When people hear that I work from home, their eyes glaze over and they begin to daydream about a life of pajama marathons, brunch dates, and “working” from bed. I thank God every day for being able to pursue my passion for a living. However incredibly rewarding, being your own boss comes with its own set of challenges, just like any traditional job.
High stakes, High Rewards
When you work for yourself, there is no one to keep you accountable but you. There is no delegation of tasks or brainstorming meetings. If you screw up, you have to own it because there is no one else who is going to take the heat for you. It can be isolating and a bit overwhelming. Though the allure of a flexible schedule may have been part of the reason you went into business, there is no real “choosing” your own hours. Most of the time, the workload dictate your hours for you.
What makes it all worth it when the going gets tough is the fact that you get to see a project burst into being, from an idea to a reality, and know that you made something happen. If you see an inefficiency in your workflow, you don’t have to jump through any hoops to change the process. You have the power to attract your ideal client and work with them on projects that light a fire in you. Putting your ideas out into the world is a scary process, but there is nothing like the feeling you get when you overcome your fears and put yourself out there.
The Curse of Creativity
Having a creative mind is a blessing and a curse. Unfailingly, when my head hits the pillow each night, my mind begins to race through the to do list of tomorrow, color schemes swirl around like a kaleidoscope of giant pantone guides, ideas for revisions and fonts scroll through my mind’s eye. After stressful days, I sometimes dream in the world of Illustrator...moving anchor points and handles-- an all-night pursuit of the perfect angle that I can’t quite capture.
From the moment I began to dream about Gatlin Paper Co., I had it in my head that the first year in particular would be full of all-nighters, weekends in the studio, and running myself ragged. All of the business women that I look up to seem to allude to the craziness of their first year or two. I have always figured it was just a rite of passage for every small business owner to have a minor mental breakdown that would lead to a major breakthrough.
But something about this doesn’t sit right with me. Could there be a way to create a business from the very beginning that is designed to promote balance?
My 3 Work/Life Balance Hacks:
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a business guru, but I do have a few things that I try to practice that provide structure to my workdays and have helped me fend off burnout.
1. Get Ready
Early on in my home-based career I realized that living all day in your pajamas just doesn’t cut it when you want to be taken seriously. In order to avoid stares from my neighbors when I take my dog outside and add discipline to my schedule, I get ready every morning for work; I put on real clothes and run a brush through my hair. I never put on makeup though...who am I going to run into, the Queen?
I have always been a paper planner girl, but lately I have made the switch over to apps and online calendars in order to streamline my systems. I don’t know if checking a box with my mouse is quite as satisfying as scribbling out a task with a pen, but it still feels pretty dang good. Blocking off consecutive days on my Google Calendar to work on projects has been one of the best decisions I have made in my business. It allows me to get in the zone on a project and stay there--promoting focus, promptness, and efficiency.
I have found that I am more productive later in the day, so I have structured my schedule to fit this. I now know that it is okay to give myself an hour of alone time in the morning after Tyler leaves to read, enjoy my coffee, or watch the news. I “plug in” around 10am and work until Tyler comes home around 6pm. He is going to laugh when he reads this, but I really do try to close up shop around then. Some things are urgent, but most emails and design revisions can wait for the next day. Weekends are for playing, cooking, and climbing and I am working to get better at keeping this time of rest sacred.
Owning your own business is an awesome, freeing, and terrifying thing-- you feel all of the feelings all of the time. Hopefully, sharing this will help me stick to my guns about creating balance in my life and maybe it will encourage you to give some intentional thought to cultivating margin in yours.