Working from home during the pandemic has taught self-employed financial professionals many things. While those who are entrepreneurs have largely adapted already to working outside of a classic office setting, things like learning to better use technology and discovering what vital concerns clients have that never came up in regular meetings previously have changed how a business model may look in our changing times. And though a self-employed financial professional may have always been used to taking client calls on a cell phone versus an office phone, outside of business hours, it may be that with the shift to working from home, there is even less of a divide between work life and home life than there ever was before. And not having that balance between the two can be damaging to both sides of the equation.
Obviously, what is the perfect work-life balance will look different for everyone, but how do you find out what will be best for you? One way to look at it is this: What are the important areas of my life, and am I achieving in each every single day? The important areas can be broken down quite simply, for example, into work, self, friends, family, etc. And your own enjoyment and achievements may look different every single day. But finding a work-life balance isn’t an overnight change; it’s a process, and it’s definitely ongoing, as it will likely change. But overall, this balance is like any other healthy change—you want it to be meaningful, you want it to improve how you feel and how you interact with both sides of your life, and you want it to be sustainable.
First up, managing time is one of the biggest factors. Keeping track of how you’re spending time can show you where the balance is off. To fight back, scheduling may be your best friend, and not just for your work obligations. Schedule in your hobbies, time for friends and family, time that you’re helping your nephew build a birdhouse. Start with the less flexible items, like your kids’ sports games or client meetings, and then build out with the more flexible items, like daily bike rides or a coffee date with a friend. Make sure to include time that is just meant for you, which doesn’t mean time used just to catch up on errands but also a one-hour bath with that book you keep meaning to read.
Now that things are starting to get back to normal, you can also examine what aspects of your social life you need to buff up again. Make your relationships a priority and nurture them to make sure you don’t lose them. Include social activities that you feel excited about and that you’re comfortable with (we are all getting back to what it’s like to be around other people after all). If you feel like you need to create a habit to get you back into the groove of being a social person, make it something you do regularly, such as joining a book club that meets monthly or setting up a weekly Zoom bingo session with your siblings.
Obviously, your work part of the equation will need some managing as well. While overtime is definitely a necessity sometimes, particularly as you build and maintain your own business, it can be equally important to set limits for yourself and others who have expectations of you. Set a time after which you do not take work calls and turn off your phone if you really have a hard time letting go. Plan out your workday right when you start so you can get your heavier workload done early rather than letting it pile up in the latter half of the day, thereby tempting you to stick around longer.
Spending fun time with your family is what you want to be doing when you’re home, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have home responsibilities. Evaluate them and figure out how to make them more efficient so you can maximize the time you can spent sipping wine with your spouse. This could mean setting up recurring deliveries of essentials so you’re not running out for paper towels, making the most of time your kids are with the babysitter to get things done without them underfoot, or setting timed goals for chores so you’re actively getting the vacuuming done. Feel free to use scheduling here as well, and if there are chores you honestly are just not getting done, maybe it’s time to considering outsourcing to a weekly cleaning service or to someone who will mow your lawn regularly so you don’t have to.
The hardest tip of all may be the most important. Learn to leave your work at work, even if you’re home. It can be vital to have a mental on-off switch to let you switch modes. When working from home, it can be tough because you’re in the same location. A daily transitional task might help you separate the hours, such as taking the dog for a walk when the workday is done.
Finding this balance for yourself may take a little bit, but it’s vital to help you reduce stress and keep yourself excited about both your business and what you’re doing outside of the office. Ultimately, you’ll be more productive and successful, as you’ll be taking care of your own well-being, finding sources of new creativity, and maintaining those relationships that are the most important to you.