Guest blog courtesy of Sandra Swan of Swan Coaching
The phrase ‘work/life balance’ always sets me on edge because it suggests that when you’re at work, you’re not having a life. I’m here to tell you that your life is your work – in the sense that you don’t suddenly become another person when you’re there. Well, not that much anyway! However, you do need to create balance between your work and the other roles that you have, in order to have a fulfilling experience of life. The other roles include: wife, husband, parent, sibling, daughter, son, chairperson of the club – you get the picture.
As I see it, there are 2 basic challenges that occur when we work from home. These apply to small business owners in particular, but anyone who works from home will identify with most of the points:
- Difficulty switching off from the business
- Difficulty getting motivated and focused on the work you need to do, because of all the distractions
Difficulty switching off from the business
It helps to dedicate one room in the house where your work happens, rather than leaving it all round the place. The challenge with laptops and mobile devices is that they are always there with you wherever you are. Have the confidence to switch them off, or leave them in the office when you are not there. No one expects that you will always be available. That’s why voicemail exists.
- Set clear boundaries – Decide what times you will work on your business. One of the benefits of running your own business is that to a large extent you get to choose your working hours. If you’re an early morning person, you might like to start at 7am and finish by 3pm for instance. Of course, you have the flexibility to change your hours if the need arises, and you will find that in the peaks you’ll work longer. That’s ok, as long as whenever possible you keep within your chosen parameters. Don’t let yourself get into the habit of working all hours, just because you can.
- Set expectations right at the beginning of your working relationships – If you don’t want customers calling you at 10pm of an evening, either get a separate phone line for business calls and leave them to go to voicemail; or if you don’t have a separate business line, answer the call and explain you don’t work past 7pm (or whatever time you’ve chosen). Offer to phone them back at a convenient time for both of you. If you take a call at 10pm from a potential customer, you will educate them from the outset that you are happy to take calls at that time of night throughout your relationship with them.
- Wellbeing – Look after your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. If you were a car, you would expect to break down if you put diesel in an unleaded engine; if you didn’t get a regular service, and if you continually let it run on empty. Your all round health is important because you are your business. To help make sure you are fit for purpose, I suggest you:
- See a qualified nutritionist – unlike a car, we don’t come with a manual that tells us what fuel to use for our own particular make and model. A nutritionist will ask you to complete a diet sheet for a week. They will analyze what you’ve consumed and create the optimum diet plan for you.
- Seek out a personal trainer (or yoga/pilates teacher) and design a sustainable exercise programme that will fit in around your lifestyle.
- Book regular lunch breaks – as well as creating time to top up your tank, you need to give yourself permission and space to create ideas. Try to get outside if possible. It helps change your emotional state, which lets ideas flow. It also gives you crucial exposure to sunlight. Sunlight activates the production of Vitamin D. A lack of Vitamin D can cause numerous health challenges, and is being considered as one of the causes in the steady increase of Multiple Sclerosis.
- Schedule time out just for you – book a regular massage/golf lesson/coffee with a friend/shopping trip – whatever floats your boat and makes all the hard work worthwhile.
- Choice – You have chosen to work from home, for whatever reason. If you are feeling overwhelmed, go back to your original intention for making this choice. If you are finding that it has more downs than ups, you can always re-consider your options. There are increasing numbers of office ‘hubs’ available for people who work for themselves. Working from home is not for everyone. Remember, you always have a choice.
Difficulty getting motivated and focused on the business
There are lots of time management systems and tools to help get you organized. However, as an experienced coach who has worked with numerous people over the years, I have found that no matter how groovy these systems are, they have their limits because they don’t take in account the P word. Procrastination. If the P word is driving your agenda, no matter how efficient your system is, you will still find yourself doing the washing, the ironing or cleaning the skirting boards rather than make that important phone call.
It’s all about accountability. When the only person we’re accountable to is ourselves, it’s all too easy to move the goal posts. In fact, it’s all too easy not to know where they are in the first place. Creating your own personal support team will help you shift procrastination into action. You might not have the luxury of a boss to help keep you focused, so finding other people who you respect and who you feel accountable to, can help you eliminate procrastination. In fact, having someone or a group of people, there to support you will bring you priceless benefits.
The Benefits of a Personal Support Team:
- Focus – You’ll get a clearer idea of your USP’s and give you the space to decide how to use them. This will help you set clear intentions (or goals) and plan towards them.
- Accountability – It’s much harder to move the goal posts when you have made a commitment that’s been witnessed by someone else, especially if they are acting as your champion.
- Celebrating Your Success – Working from home can be a lonely experience. Most of us like to interact with others and in particular, share our achievements. It’s also very easy to get deeply serious about our business that perspective goes out the window. And just as importantly, when we do find something to laugh about, having a chuckle on your own isn’t nearly as much fun as sharing a funny story with people face to face. We all know that we feel great after a good belly laugh. There is no point having a thriving business if you’re not enjoying it. Sharing your success and a good laugh with people who care is a priceless bonus.
- Learning from failure – Failure is all part of the journey towards success. Your support team isn’t there to indulge your failures, but to help you learn from them.