How To Have A Personal Life When Running A Business
Freedom. That was the goal, right? You started your business in pursuit of freedom, flexibility and the ability to design your own days. You dreamt of days that were your own again, instead of being under the thumb of a corporation with deadlines and managers breathing down your neck. So, you made the leap and threw yourself into life as a business owner. Except, it hasn’t quite turned out as you’d hoped…
That freedom you dreamt of? Well, it doesn’t seem to have arrived yet. The ability to design your own days? These days, you’re just about chained to your desk. And let’s not even mention your personal life!
Don’t worry, I’ve been there. I’ve stared at my wall calendar wondering where my personal life has gone. I’ve dreamt of those days of freedom, only to wonder why they haven’t appeared. It turns out, dreaming doesn’t bring your personal life back.
But boundaries do.
Boundaries can give you the freedom that your personal life needs to thrive. Here’s how.
Practice saying no
It wasn’t so long ago that we were all being told to start saying ‘yes’ more in our lives. Yes to more opportunities, yes to fresh ideas, yes to new potential. But what if we’re saying yes a little too much? What if we’re saying yes so much that we’ve taken our own freedom away?
It’s time to practice the art of saying no.
No to the projects that just don’t feel right. No to that ‘little bit extra’ free of charge. No to the work that doesn’t serve you. No to the clients trying to cut your prices down. No to the customers who just give you the runaround.
Because when you’re saying no to all of these, what you’re really doing is saying yes to you. You’re saying yes to making yourself a priority. You’re putting yourself first and claiming your personal time as your own again.
Set office hours
The beauty of running our own businesses is that there’s no ‘big boss’ breathing down our necks. This means that we can work as few, or as many, hours as we choose. The problem is, it usually ends up being the latter.
With no set office structure to monitor our hours, it’s easy to end up working all the time. In fact, it’s a habit I know all too well. I’ve worked endless hours and pushed myself through 16 hour days in the hope that it’ll bring me the freedom that I’ve been chasing.
But here’s the thing – spending more time working won’t bring you freedom. It’s a hamster wheel that never ends.
It was only when I cut back on my time spent working that I found true freedom. It was only when I established a structure of my own I was able to manage my time better and spend more hours with the people I love, doing the things I love.
Get strict with yourself and establish your own office hours, with start and cut-off times for each day. Giving yourself set parameters in this way will help you stay focused and stay productive, knowing that you only have a set amount of time to complete your tasks.
Nobody can be in two places at once, no matter how much we wish we could. Be realistic with both yourself and your loved ones about what you’re able to achieve and where you’re able to be.
Don’t take on too many family commitments if you know you won’t be able to make them. It’s far better to be honest now rather than setting promises and then breaking your daughter’s heart when you don’t show up at her school show.
In the same vein, consider how much you’re committing yourself to in the office. Commit to too much and you’ll be at your desk until 3am. Take note of how long each project takes you. That way you can find a balance that really works for you and your personal life.
Be where you are
Ever find that even after a weekend with your family, you feel as though you barely saw them at all? That’s because although you were with them physically, your mind was elsewhere.
Practice being fully present. Shut down your phone and really soak up that family time.
If you’re finding that your mind starts wandering back to the office, try to reconnect with your surroundings through this simple exercise:
- What sights, colours and movement can you see around you? Describe them to yourself, out loud if you need to.
- What sounds and movement can you hear around you?
- What feelings are you feeling?
- Finally, what smells are you noticing?
By describing your surroundings to yourself in this way, you’re going to rebuild that connection with the present and will be able to fully immerse yourself in that precious time with your loved ones.
Create a back-up plan
Sometimes work will take over and your personal life will have to be put on hold for a while. We’re human. It happens.
Build a back-up plan for yourself so that you can avoid the panic and start taking action right away. It might be as simple as choosing to work in the early hours before your children wake up, meaning that you can still enjoy a family breakfast together before the day begins. Just take care to communicate your plan with everyone involved so that, once again, you’re managing those all-important expectations.