’t worry, we’ll show you how in the next section.)
An unbalanced life can also lead to broken relationships. Hard evidence of this is, admittedly, tricky to pin down. But informal research does suggest that entrepreneurs experienced failed marriages more often than traditionally employed folks.
It makes sense when you think about it…
Solid relationships take effort to build and maintain. If your busy work schedule keeps you away from your friends and family — or preoccupies your brain so you’re never present, even when you are around them — your relationships will suffer.
Now, we’re not trying to put a damper on your day — promise! We simply want you to realize the consequences of an imbalance. Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to prioritize your shop and your personal life in equal measure.
How to achieve work-life balance
The benefits of work-life balance, as well as the consequences for failing to achieve it, are clear. Now the question is, how to balance work and life?
If it were easy, you’d already be doing it. But it’s definitely not impossible. You just need to make a few changes. Implement a few of the tips below and you’ll begin to find equilibrium between the demands of your business and personal life.
1. Know thyself
Let’s start with the one thing in life you can actually control: YOU. To achieve greater work-life balance, look within and ask yourself, “What works best for me?”
For example, are you a morning bird or a night owl? Use online appointment scheduling software to plan your routine around the times you operate best. What kind of work do you enjoy doing most? Try to book more of those jobs/clients/sessions. Are there specific times of day that are completely off limits for business? Respect these times. (More on this below.)
The point is, you’ll never find the right balance in life until you understand what you want and need out of your career and personal time.
2. Set boundaries
You started your own shop because the normal 9-5 workday wasn’t for you. But if you’re not careful, 9-5 can easily become 24/7 and the benefits of being self-employed — i.e. happiness, health, and freedom — are lost. No bueno.
The key is to set hard and fast boundaries for yourself, and by extension, your business, that revolve around the things you value most in life. Because of this, only you can decide what boundaries to set, but here are a few ideas:
- I won’t book appointments after the kids get home from school.
- I’ll turn my phone off between 8:00pm and 7:00am.
- I’ll always have breakfast with my family before starting work.
While setting boundaries can be difficult, especially at first, they’ll empower you to choose yourself, teach others to respect you, and enable you to say “yes” to new and exciting opportunities that otherwise would have passed you by.
3. Build your oasis
True work-life balance is about enjoyment, not just spending an equal amount of time at work and at home. With this in mind, It’s important to create a working atmosphere that you like being in. An oasis that you’re psyched to go to every day.
Maybe this means investing in weird art to hang on your shop walls, or a mini fridge stocked with La Croix, or comfy furniture that feels like a vacation for your backside.
As an added bonus, the vibe you create in your shop can boost employee and customer satisfaction, too, which will help you put more money in the bank…
Which might enable you to take more time off of work…
Which could help you enjoy your job more…
Take some time to think about your work environment and how you can improve it. Then work to build your own oasis and work-life balance will be much easier to achieve.
4. Invest in online appointment scheduling
What’s the main reasons you struggle to balance work and personal responsibilities? If you said, “Because my phone constantly pings me with text, email, and calendar notifications,” you’re in good company.
Great news: an online appointment scheduling app can help!
Give your clients the chance to book appointments online at their own convenience. That way they don’t have to contact you to schedule a service. This simple thing will give you SO MUCH more freedom, while providing a better experience to each of your customers. Trust us, they’d rather book on their own terms than play telephone tag with you, too.
Do what many other independent service providers do and use online appointment scheduling software like Bookedin to achieve a balanced life and business.
5. Prioritize family time
Life is beautiful because we get to share it with amazing people. So sappy, but we bet your eyes are totally misting over right now. Know why? Because it’s true. So do yourself a favor and prioritize time with your loved ones.
For many small business owners, that means spending time with family on a regular basis. But if you don’t live near blood relatives, friends definitely count.
The time you spend with them will give you a chance to relax and take your mind off of your career. It will also remind you why you work so hard in the first place, re-energize you to continue growing your business, and, honestly, fill you with joy.
6. Learn to say no
Hate to break it to you, but you can’t be everything to everybody. Not possible, friend. But guess what — that’s fine!
Learning to say no is SO DIFFICULT for many people in the service industry because most of us are non-confrontational and we don’t want to let anyone down. Plus, “no thank you” often means “no money”. Or at least not as much money as you could have made.
But saying “yes” all the time will rarely (if ever) help you achieve proper work-life balance.
Instead of saying “yes” to every opportunity, learn to say “no” to anything that doesn’t fit the vision you have for your business, is bad for your health (mental and physical), or crosses the boundaries you’ve put in place.
Oh, and about the money…
Warren Buffet once said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
In other words, you won’t achieve everything you could by saying “yes” to every low-level task, job, and client that comes your way. Take it from one of the richest dudes ever, “No” is your ticket to a better business and life.
7. Develop personal rules
Better time management for business purposes is hard. So to help you achieve it, we suggest developing personal rules. Or, if you’re a rebel and hate the word “rules”, feel free to call them guidelines, regulations, ordinances… whatever floats your boat.
Here are a few rules that may prove beneficial to you:
- No laptops in bed: If there’s one place in the world that should be a work-free zone, it’s your bed. This is where you rest and rejuvenate. Keep it that way by banning your laptop from your king-size. While you’re at it, ditch your phone, too.
- Never skip lunch: If you’re a hustler, you might view your lunch break as a wasted opportunity. After all, if you booked a client during that time you could make more money. But, as it turns out, the human body needs food to function properly. Fuel yourself so you can better enjoy your work and reach peak performance.
- Make time to pee: You know what’s not fun? Working for 16 hours straight while your bladder threatens to explode. Make sure you schedule enough break time between client sessions to use the bathroom and take care of normal bodily functions.
Making rules is easy. Following rules? Much more difficult. If you hope to succeed in this area, you’ll probably have to amp up your self-discipline.
8. Take care of your body
Building a business is hard. Building one when your mind and body aren’t in tip-top shape is even harder. That’s why physical exercise and a healthy diet are so important.
Think about it this way, a Porsche 911 and a Volkswagen Beetle will both get you from San Francisco to New York. But one will get you there in style and at a top speed of 182 miles per hour. (Hint: it’s not the Volkswagen.)
It’s the same with your business. Nobody is saying you have to be a fitness model to build a successful shop. But regular exercise and healthy eating habits will boost your energy and productivity levels, which have obvious benefits for service professionals.
So make sure you get enough sleep at night, take time to move your body on a regular basis, and eat a salad every now and then. If you really want to prioritize your physical and mental health, try meditating for a few minutes each morning.
If you do these things, you’ll feel better and have a higher chance of achieving quality work-life balance.
9. Delegate when possible
As we’ve already discussed, achieving an acceptable work-life balance is a constant battle — one that many of us lose Over. And. Over. Again.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to up your chances of success: delegate.
Delegation will keep you from answering emails while attending your kid’s soccer game. Or posting on Instagram while out for drinks with friends. Or losing sleep because you have to balance the books after a 12 hour shift at the shop.
You should look to delegate when you either don’t have time to do a job, or don’t have the skill set to do it well. Here’s how:
- Be clear on the goal you’re trying to achieve.
- Clarify the due date for each delegated task.
- State the main do’s and don’ts of the project.
- Schedule follow-up meetings to review progress.
- Always keep the lines of communication open.
Whether you’re swamped with website or social media management tasks, bookkeeping duties, or something else, delegation could be the key to regaining balance in your life.
10. Ditch your phone
Technology is an incredible tool that allows you to manage and market your entire service business. It’s also a drug that knows how to reel you in and completely control your time.
Tristan Harris, the founder of HumaneTech.com and the Time Well Spent movement, says:
“Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google have produced amazing products that have benefited the world enormously. But these companies are also caught in a zero-sum race for our finite attention, which they need to make money.”
Your phone is a direct line to the services that Harris mentions and it’s killing your balance.
So commit to turning your phone off for specific periods of the day, like when you’re at home and away from work. If turning off your phone is too much to ask, silence notifications instead. That way your attention isn’t constantly drawn to the supercomputer in your pocket.
11. Take the 80/20 rule to heart
The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, says that 80% of outcomes result from 20% of causes. In other words, most of the progress you make in your shop can be traced back to a few select actions.
“Cool,” you’re thinking, “But how does this relate to work-life balance?” Easy: better time management for business can be achieved by focusing on the 20% of things that really matter to the success of your entrepreneurial journey.
Here are a few ways to use the 80/20 rule:
- Offer more expensive services so that you make more money in less time.
- Provide a wider variety of services so that customers return more often.
- Work with fewer, high-value customers rather than many, low-value ones. (Just to clarify, a high-value customer is one that spends a lot and returns often. They probably even refer their friends. A low-value customer doesn’t do any of these things.)
By implementing these ideas (and similar ones) you’ll be able to maintain, or even increase your revenue without working a ridiculous amount of hours. Thus achieving a happy work-life balance and preserving your sanity. Win!
12. Forget about multitasking
You’ve heard the news and read the studies: multitasking doesn’t work for human brains. It kills productivity, causes subpar results, and even makes you less intelligent because it teaches your brain to *not* focus on specific tasks.
But what’s the alternative? Single-tasking.
By focusing on just one (gasp!) task at a time, you’ll become less stressed, have less anxiety, and experience more happiness. You’ll also become more productive and creative — two essential traits for small business owners.
But single-tasking after you’ve spent a lifetime multitasking isn’t easy. To help, we suggest baby steps. For example, instead of cooking dinner, listening to music, and texting a friend, focus on *only* preparing a delicious meal to feast upon.
13. Analyze your efforts
Finally, it’s important to track your work-life balance efforts. Which of the tips above work best for you. Which don’t? How can you adjust your approach to better manage your work-related responsibilities and personal life?
Learning how to balance work and life is a never-ending process. You never fully achieve it, but you *can* teach yourself to find it on a regular basis.
The goal: work-life integration
Here’s the deal, for service business owners such as yourself, work-life balance really isn’t the goal. Weird statement since we just spent 3,000 words telling you why balance is so important, right?
In all honesty, true balance is impossible to find, especially for entrepreneurs. Life is messy, things don’t always go according to plan, and there are a million different tasks vying for your attention at. Every. Single. Moment.
Rather than trying to spend equal time at work and on your personal life, look to integrate the two. Work-life integration is the process of fitting all of your responsibilities into a custom schedule that allows you to find fulfillment in each aspect of your life.
Just remember that only YOU can determine what the right “balance” of everything is. Decide what’s most important to you. Then discover ways to fit them into your routine so that they work for you, your loved ones, and your goals.
Take control of your life
Perfect work-life balance is impossible to achieve…
Fortunately, work-life integration is both perfectly attainable and preferred. Once you learn how to simplify your business and prioritize the things that really matter, your stress levels will plummet and you’ll be happier, healthier, and FREE.
How about a little reader participation? Let us know in the comments what your favorite work-life balance tip from this article is and how you plan to implement it in your business.