6 ways small business owners can achieve work/life balance
As a small business owner, you may be used to operating out of your home and trying to balance priorities. But many small business owners got a crash course in remote work in 2020.
When your living space and your business space are one and the same, it's easy to get out of work/life balance. For entrepreneurs, more time working often equals more income. And it can be difficult to turn away from business opportunities during uncertain times. But maxing out on work is not a healthy way to live, and it increases the likelihood that you'll burn out.
Here are some practical tips you can use anytime to maintain balance when you're running a business from home.
1. Create a separate workspace
The goal is to create as many layers of separation as possible between your work life and your personal life. One of the easiest ways to do that is by creating a dedicated workspace within your home. If you can't physically escape your business, you can at least partition it off.
Find some area of your home that you can reserve just for work—and only work. If you're lucky to have a separate office or bedroom, use that. But even a corner of your living room or a dedicated spot at the kitchen table will do. Be conscious of your background, you’ll likely be on more video meetings than you have in the past. Do a test run so you can see what your clients see.
2. Keep regular work hours
Another way to create separation between work and life is by dividing them into separate time blocks— i.e., partitioning out your day into business hours and personal hours.
Write down a schedule, post it up somewhere, and follow it just as if your boss gave it to you (they did; it's you). Remember to include a buffer before and after work so that you're not rolling out of bed straight to the computer each morning. You still want to maintain the level of professionalism your clients expect.
By sticking to a schedule, you'll help train your brain that certain times of the day are work time, and other times are personal time. This can make it easier to mentally get in and out of "work mode" even when you're in the same place.
3. Cue your brain with your five senses
Another nifty trick to getting in and out of work mode fast, is to use certain cues from your senses. These are little subconscious reminders that you're to be working or resting. This also helps to train your brain to more easily sort out work versus personal time.
- Hearing: Listen to certain music such as classical pianos, drums, or download a white noise app.
- Smell: Use the same scents during work time, such as candles, essential oil diffusers, or air fresheners.
- Taste: Stick to certain drinks or snacks during work hours, like spiced tea, scones, or lemon water.
- Touch: Try using a standing desk with a textured footpad, wearing certain clothes, or other physical distinctions.
- Sight: Use special lighting in your office, such as light therapy lamps or colored LED strips. Decorate your office differently than the rest of your house.
4. Bookend your workday
Creating a ritual for yourself before and after work can also help train your brain to transition in and out of work mode more effectively. One popular way to do this is by going for a short walk at the beginning and end of the day. This also helps get you out of the house and exercise. It can also help stimulate your creativity too, which your clients may appreciate.
If you're not able to take a walk, try doing something else. You can take a short language class, read a book, garden, exercise, and more. Just remember to do it away from your workspace, so you're not using that area until you're ready to sit down to work on your business.
5. Plan for your distractions
Each one of us will have distractions throughout the day that prevent us from working. Whether it's kids, nosy neighbors, social media, or something else, we all have our challenges that get in the way of our work as small business owners.
But here's something else that's true: chances are, you're far from the first person to face these challenges. And if you can identify your stumbling blocks, you can also develop plans to deal with them based on ideas from others.
For example, if you have children, you might try putting snacks and drinks within reach for when your kids want them. If you procrastinate with online browsing, you can research ways to limit distractions, like Pomodoro Technique and browser extensions that help you cut down on social media time.
6. Remember to socialize and get out of the house
Loneliness is one of the biggest challenges many people unexpectedly face when they work from home. Initially it can be nice to skip your commute and spend it focused on your business, but loneliness can set in and be especially acute if you're used to spending your entire day around your employees and clients.
Make sure you're still getting out and socializing with people. You can join informal networking groups for people in your industry online. But don't forget about meeting up with people in person (as it's safe to do so, of course). Here are a few ideas of places to look in your area:
- Hobby clubs
- Coworking spaces
- Local government and advisory groups
There are a lot of advantages to working from home that can help your business's bottom line. But it's not without its challenges. By following these tips, it is possible to have the best of both worlds in the same space: a productive work life and a happy personal life too.