Although running your own business and making a living doing what you love is the American Dream, sometimes it can literally feel like a nightmare. I can honestly say from personal experience that owning and running your own business is much harder, more stressful and time consuming than working the typical 9-5. I can also say that it's a lot more fulfilling, satisfying and I really do love what I'm doing! It's all about finding balance.
It is so important to find a balance between your personal/family life and work. No matter what you do, whether you work for yourself or someone else, finding a healthy way to manage both parts of your life is essential to staying sane and happy.
Here are a few tips:
Define your work hours and stick to them - As a work from home mom, I understand that there is often a stigma that comes along with the descriptor "work from home." Working from home does not mean you have the time to do chores, be chaperones on field trips or run errands all day. It means you have the flexibility to do so if you choose. Do not feel obligated to volunteer for the kids' field trips if you don't want to or have the time to. No one would frown on someone working in an office for not taking off time to do something like that so don't feel like you are being a bad parent by deciding to stay home and work. Be sure to be clear with your family that when you are at home between the hours of X and X you are working. Sometimes you really have to spell it out because it's not a concept that most people will get right away.
Make it a point to be organized - I worked at a full time job for over 6 years before going it on my own. All I had to worry about was my work. Now as a creative entrepreneur, I have to not only worry about my projects but I also have to time manage myself, do my own self promotion and marketing, budgeting, research and admin dutties. Although I'm not the most naturally organized person, I've since learned to use a planner and spreadsheets to keep track of my tasks, projects, income and expenses. It is something you can learn to do. Just get started by making a list every day and stick to it.
Work when you are most productive - There is a reason why there are terms like "early bird" or "night owl". People are naturally more alert and productive at certain times of the day. For me, I love working in the mornings. I find I'm the most productive in the mornings and then my energy and concentration starts diminshing as the day goes on. If you know you work best in the mornings tackle your most important tasks then and prioritize down your list. Same goes if you are a night owl. You'll find you not only get more done if you work this way but also your quality of work may be better.
Step away from your work regularly - It might sound counterintuitive to take some time away from your work but I've found that taking occassional breaks helps me to have more clarity and energy when I return to work. It can be as little as a lunch break or a short exercise session. On most days I usually am able to work from around 7am to 5pm. That's 10 straight hours I could be working but I can tell you I am not sitting at my computer for that many hours straight. I think that I would go crazy if I did not take a break. It's important to remember that you didn't choose to work from home to put in 10+ hours a day! The beauty of working for oneself is that if it takes you 2 hours to get all your work done then you're done!
Determine if you can work around your children - I know that some work from home moms are able to work with their kids around but I cannot. I realized this immediately and I put my children in day care. I did not try to work around them or expect the tv to be a babysitter. I know that childcare is expensive (I spent enough on day care/childcare/preschool to buy a new car over the past 7 years) but in my eyes it's worth it because I can totally focus on my work. I also explained to my kids that when I'm in my "work area" I'm not to be disturbed. I try to make it a point to not work during the weekends when they are home but if a deadline insists I work they know that they really have to give me my space while I'm at the computer.
Enjoy your family time - Weekends are dedicated to family time. We try to go out as a family and focus on our kids during that time. Just as our kids know that the weekdays are for working (for my husband and me) we try to emphasize the weekends are for time with them.
Set realistic goals - I set short term and long term goals and review them on a regular basis. With time I've learned how to evaluate my goals realistically. It's ok to aim high but you must be conscious about what's possible or you'll constantly be disappointed. My short term goals are set on a quarterly basis (3 months). Usually I'll check my progress on a monthly basis and think about what else I can do to meet my goals. I'll be honest, I'm not always successful in reaching each goal set, but I'll roll them over into the next period and restrategize on how I can better work towards them.
Take time to remember why you are doing what you love! - Sometimes work can get overwhelming, even if it's something you truly enjoy and are good at. It's important to reflect on why you chose to become a creative entrepreneur and remember that not everyone is fortunate enough to do what they love for a living. Creating a career doing something you love and enjoy truly takes a lot of work, sacrifice and time. If you are willing to put in the time, effort and learn from your experience you can be successful.
Are you a creative entrepreneur? What do you find the most challenging when it comes to balancing work and family?
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