I have spent the last month sick. I kept trying to stave off illness for work with supplements, hydration, and over-the-counter medications – what I didn’t allow myself was rest… until I crashed. I hit 102 fever, I passed out from dizziness, and finally had to go the doctor and stay home from work. You know what I could finally get done? Nothing. I’m perfectly knowledgeable about self-care, but putting it into practice is so much harder than understanding it.
In the world of the solo-preneur, we just don’t have the time for any hiccups, but the reality is that we, as entrepreneurs who are also balancing a full-time job, need to master flexibility better than anyone else. We need to embrace the unexpected, plan for the indomitable, and welcome the aggravation.
But HOW do we become Jedis of our life when our lives have become so complicated?
While I don’t have all the answers (sorry, still a Yoda-in-training), I can share with you how I have managed to balance a full time career as a teacher, plus owning and running Scents the Moment and the Vine Vendor Network.
- You have to be anally organized. I have a 3-year planner and I write every single thing down. Whether it’s a quick phone chat, or a bill that’s due, a birthday, an event, I write it all down. Looking at this calendar from a monthly perspective allows me to prioritize what needs to get done versus what I would like to get done. For example, I go to the dentist every three months for a cleaning – this is a non-negotiable, so everything else that may be happening that week will have to work around that. Obviously, I need to go to my day job every day – non-negotiable. Hanging out with my friends, a negotiable, so I make sure to plan it on a weekend, or a day when I’m less likely to have major obligations. I write all of my bills in a colored pen and spend two days a month scheduling payments, then check them off my list. Take 30-60 minutes one day just working on your calendar. Make that the only task you have for the day so you don’t waste all of your mental energy trying to prioritize when you’re exhausted.
- I am sure to schedule time for me. In my planning, I have decided to become far more diligent about my self-care. This looks different for everyone. For me, I like getting my nails done, food shopping, cooking and food prepping, and (sometimes) exercise. I schedule my nails for twice a month, and I squeeze a little food shopping in a couple of times per week; this works for me because I like to grab fresh veggies and cook them within a couple of days. For exercise, I try to plan it around times when I know I will be extra stressed so I look to it as an outlet for my stress. It may seem counterproductive to plan activities around your joy, but the reality is that you cannot possibly give your best self to any work that you have to do if you never do anything you want to do.
- I quit multi-tasking (sorta). Yup, again, it seems counterintuitive, but after reading Your Brain at Work by David Brock , I have learned that the reason we can become so exhausted when we try to multi-task is because we only have a limited capability of managing complex tasks in our pre-frontal cortex, so that if we try to do too many at once, we get overwhelmed, fatigued, and seeking sugar. However, if we are able to complete the task with our basal ganglia (our lizard brain – think autopilot), then we can do multiple things at once. So, I said “sorta” because I will plan my meals and clothing for the day while I shower because the act of showering takes 0 brain power (autopilot), but I will not try to answer emails and write lessons at the same time since both require complex thinking. To focus, we need to pick the tasks we want/need to work on and stop trying to do them all at the same time.
- I learned to say no. This is something all entrepreneurs seem to struggle with. We, for whatever reason, seem to associate our need to not be involved with a task as some sort of loss, defeat, or settling. As I have come to learn, this is simply untrue. To acquire true respect, admiration, and sanity, we must limit what we allow ourselves to commit to. If it doesn’t serve you, help you grow, or better you in some way, then why waste your precious time and energy on it?
- I started to outsource things I no longer want to do. It all started with cleaning my house. If I was to manage a full-time career, two businesses, healthy cooking, taking care of my dog, etc., then something had to give, and I chose cleaning my house. I now have someone clean my home every other week. Yes, it costs me money, but the amount of time, sanity, and work I gain by not having to concern myself with those chores far surpasses the cost. You have to consider your own life and what you could outsource – maybe that means a nanny service, meal prep, delivered groceries, a dog-walker, anything that can help you accomplish everything you need. If you’re concerned about funds, think about teaming up with friends – for example, maybe a parent ride-share where you all take turns driving the kids to school, or trading some free goods for help.
It all becomes about maximizing the time you do have with clear intent and deconstruction of goals:
- What goal do you want to accomplish?
- How can you accomplish that goal?
- What are the steps needed to get you from the start of your goal to the completion of your goal?
What are some tips you have for managing a positive work-life balance?