My Work-Life Balance Epiphany
People talk about “work life balance” frequently as if it’s a thing to be attained, but I’m not really sure it’s possible to ever be fully “balanced.” Things are constantly shifting and changing. It’s not black and white. Therefore, I won't say that I've “found” my ideal work life balance. Instead, I can confidently say that I've made huge improvements, and I feel pretty good about things most days.
Also, the great news is that there are some very specific things I’ve done that have helped tremendously in achieving more peace and balance in my role as mother and a business owner. These things are repeatable and totally doable by anyone at any stage of business!
But first, how about a bit of backstory?
Here's My Story
I think to really make progress, your heart has to be in the right place. That’s where it starts.
About this time last year, I was feeling good about the amount of hours I was working (not too much), but I still wasn’t feeling a lot of balance. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Then I listened to a podcast interview with John and Sherry from Young House Love. If you’re not familiar with their story, they ran a super popular DIY home blog for many years, and abruptly quit after 7 years of blogging. They didn’t give a whole lot of info as to exactly why except that their heart just wasn’t quite in it as much as it was in the beginning.
After a year of silence, they returned to their online presence. The first thing they did was a podcast interview with Jess Lively. In the interview they explained (and I’m paraphrasing greatly) that as much as they had tried, they just never could really find the work life balance that they needed. Their life was their blog and their blog was their life. Therefore, they just had to quit because nothing else had worked and they needed to stop kidding themselves.
That concept alone really made me think. If John and Sherry, the most down to earth, authentic bloggers I know who had made their entire living from their blog for several years, struggled so much to find balance to the point that they had to abruptly quit, what does that mean for me – a lonely, inexperienced blogger with a tendency toward working too much? It really sobered me up to realize that if I couldn’t get it right, I might have to just quit. I honestly knew in my heart that if I couldn’t find enough balance, I really would quit. My kids are only little once, and I only have a tiny window to influence them. I’m not going to spend all of it worried about my online business.
John also said something something else that was a huge lightbulb for me. He said, “Even if we had stopped at 5pm I think there still would have been this overlap of personal and business that would have been uncomfortable for us still. Our life was our work and our work was our life.”
This is so true!! It’s not JUST about the hours I spend working, but about where my head is when I’m working. If I’m constantly thinking about my next product, my next blog post, and how I’m going to make my customers happy, then I’m not really focusing on my kids and other things. I tend to get really focused on things, and so that’s a huge danger for me. It really is about getting a balance in our mind as well as our time.
I wish I could say that I had that epiphany and then all was well and balanced, but it’s not that easy! It has taken a lot of intentional actions and effort to get to the place where I’m not thinking about work way too much.
What I've Done
Here are a few specific things I’ve done that have helped tremendously. The first couple items are things that I think anyone could do at any point in their business. The last couple may not be immediately possible for everyone, but will work for some of you.
- I deleted my email app from my phone and no longer check email on my phone. This is a game changer! Even if I just glanced at my work email while I was hanging out with my kids or nursing my baby, it put work stuff in the front of my mind. What’s worse is that often I would read emails that were frustrating to me. A customer was disappointed in something and it would weigh heavily on my mind for a long time. It did NOT help me to be any more productive, because there’s not a lot I can do from my phone to resolve such situations. I only check my email during work hours or while the kids are sleeping.
- I deleted Facebook from my phone. No more checking facebook on the phone. I don’t need to know all the latest happenings. I could write an entire post about this – as a matter of fact, I think I probably will soon. It not only helps me to avoid thinking about work, but I avoid a lot of negativity and worry that happens when I scroll the Facebook feed.
- I owned the fact that I cannot answer all emails within a few hours or even a day. I’m unproductive if I’m constantly checking email. Some people are disappointed, but I just can’t please everyone.
- I’ve systematized as much of my business as possible using Asana, so I don’t have to keep track of everything in my head. Such a relief to let Asana be my virtual brain so I'm not trying to keep 22 projects at the top of my mind.
- I’ve hired as much help as possible to take more off my plate. This has been a game changer!
- I take entire days (and weekends) completely off work. I don’t even sneak in a few emails or an Instagram update. I don’t even think about work. Being completely off is important for me. The reason I don't sneak it a harmless 10 minutes of work while the kids are napping is that it gets my mind focused on work again and less on my family and home. And it's super tough not to let 10 minutes turn into an hour.
- I took my nights back. I used to work most nights after the kids went to bed from 8 until I went to bed. This is highly productive work time, of course, because there are no interruptions. Now I work 1-3 nights each week, and I workout most nights after the kids go to bed. I just had to set very solid boundaries for myself or I would talk myself into working too much. This has helped so much in giving me time to workout and do other things.
- I don’t solely listen to podcasts about online business. I listen to a healthy mix of podcasts about various topics. This might seem trivial, but it really makes a difference.
What about you? What do you do help maintain a healthy work life balance?
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Juanita Ellingson Says
This was fantastic information. As a workaholic myself and one who struggles to keep boundaries this helped a lot. Thanks for the tips, and I can really use the delete email from my phone. I am constantly checking my email and getting focused on work things when I should be enjoying time with family or friends.
When my second baby was born, I was forced into working less (she was high needs) and I’ve learned what work really matters. It is easy to waste a lot of time checking stats, checking email, taking another class, etc. I have also reduced personal tech time like FB because I just got burned out with so much time online.
Kami @Faithfullymeblog Says
Great post, I always wait for the kids to go to bed before I start working or early in the morning. The uninterrupted time is heaven when you have 3 kids like me.
Ugh, the Facebook Monster! I actually left FB on my phone and use a Chrome app to disable the FB feed on my computer. I can still check my notification and get to my groups and business page but I am not constantly distracted by the feed. That has really helped me to focus on the task I need to get done.
Thanks for all these tips, I am constantly working on being engaged with my kids and not thinking about work 24/7.
Janelle Knutson Says
Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this! I am struggling to find a healthy balance between work and the rest of my life as a mom to 7 kids. I’m not even making a profit yet nor have I launched (or created) my first product and I still feel like my brain is always in work mode. These are great ideas. I’m going to save this post, come back when I have some free time and really think through what I can implement in my own life to better balance it all. Thanks again!
Thanks for this – I totally agree – I dont have email on my phone or facebook already and have used alot of these points myself!
Glad to meet someone online who is on the same page!
I have also struggled with work life balance. After a year of commuting out of state weekly, and working up to 80 hours a week, I finally learned the only way to break that habit was to quit and walk away. My life was too short, and my health and family was just too important. I started my own business and have never regretted my decision.
I needed this, especially since I am trying to get my blog off the ground while still working outside the home full time. It is definitely hard to balance but I love the concept of deleting the email app off my phone.
Elke Feuer Says
Great tips! My two big changes this year were: (1) Taking back my weekends and (2) exercising.
I used to work every weekend and after the kids went to bed, but I reorganized my schedule so I’m focused on family time instead. Huge difference! It keeps me from becoming burnt out. Exercising works great for my energy level.
Balance is a work in progress. My next big change is outsource tasks.
Kalyn Brooke Says
I completely agree with a healthy variety of podcasts. Anytime I would listen to an interview, I would get distracted about all the things I wasn’t doing! Now when I listen to a biz podcast, it’s on a topic that I’m currently focusing on. Like email building or Facebook.
You have finally put your finger on where I have trouble with this whole work-life balance thing. It’s not the hours of work I’m putting in — it’s that my mind is constantly somewhere else even when I’m not working. I’m writing my next article in my head, thinking about how I should be tweaking my site, wishing I was online rather than with my kids (sad by true sometimes!). I’ve tried unplugging regularly and setting up scheduled work hours but am still struggling. At least now that I’ve identified the problem, maybe that will help me address it more effectively.