A friend who recently left her corporate job and is now self-employed asked me how I manage to run a business while still enjoying an active, interesting life outside of work. She wanted some suggestions, which made me reflect on what has been most important for me in achieving a healthy and happy work-life balance.
Career success along with personal quality of life IS possible, and these ten tips work well for me:
1. Be flexible about when you work and when you play.
Schedule your day creatively: wake up early to finish a project so you can slip out of the office for a long lunch with a friend, or work later in the evening to accommodate an especially busy schedule.
I find that fitting everything into a strict 8 AM-to-5 PM time frame is not my most effective or productive schedule. And hey, flexibility is one of the perks of self-employment people report valuing the most.
2. Don’t be afraid to say Yes.
If you receive an invitation to do something interesting – whether it be moderating a panel, leading a discussion group, traveling to a conference – say Yes, and then figure out a way to make the time.
The feelings of accomplishment and personal growth are the reward… and the next opportunity might change your life.
3. Don’t be afraid to say No.
This is a tough one for me, but essential to protecting priorities and avoiding over-commitment.
Take time to consider the request — assess the opportunity, your availability, and interest — and don’t feel pressured into a Yes that isn’t right for you. If you need to turn down the request, be steady and clear with your No.
4. Take great care of your physical self.
Regular exercise and healthy eating contribute to the energy, endurance, focus, and confidence of a successful career.
I make sure to schedule daily exercise, and subscribe to Michael Pollan’s philosophy: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I prioritize my physical health, which results in increased motivation and productivity. It’s a win-win.
5. Create systems or workflows for ongoing tasks.
This saves not only time, but the mental energy required to complete certain jobs. For example, I have a workflow for on-boarding new clients and a workflow for producing quarterly reports – effective, efficient, and a no-brainer.
6. Spend time with people who lift you up.
Conversations and connections with with positive, energetic people naturally make me feel positive and energetic, and those are the influences I choose to surround myself with. Seek out others to lift up – as a mentor, colleague, or friend – and empower optimism.
7. Work smarter, not longer or harder.
I used to sit at my desk until late in the evening, spending hours at my computer — which often resulted in a sore neck and shoulders rather than my best work.
I am happier and more productive working in spurts – I work like a sprinter runs, with high-intensity, uninterrupted periods followed by a break to renew and refresh. I think more clearly and creatively, and stay fully engaged.
8. Develop support systems.
I am very lucky to have an extremely supportive spouse. We work as a team to manage the household, business, and pleasure aspects of our lives, and we outsource the tasks that we have neither the time or energy to do ourselves.
It’s tough to do it all, so play to your strengths and outsource what you need – personal assistant, tech support, housekeeper – delegate tasks so you can focus on that work-life balance!
9. Find a way to schedule uninterrupted work time.
This is easy for me as I work alone, but if you are surrounded by a team you are vulnerable to distractions. I find it’s much simpler to achieve a ‘flow’ state when I’m in a quiet space – and sometimes feel I accomplish a full day’s work in two hours when the flow is working.
10. Know yourself and where you want to put your energy.
When you can identify what makes you happy, and what is meaningful, you’ll be able to seek out the activities that support those interests and values.
I have a strong desire to live a varied and interesting life, and that knowledge drives me to stretch my limits by challenging myself and re-defining what’s possible — while focusing on taking care of myself so that I can continue to do more.
Do you want to manage your money (and life!) better?
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