The topic of balance is one that I have struggled with since I was in high school. When I became a college student, I worked three jobs while trying to maintain a full load of classes. While I managed I can honestly say it was always just the bare minimum. At the age of thirty-three, I certainly do not have it all figured out, but, I am getting better with it as time goes on and that is what is most important.
In a productivity-driven society, the need to accomplish 'more' can easily override the desire to take time off to spend time with family or take time for yourself. When it comes to working from home the line between 'work hours' and 'home life' become even more blurred as you try to find a balance to complete the simplest of tasks. Finding ways to adequately fulfill your role in the workplace and at home when both places are the same can become a daunting task-there is always one that is given more priority over the other.
The word 'balance' would cause a great amount of stress because it felt like an unattainable dream that I would never be able to accomplish. Even worse when stress would be followed by guilt. You know the type of guilt I am talking about. When you are working but would rather spend time with the kids doing something fun. When you are home you feel guilty for not working, but when you are working you feel guilty for not being 100% in the moment with your family. It then becomes a never ending 24-hour cycle of guilt.
One way to break this guilt cycle is to remember that you will never be able to do it all. And that's OK! So, rather than constantly feel guilty and completely stressed in your never ending pursuit of balance, try to turn your focus toward doing the very best you can with the time you have.
- Know your limits
- Outsource what you can/schedule downtime
- Remember self-care
ESTABLISH LIMITS & BOUNDARIES
It is important to create a boundary between your work life and family life. This line of protection keeps you in check and prevents a number of dysfunctional outcomes such as strained marital relationships, inefficiency at work and poor mental/physical health. I have heard many stories (and even know a few personally) of photographers whose marriages ended due to their never ending work schedule. There are a lot of sacrifices to be made when you are trying to reach a certain level of clientele.
Particularly in the photography industry, it's so easy to tell yourself you can respond 'quickly' to every email or inquiry that comes through. Even if it's just for a second, your wasting valuable time with your family responding to emails. While it may seem harmless and you feel that your customer service will appeal to the client more, what about your family? Does your spouse enjoy seeing your face buried in your phone screen every five seconds? Probably not.
When I first decided I would work from home versus renting an office or joining a co-op like so many other photographers, I knew I needed to schedule my work hours accordingly.
Keep in mind, I also have a little one at home with me during the day, so that presented its own challenges. Entertaining small children during the day while also trying to be productive with work is not impossible, you just have to get creative with your solutions. Set the expectation that "Mommy has to work, but she can also have fun with you". I also had to tell myself that working long stretches would not be possible. I would have to take 'kid breaks' every 45 minutes or so just to make sure she wasn't feeling neglected or tearing up the house.
This is one of the reasons I will wake up a little bit earlier so that I can get the most important things done prior to her getting up for the day. I will also add one additional hour of work after both children have gone to bed and before my husband gets home so that I am able to get everything I had planned that day completed. Both my husband and I have unusual working hours, so unlike many families, the standard 9-5, Monday through Friday doesn't apply to us, so we have to adjust accordingly.
Once you decide to become a business owner, you must set reasonable work hours for yourself. Especially when you are working from home. Setting the expectations with clients that you aren't available all hours of the night will help them respect not only your time but also allows them to see the 'human' side of you. It lets them know you take this just as serious as they take their own jobs. If the client doesn't expect their boss to text them all hours of the night, why should they do it to you? Once you allow clients to blur the line of reasonable communication to whenever they feel, you quickly establish the notion that you are available all hours. Unless you're a doctor I would say you probably don't want that.
OUTSOURCE/SCHEDULE YOUR DOWN TIME
I know a lot of photographers recommend outsourcing. If you want to do it great!! If not, don't! I personally do not outsource my work, because the best part of photography is editing. I love editing so I will always have to find a way to fit editing into my schedule. For those who outsource, well, it's just one less thing you will have to worry about. Outsourcing your work, especially if you are high volume can free up a huge amount of time in your schedule. But if it's not in your budget or you simply can not bring yourself to relinquish control, utilize a calendar and schedule your family time well in advance. The most important thing to remember is that you treat your family as if they matter just as much as the most important client and that you don't miss your scheduled time with them.
This is just a sample of my calendar and some of the things I have scheduled. I consider myself a chronic lister so I keep everything color coded on my calendar. Running three blogs, two businesses in addition to having a family and trying to maintain a personal life is very difficult. If it weren't for my calendars and planners I would be lost.
Another critical area often was forgotten? You. The most important part of achieving work-life balance is remembering self-care. As a mother and a business owner, the very first thing that goes is you. It is all too common to place a higher value on everything else around you that you forget about yourself. Everyone needs a little time for themselves. My day starts about two hours earlier than my husband and children. I make sure that I am up first before everyone else.
During this time I may get in a little bit of exercise, some editing if I feel like or I will sit quietly and read a book. The point of this time early in the morning is to prepare me for the day. One thing I could not stand growing up were chaotic mornings. They are unhealthy for you and especially children. By allowing myself this time first thing in the morning I am better prepared for the day ahead.
The dilemma of work-life-balance will never have a one size fits all solution. Each person must find solutions that fit their family and their specific needs. Remember it's not about doing it all, it's about doing the best with what you've got.
How do you achieve work-life balance? Do you have small children at home with you during the day? I would love to hear how you manage your responsibilities while running a business. Drop them in the comments below!