I’m going to go out on a limb and start this article by saying that there’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences. Sounds shocking to the naked ear, doesn’t it? That’s because it goes against everything we as Americans have been taught to believe. The concept of balance in life is the Holy Grail of the modern world.
Today’s self-employed individuals, especially Note Brokers, seem to need more and more time than ever to keep up with the tasks of the business. In the US, no one knows how many hours a self-employed individual puts in per week but it is said that the average employed worker is said to put in 55 hours a week! Email, text messaging, cell phones, and smart phones keep us tethered to the work even when we’re technically “off-duty”. How can you keep up with your always-on career and still find time to do what you need to do at home, spend time with your family, enjoy some kind of social life, and just plain relax? At risk are your personal relationships, your development as a person, your sanity, and even your life. Stress kills. You need downtime to help your mind and body cope with the demands of your note business.
If you feel you are facing less time for the things you love and more business responsibility, than it’s time to regain your balance. It’s absolutely essential for your well-being and productivity. Here are some things I thought of that I try to do for working smarter, not harder and trying to keep my life balanced:
1. Get organized: Spend some time thinking about the biggest stumbling blocks in your office. Do you constantly run out of ink? Than keep a stock-pile of ink. Are you misplacing important notes? Resolve to write everything in one notebook and carry it with you at all times. Drowning in paper? Take a moment every day to throw out unneeded mail, brochures and catalogs.
2. Keep a routine rational schedule: The more you’re trying to juggle, the more important it is to make a good schedule and keep to it. Block out all your work and non-work commitments and make sure to allow plenty of downtime and non-work time. Treat non-work commitments as seriously as you treat working commitments — the time you’ve assigned to family, housework, and your own activities needs to be just as inviolable as the time you spend in the office, going to meetings, or meeting deadlines. This is especially true if you’re so busy that you can’t reschedule that off-work time.
3. Learn to say “No.” If you’re having trouble keeping on top of everything going on in your life, it may be that you’ve committed more time than you have. If you’re like me (and just about everyone else), you don’t like to refuse favors, new responsibilities, or even casual requests, for fear of either a) looking undependable, b) upsetting someone, or c) missing out on an opportunity. Make a point of seriously considering any request that comes your way, and double-check your schedule before taking anything else on. When it’s too much, don’t be afraid to refuse — you won’t be doing anyone any good by taking on tasks that you won’t be able to do well because you’re too overwhelmed to handle them, or by accepting social invitations that you’re too stressed out to enjoy.
4. Clear your mind: I find making lists are useful so I can stop fretting about what needs to be done, knowing I won’t forget anything. When it’s on a list I don’t worry that I might forget something important that needs to be done. The quicker I can get things into a list or email that I know I will work later, the better off I am.
5. Keep the lines of communication open: Let the people closest to you know what’s going on in your work life when things get hectic, so they don’t feel like your lowest priority or worse, suddenly abandoned. And keep your ears open to hear what they tell you, too — if your spouse, girlfriend, partner, your friends, or your kids start complaining — or tell you straight out that you’re working too much — listen to them. They’re generally going to be a better judge of your behavior than you are.
6. Set long term goals: First, you must be sure of your specific goal, be certain it is achievable. If it is, then you must go about making the process tolerable. Do this by setting short term, achievable goals and find a way of rewarding yourself when you achieve them. No matter how you mark these milestones, you will get a boost of enthusiasm to continue. Accept that setbacks are a normal part of life and focus on getting out of the weeds and continuing on your way to progress.
7. Manage time through batching: Batching is a term I recently learned and is a cool time management system that helps to maximize concentration and reduce distraction. It increases your productivity, creativity, and focus, while decreasing the stress that comes from procrastinating. By simply grouping similar tasks — checking email, phone and snail mail, for instance — you can streamline your workflow.
8. Use technology: This is something I am behind in and slowly getting used to. Virtual meetings, file sharing, voice recognition software are just a few of the thousands of advancements that smart business people are embracing. Take advantage of the amazing age we live in.
9. Attitude is everything: No matter how much you love your job, no matter how big a part of your life it is, ultimately you need to be able to “turn it off” and spend some time not working. This is hard for a lot of people, because their work is an important part of who they are as people. This can be admirable, especially when you accomplish great things in your work, but an always-on-the-job attitude can be harmful in the long run. At the least, the people around you will get tired of coming in second to your work, causing damage to your relationships and eventually leaving you without them. What’s more, it might even reduce your effectiveness in your work — both the mind and body need a break from thinking about and doing the same things all the time to recharge and keep coming up with fresh ideas.
10. Be honest with yourself: This is the hardest one, but also the most necessary. Part of your weekly review — or at least every third or fourth one — should be to ask yourself “Am I happy with all this?” And to follow up by looking at how well you’re doing of balancing everything. Be honest — this is your life we’re talking about. If you can’t face the hard questions, all of the effort and organizing won’t mean a thing.
Whatever you do, remember, success demands action! Keep on marketing, and being persistent, it’s going to work! TWITA! (That’s What I’m Talking About!) ☺