Here’s another Spark Bits Weekly where I ask a panel of homepreneurs a blazing question about running and growing their businesses from home.
Q: How do you manage your personal and business life while working from home? What have you learned about the concept of work-life balance as it pertains to your business?
Samantha Pointer-Foxx from Get It Together says:
I must admit it gets hard sometimes to manage both my personal and business life while working from home. It is so easy to let things slide that you wouldn’t if you had a regular workplace job. It is so easy to sleep a little bit longer or to get caught up in watching a television show when there are calls to be made and work to be done. But how I have been battling this is that I have set work hours. I get up and get dressed like I’m going out of my home and then I get to work. I don’t have the television on while I work. I usually have music playing in the background. If there is something I want to see on TV at that time I just DVR it.
It can be a little trickier in the summertime when my oldest daughter is home, but in that case I work for a little bit then do something with her, and then a little more work. By breaking up my workday it is a lot less stressful and she doesn’t feel neglected. I also don’t do any more work after my designated work hours. I want to be fully present with my family.
You can have work-life balance if you just take the time and set up ground rules and boundaries. Also letting other members of your family know the boundaries and giving them your full attention when you are with them will help things to run much more smoothly when it comes to work-life balance.
Alicia Jay from New VA Advice says:
First, I learned that there is no such thing as the perfect work-life balance. It’s really different for everyone and where they are in business and in life. It took some time, but I figured out what works for me (for right now, anyway!)
Set A Schedule
It’s important to set a schedule for work time, however that works for you. It doesn’t have to be a stiff 9:00 to 5:00 arrangement. After all, we don’t work in the brick-and-mortar world. But it has to be something that works for you and your life specifically. Perhaps you do your best thinking in the morning and you like to get a lot done then. You might take a break in the early afternoon and come back to things in the late afternoon.
Think about what else you have going on in your personal life that you want to schedule your work around as well as when you do your best work. Here’s how this works for me. I have my 4 year-old son at home with me so I tailor my work day around him. I do most of my work when he’s napping and once he goes to bed at night. Since it’s summer and he doesn’t have morning pre-school, I’ve had to change some things around. I used to get a lot done in the mornings while he was gone. For the summer, I still come into my office a couple of mornings a week to work and set him up with an activity that he can do while I’m working. He’s finally old enough to do this (mostly)!
Treat Work Time Like Work Time—And Play Time Like Play Time
I’ve made sure that my family as well as my neighbors are aware of my schedule. It took everyone a little while to get on board, but we’re there now. Since I work from home, some of my neighbors thought I could sit and chat whenever I liked. They understand now that, just because I’m home, doesn’t mean I’m sitting around doing nothing.
When I’m working, I’m focused on my work. I don’t play computer games or check out Facebook. I also set a timer for my son so that he knows how long I’ll be working. He knows to give Mommy quiet time, but as soon as the timer goes off, it’s time to be with him. I try to really keep myself in the moment when I’m with family and friends. I don’t sit there checking my phone for client emails. I know that I’m truly blessed to have a schedule where I can do things with my family on my own terms. We can go to an amusement park on a Tuesday afternoon. And I can get my grocery shopping done on a morning weekday when there aren’t any crowds!
Throw Your Schedule a Curve Ball
Here’s the other thing about work-life balance. First of all, I really love what I do, so it doesn’t really feel like work for me. I get really involved during my work time so I will sometimes work late into the evening if I’m in a groove. But then I can take it easy the next morning because I don’t have to jump out of bed and go anywhere.
Secondly, sometimes that whole schedule goes right out the window because life happens. Sometimes your child gets sick and needs you or your husband has neck surgery and you have to care for him for 12 weeks. These things happen. And sometimes it’s really fun stuff, like this weekend, for example. I had planned on getting a lot of work done since my husband works this weekend. Then I could spend his days off with him during the upcoming week. But yesterday afternoon, a friend told me that a local park was hosting a movie and fireworks. I looked at my son’s face and realized that he’s only this little once. So, I did a little bit of work, reorganized my schedule and took my son to the park for an awesome night. It was worth it!
Tracy Roberts & Susanne Myers from Piggy Makes Bank say:
For both of us the reason to want to work from home was very much motivated by the want and need to be flexible with our time. We wanted to make sure we could go to school functions, take the day off when the kids got sick or just head down to the beach to create some family memories.
As time progressed, we also realized that things change and our work schedules changed along with it. When the kids were little, much of the work was done at night or during naptime. Now there’s often a big chunk of work time for both of us in the morning while the kids are busy with schoolwork. During the summer months the schedule has to change again as we travel and cut back on school work.
The big key for us was to realize that our work – life balance has to be fluid. It changes from day to day. Some days we just glance at emails to make sure things are running smoothly, while other days are almost completely spent working furiously on wrapping up a new project. The fun part is that it almost never feels like regular “work”.
It does however take effort to make sure you find the time to work while still keeping family your priority. Thankfully we both work well in the morning and are often up and about before the rest of our families, getting the day’s most important tasks out of the way before our loved ones are ready for breakfast.
Being able to work in chunks of time and taking plenty of days to tend to our families, wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t focus on creating passive streams of income. We do the work once and then reap the financial rewards over the months and years to come. We both spent a lot of time and effort in building up our blogs and email lists. There wasn’t a lot of money in it at first, but now these sites put food on the table and pay our mortgages.
For both of us, family comes first and work gets prioritized in the hours that are left in the day. Keeping in touch with each other daily and encouraging each other to finish projects (both the ones we’re working on jointly like PiggyMakesBank.com and our own blogs) helps keep us productive.
Is there really a way to have it all and balance everything in a nice package where you are feeling fulfilled in all of your day-to-day roles? Some people don’t believe in work-life balance for today’s busy small business owners. They say it’s a myth. I was one who thought I had to be“married” to my business in order to be successful. But then I realized that perhaps it’s more about making better choices on how to spend my time and choosing not to lose myself in the endless chase of success.
I’ve changed my mind about a few things. I’ve sacrificed health, family and time with friends because of an obsession with achievement. I did managed to get the prize but after years of being blinded by ambition, I quit and decided to take some time to research a business opportunity that will suit my newfound desire for flexibility and freedom. That’s when I found internet marketing.
I jumped in fast but just as quickly I realized that when you run a business from home, you need at least an inch of discipline; otherwise, your life could become complicated and limits and boundaries blurred. How could it not? Your work commute is, well, maybe 2 steps sideways from where you’re standing now. It makes the thought of leaving work at “work” a tad bit challenging. But like the Sparkplugging panel mentioned, limits and structure prove to result in more productivity and more time to attend to other important life roles.
In the last year or so, I’ve had grown used to dragging my laptop around the house. It got so bad that my husband started to move it for me (without me asking) if he knew I was going to be in a certain part of the house for an extended period of time. He’s very routine oriented and I guess he’d gotten used to seeing me with a laptop attached to my hip. Not cool. So I chilled.
Busyness has become so pervasive in our culture that even when you decide to start a business from home because you want more flexibility, you may actually find yourself in a constant craze of overworking. At the end of the day however, you make that choice and maybe the myth is really about rewriting your definition of balance.
For me, it’s about having emotional, physical and mental energy for both my business and my personal life. If I start to feel a bit drained or my personal and business life begin to crash, then it’s time to reboot and make some changes. Sometimes it’s just a matter of consciously choosing which one to pursue at any given time and to remind yourself of what matters most.