I started Filament three years ago, because I thought I could manage work-life balance better when I became my own boss. I had visions of daily workouts, home-cooked meals, hanging out with my family and friends more often, and more vacations. I've successfully implemented more vacations (Mexico, NYC, Seattle, and Hawaii have all seen my feet in the last few years!). My family can attest that I probably see them less. And workouts and home-cooked meals? A bit of a pipe dream these days.
It's not for a lack of trying.
I want to share how the idea work-life balance has changed for me, since becoming a business owner and employer. Here are my top 10 shifts in perspective from an entrepreneur's standpoint:
10. Balance is putting whole, healthy food in your body, but it doesn't have to be home-made.
Recently, I stopped the battle of attempting to meal plan, get groceries, and prepare meals during the week. Here in Milwaukee, Outpost Natural Foods Co-op is my new go-to for pre-made salads, sandwich fixin's, and frozen meals. It's pretty healthy. It's fast. It's such a relief.
9. Balance is saying "yes" when you can, and saying "no" when you need to.
We've all heard the theory of "always say yes" with the threat that we're missing opportunities by staying at home. I'm here to yell from the rooftops, that's bologne! When a friend calls, and you've already put in 40 hours and it's only Wednesday, and you need a hug and a laugh - GO! But if you're actually tuned in to your needs, and what is required is a good night's sleep, you're allowed to say no. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be everything for everyone, and I'm here to say that real balance comes with both "yes" and "no."
8. Balance is moving your body on a regular basis, but it might look different than it once did.
I used to run marathons. Today the thought of jogging...even slow-jogging more than 5 miles makes me shudder. What feels really good to my body is jogging a couple of miles to and from the beach. Or an hour of yoga. Or a sweaty kickbox-fest when I'm stressed. It doesn't look like it used to, but it's serving its purpose for me, today.
7. Balance is taking a day off.
I recently realized that none of my clients want me to be crabby or low-functioning. Yet that's what happens when I work every day for more than ten days. We need to realize that we're allowed to take a whole day off to do whatever we want. We're meant to rest. We're meant to recharge. And a day off is sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves.
6. Balance is setting clear, human boundaries.
I got out of health care because I hated being "on-call." I understood the need for it, but detested the expectations that came along with it. I am available to my clients, and my staff, but not 24/7. In holding on to my boundaries (I don't answer work calls after 6:00 p.m., I work hard to plan ahead so that there's never much urgency) I give myself permission not to worry about the business when I'm "off the clock."
5. Balance is scheduling some self-care in where it fits, even if that is mid-afternoon on a Tuesday.
Sometimes, you just need some acupuncture, or a massage, or lunch with a friend. And it's completely okay to do it during traditional "work" hours. If you own or work for a small business, you know that you already work all the time, so this is your balance, the ability to plug things in when you need them most.
4. Balance is getting help.
I don't clean my own home or office. I see a mental health counselor monthly. I hired a bookkeeper. I realized that although it's popular to think that entrepreneurs can and should do it all themselves, (thanks to some great marketing campaigns from Quickbooks, AmEx, etc.) it's not actually the best way to run a business. By taking things off my plate like scrubbing toilets and entering monthly credit card transactions, and by seeking an impartial sounding-board, I've given myself the gift of time and peace of mind. It's worth it.
3. Balance is only networking 1 or 2 nights per week.
Networking for your business is essential. Networking every night is an invitation for burn-out. I've started to frequent breakfast sessions, and limit myself to two nights per week. It's paying off, as I'm seeing my friends more, getting more sleep, and still growing my business.
2. Balance is recognizing that you're good enough already.
Life, for a small business owner, is never going to be in perfect order. But when we beat ourselves up for that, we set ourselves up for failure, and imbalance. When I realized that not everything had to get done today, and started to take a few minutes each week to reflect on what has gone well, life started to feel easier. I think it's called gratitude in some circles, and to me, it's remembering that things are already good, and getting better.
1. Balance is having some fun.
I used to feel guilty if my day went off the rails because I was having too much fun at lunch or decided to check out early to meet up with a friend. Then someone asked me, "did you loose money or a client because of that time? Did it have a negative impact on your business?" Sure didn't. In fact, it probably put me in a better state of mind to be more creative and execute better work. Fun is part of this whole entrepreneurship thing, and it's a great way to stay in balance.