It has been a little more than a year being self employed and I thought I had figured out work life balance when - BAM! - my long time babysitter told me she is leaving. Now, as I re-evaluate my child care needs and my work needs, I realize that being self employed means regularly re-shifting to make it all balance.
It's comforting to know there are lot of people out there pursuing self employment and trying to find their balance. More people launched businesses in 2009 than any time in the past 14 years, according to the Kauffman Foundation, an entrepreneurship research organization. Workers either bought an existing business, invested in a franchise or started a business. (I read a great article this weekend in the Sun Sentinel that outlines the pros and cons of each)
I've discovered a few key ingredients to balancing a personal life and a work life in self employment.
Figure out what works. When a curve ball comes your way, try reacting strategically. Lifehacker.com asks: Why not look at what is working for you in other areas of life or on other projects, and see how you can apply those factors to other endeavors? In my case, I share a lot of the driving for my kids by carpooling. Now, I'm applying that concept to my business and looking as putting on events with other moms could share the workload.
Know your priorities. Decide your goals for the week, the month, the year. Keep them in front of you. Know when you are wasting time that you could be spending more productively. (See my column on being business vs. productive for more elaboration)
Dive in. Sometimes just getting started on a client pitch or new assignment is a challenge. Lifehacker.com suggests that whenever you have a big task ahead, just tell yourself that you'll do a little bit and stop. There's a good chance that the little bit of effort you exerted to get started, will turn into a strong push of energy which helps you get things done.
Set work hours. It doesn't have to be 9 to 5 but setting office hours keeps you on track. Remember, being self employed means the added responsibilities of invoicing, collecting, attracting and retaining clients. If you slip, and find yourself working crazy hours, re-shift. Some weeks you make work more, some less. But try to stick to a routine as much as possible. And at all costs, don't take your laptop into your bed.
Allow yourself flexibility. Remember, one of the biggest advantages in being your own boss is setting your own hours. If you want to spend a morning volunteering in your child's class, you can. But that means you may need to block out time somewhere else to get your work done.
Have fun. Spend time figure out what's working and what isn't. Don't be afraid to make changes if something isn't working for you or if your balance is out of whack. If you find yourself miserable, look at what client you could attract or what new skill you could offer that would make work more enjoyable.
Remember my self employed friends, finding work life balance usually is more challenging than we expect. You may want to talk to others who are successful in your chosen self-employment occupation for their insights. Even as I now try to re-evaluate my child care, I'm pretty sure others have gone through this same exercise. Clearly, re-evaluating and re-prioritizing regularly is the new norm.