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How to achieve work-life balance when you run your own business

Whatever your job, it can be difficult to manage both your professional life and your personal life. But when you run your own business, the boundaries between work and home become a lot more blurred – making it even harder to achieve a healthy balance.

To help you get this right, we've put together our top tips for achieving work-life balance when you run your own business.

Find out more about achieving a healthy work-life balance as a freelancer or small business owner

What is work-life balance?

Some people live for their jobs – they’re driven more by professional ambitions than personal goals, and they’re often thinking about work even when they’re off the clock. On the other hand, some people work only out of necessity, clocking out both physically and mentally as soon as their shifts end.

A healthy work-life balance is therefore likely to look different to different people, but ultimately, it’s about finding a way of achieving both personal and professional goals in a way that you can actually sustain in the long term.

What’s the importance of work-life balance?

It can be difficult to achieve a healthy work-life balance if you don’t fully understand why a good work-life balance is so important. Research has found that a good balance between your professional and personal lives can have a number of different benefits, including:

Maintaining relationships

Spending a lot of time and energy at work means that we have less time and energy to invest in other areas of our lives, and one of the most common consequences of poor work-life balance is not making enough effort to maintain personal relationships.

While your friends and family should be supportive of your career goals, it’s important that you make time for the people you care about, and finding a good work-life balance means that you won’t lose touch with the people that are important to you.

Increasing your productivity and performance

A healthy work-life balance not only benefits the relationships in your personal life, it also improves your productivity and performance at work. When you’re burned out, it’s difficult to be passionate about your job, and it’s easier to make mistakes. But if you still look forward to starting work each day, you’ll work harder, take more pride in what you do, and do an overall better job.

Avoiding health problems

Finally, one of the most serious implications of a poor-work life balance is the way it can damage both your physical and mental health, so learning how to balance work and your personal life will reduce the risk of both long-term and short-term health issues associated with stress, poor sleep, and a poor diet.

Work-life balance tips

So how exactly can you achieve work-life balance? These are our top tips for achieving a balance between your personal and professional lives when you run a business or work as a freelancer:

Set clear boundaries

When you have a 9-5 office job, boundaries can be quite straightforward: leave on time, don’t check your work emails at home, leave your laptop in the office. But most freelancers and small business owners won’t have a regular schedule, and it’s likely that your home will be part of your business – whether this is where you do the bulk of your work, or whether it’s just where you do your invoicing.

It is therefore important to set other clear boundaries that give you both the mental and physical space from your work. This might mean that you don’t take calls past a certain time or that you try to find office space for your business – but whatever your specific boundaries look like, try to make sure they mark a clear distinction between being on the job and being off duty.

Learn to say no

When you start your own business, you’ll know the importance of embracing opportunities to build a network and reach new clients. And while it’s important to be proactive, you simply don’t have the time to take on every new job, attend every meeting, or say yes to everything.

Learning to say no is much easier said than done, but it does become easier over time. It also means that you won’t end up with an unmanageable workload and won’t need to compromise aspects of your personal life just to keep on top of your work.

So if you’re too busy to take on a new client, politely thank them for their interest and tell them that you don’t have time right now. If an existing customer starts making extra demands, remind them of your original agreement instead of overworking to try and accommodate them.

Ask for help

Anyone who starts a new business wants their venture to be successful, so it’s not uncommon for business owners to feel like they have to be involved with every decision and take responsibility for every single task. But it just isn’t always possible to oversee every part of a business, and trying to do so will often mean compromising your personal life.

Instead, look to others for help – this could mean hiring an accountant to manage some of your more complicated bookkeeping, but it could also mean employing a new team member who can take on some of your workload. And not only does asking for help from others stop you spending too much time at work, it also gives you the opportunity to get additional insights and expertise.

Prioritise your relationships (and yourself!)

While people who work 9-5 often don’t understand just how time consuming it can be to run a business, it’s also your responsibility to maintain your relationships outside of work, and even the most supportive friends and family will start to feel a bit put out if you never make time for them. Additionally, an important part of achieving work-life balance is making time for yourself as well as for others.

One of the common reasons freelancers and business owners struggle to maintain a good work-life balance is because work is seen as compulsory, whereas socialising and down-time are seen as optional luxuries.

Make a point of scheduling your personal life in a way that makes it seem just as important as your work life. As well as having a to-do list of tasks at work, have a to-do list of things you’d like to do outside of work, and schedule in time with friends, family, or even just your favourite show on Netflix.

Be realistic

Ambition and drive are great qualities to have, but there’s nothing to gain from chasing impossible goals.

Focusing too much on your goals at work can often lead to compromising aspects personal life to achieve them, but a well-rounded life needs both personal and professional success.

Be realistic about what you can achieve, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t reach your goals straight away.

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