I’m taking a break from geeking out with you in order to get real personal here. After 15 years of running a business from home, I’ve come to the conclusion that work life balance is a myth when you work from home. It just is. I mean, when you’re on a phone call with a client who wants to talk about their new website design and your 2 year old yells “Mommy, I went poo-poo”, the myth rears it’s ugly head. Or when you’re on the phone with a potential client and your child is screaming in the background because you fed him peanut butter puffs and he broke out in hives indicating a peanut allergy, the myth brings you to tears. The struggle is real. Choosing to do something for your business is ultimately choosing to not do something for your family. Whether it’s sitting down at the computer to get one last email typed when your kids really need to get to bed or trying to finish up that last project when you really need to get dinner going or whether it’s just feeling so exhausted at the end of the day due to the demands of your job that you just don’t have the patience to read for 10 minutes with your 7 year old, either your family or your business will suffer.
But in the midst of that, there are the times when I can go have lunch with my daughter in the middle of the day because I work from home and have that flexibility. Or I can take a week’s vacation to spend time with my family and put my computer away because I don’t have a boss to answer to. While work can take me away from my family, it can also help me be a better mom to my kids and a better wife. There are a lot of blessings that go along with working from home, but that doesn’t mean there is such a thing as work life balance.
There are practices that I do to make the “balance” more manageable, but every person is different and so will every solution. My sister has 5 boys and she runs an online Etsy store called Indigo Tangerine. Her work life balance (or imbalance as it may be) is much different than mine due to the demands of her children. So while I do offer some helpful tips on how to create a semblance of balance, please do take some time to explore other possibilities that work for your family.
Ideas to Help Balance Work and Life
Take Work Email Off Phone
This is near impossible for me because of the type of work I do for clients, but there are many who only check work email on their desktop computers and could get away with taking it off their phones. This will ensure that when you are doing “life” things, you aren’t distracted by “work” things. If you do have a job where you need to be notified of emergencies, instruct people who will alert you of emergencies that they need to call you instead of sending an email.
Use “Do not disturb”
This is the number one thing I do everyday. I have an iPhone which has a “Do Not Disturb” feature. You can set it to not disturb you during set hours (I have it set from 9p-7:30a everyday) and then I set it randomly during the day such as at dinner time. Other phones have similar features as well. I highly recommend you look into this feature as it has done wonders to keep me from checking my phone when I need to be giving my attention to my family. Keep in mind, however, “Do not disturb” only works if you are not currently using your phone. Otherwise, your phone will still ding if you get an email or text because it assumes you want to be disturbed if you’re on your phone. If you need your phone to truly be silent, you need to use the silent mode.
Record ideal working hours in the morning before you start working and then set various alarms throughout the day to alert you when to stop working. You could use the Pomodoro Technique to keep you focused in 25 minute increments and use your alarm to go off every 25 minutes. Or you could have it set to a certain time each day to alert you when to stop such as at 12p and 4p. I do find it helpful to set my kitchen timer instead of my phone because when I have to get up to turn it off, I’m more likely to walk away then if I just silence my phone that’s sitting right next to me.
Have a friend keep you accountable (I do not recommend a spouse for this). Let your friend know your ideal working hours and ask that person to text you and ask you at your designated time if you’ve stopped working for the evening. Don’t underestimate the power of accountability. It can work wonders. And don’t be afraid to ask – most people would be happy to help and you could even ask them if there’s something you can hold them accountable to.
Get Up Early
I wake up around 5am every day and don’t check email until around 8am. That much needed time in the morning to plan for the day, exercise, get my daughter and husband out the door and spend time reading the Bible gets me in the right mindset for all I have to tackle that day. It helps relieve so much stress, but only if I stay away from email and keep that time completely separate from work. I also recommend not working all the way up to bed time. Being on the computer or a phone until right before bed can really inhibit your sleep and keep you tossing and turning. I know that when I’m working all the way up until I go to bed, I don’t sleep well at all. It’s much better if I have at least 30 minutes to unwind first.
What works for you?
Do you have anything to add? I’d love to hear your ideas on how you strive for work life balance. Even if it is a myth – it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make work life balance the best we can!