Being your own boss with your own business can have its benefits. Your schedule can be flexible. You can often determine the direction your career takes. You answer only to yourself if you’re a solopreneur. Of course, all that power and flexibility can come at a price. If you're not careful, the price of running your own business can be a toll on your personal life.
The flip side of being the boss means it can be hard to leave your work at the office. A flexible schedule can suddenly become a 24/7 schedule if you let it. Small business owners must work hard to strike a semblance of “balance” between personal and professional obligations.
In reality, “balance” is often an elusive goal. What you’re really striving for is to perfect the way you juggle all the plates you have spinning in the air. So how do you do it?
- Get organized. At home, at work and on the go, you're going to have an easier time of getting things done if you're organized. Keep your calendar up-to-date, your files filed and your desk clear, and you'll find your stress level is much more manageable. Take 15 minutes at the beginning and the end of each day to get your bearings, tie up any loose ends and clear the clutter.
- Structure your time. If you're working from home, structuring your time is just as important as when you’re working out of an office. Take a look at your commitments - work, spouse, kids, friends, family, community and, of course, personal - and think about how much time you need to give to each one on a daily, weekly and/or monthly basis. Set aside specific blocks of time for important commitments, like volunteering at your child's school or a sit-down family dinner. Clearly designate when your work stops and your personal life begins.
- Prioritize. You’ve heard the adage, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Believe it. Take care of your bigger tasks before you move on to worrying about the less important stuff. Decide which projects you need to handle personally and which ones can be taken care of by an employee or assistant and delegate accordingly.
- Separate workspace and living space. If you're running a business out of your house, create a clear, physical separation between work and play areas. Designate space in your house for work and work alone such as a dedicated home office or a desk and chair away from shared areas. Make sure your family understands that when you're in that space, you're working and shouldn't be disturbed. Even if you live alone, dedicating a workspace in your house will help you make a psychological distinction between work and relaxation.
- Take care of your body. All the things your mother nagged you about - eating your vegetables, getting enough sleep, turning off the TV and going outside? She was right. Running a small business means you'll be on the go much of the time, and you'll need to be well-rested, healthy and energized. Make time for exercise and don't fall into the fast-food trap. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your business.
- Give yourself a break. When you're running your own business, you might think things can’t get done properly without your involvement. Before you inject yourself into a task that you’ve already delegated, take a step back, take a few deep breaths, and get some perspective. If you're feeling stressed out, if your temper is short or if you're losing concentration, just take some time off. The world will not come to an end if you go for a walk or shift gears for a while.
- Make time for family and friends. When you’re busy with work, it’s easy to take loved ones for granted, but you’re well served if you save some of your time and energy for the people who support you. Schedule a standing dinner with friends; dedicate a time each day to help your kids with their homework; make a weekly date with your significant other. Not only does keeping your loved ones close show them that you appreciate and care about them, but it gives you the time you need to relax and recharge with those closest to you.
- Know when to say no. No matter how organized you are and no matter how well you manage your time, you aren't always going to be able to do everything people ask you to do. Get comfortable with the word "No" and use it often. Say “No” to your own unrealistic expectations. If a client makes an unreasonable demand or if a community organization asks you to take on a big project during your busiest time of year, it's okay to politely decline. Saying “No” opens up room for the things that are important to you.
Don’t strive to be the “perfect” businesswoman, daughter, wife, mother and friend. Do your best and know that your best is okay. Be kind - to yourself and others - and be realistic. Know when to worry and when to let things go.