Opinion, Workflows & Processes

How I Balance Work and Life As a Small Business Owner

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When running a small business, finding a way to balance work and life can often be tricky. How often have you found yourself working until 10pm when you should be relaxing? Or used cleaning the house as procrastination when you should be sending important emails?

Especially if you’re going from full-time employment to running your own company, it’s a huge learning curve to balance work and life. But it’s really important to have time away from your desk. Not only will you get to enjoy life outside of work – you’ll also find that you’re way more productive when you are working.

It’s all about finding what works best for you – that’s the benefit of being your own boss! Over the years, I’ve come up with a few different strategies to help me build my business around my life, not the other way round. Check them out!

What do you want?

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To learn how to better balance work and life, ask yourself: What attracted you to being self-employed in the first place?

For many people, the freedom to set your own schedule is one of the main benefits of running your own small business. You no longer have to sign in and out at a particular time, with your boss making sure you’re putting in the right hours.

Instead of sticking to a generic 9-to-5 Monday-to-Friday timetable, have a good think about what you actually want from your self-employed schedule. For me, that means never working evenings or weekends and not working more than a certain amount of hours per week.

You might prefer to work weekends and take Monday and Tuesday off instead – it’s totally up to you! What works best with your lifestyle and your existing schedule? If you have a partner or children, plan your working week so you can maximise your time spent with them, rather than being chained to your desk all hours of the day.

Once you’ve figured out how many hours you want to work and how this will fit into your schedule, use this information to set your hourly or daily rates. For example, if you’re working 30 hours a week rather than 40, you’ll need to make sure that your hourly rate is high enough to earn you the salary you need in fewer hours.

Read more about finding out what success means to you and your small business.

Play to your strengths

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What are your strengths and weaknesses, and how will these affect your business? Planning your schedule to play to your strengths will help you be more productive. Meaning you’ll get your work done quicker and will be able to balance work and life easier.

For example, I’m most productive in the mornings. So I always try to start on important projects or difficult tasks first thing in the morning.

I also need to get my work done before I can relax. So starting work earlier means I can actually enjoy my time off without worrying about unfinished tasks.

It’s also important to have a think about what your weaknesses are, and what you can do to avoid them. I know that I get easily stressed when under pressure, so I always plan in time buffers to avoid this.

Make sure you’re organised and give yourself plenty of time to complete tasks, so there’s no need for your work-life balance to suffer when deadlines are approaching.

Feel like your business is running you, and not the other way around? Check out this post for my top tips on solving this very common self-employed problem!

Make it happen

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You might think learning to successfully balance work and life is easier said than done. But it’s completely doable as long as you’re organised. You’re the one in charge and you get to make all the decisions when it comes to your small business. So figure out what your work-life goals are and how you can best achieve them.

For me, it’s all about planning in advance. If I leave things to the last minute, I know I’ll end up working way too much. So I plan ahead to make sure I get enough time off while still getting the work done.

One of my top tips is to block out your holidays in your calendar at the start of the year. Once it’s in the calendar, that’s it. You’ll know not to accept any new client projects during this time, and can give yourself plenty of room to get tasks done before going away.

Remember to stick to your guns and say no to things if they don’t fit in with your schedule. It’s not the end of the world if something has to wait until Monday.

Additionally, just because you’re self-employed, doesn’t mean you have to be answering your emails 24/7. Of course, there may be busy periods or one-off projects which don’t allow you to stick to your usual schedule. But stay focused and get back to your normal routine as soon as possible.

Don’t get sucked back in to prioritising work over life – it’s your business, and you can work as many or as few hours as you like. As long as it means you get to enjoy a great quality of life!

Maintaining Balance in Challenging Times

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A final thought on this. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that no matter how much you plan, sometimes external factors just can’t be predicted. A global pandemic, for example.

In stressful times, it can be tempting to abandon all of the above, and get lost in work. And it’s understandable – market unpredictability and financial pressure take their toll. However, burning yourself out by shutting off your life outside of the business won’t help long-term!

So, do what you have to do to keep the business going, but always make time for your life. Never underestimate the importance of coffee with a friend, dinner with your family or an extra hour of sleep here and there. Remember that to take care of the business, you need to take care of yourself.

What are some of your top tips for learning to balance work and life? I’d love to hear what has helped you!


To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
What Does Success Mean to You and Your Small Business?
Set Goals for Your Small Business in 4 Steps
10 Things I’ve Learned by Running My Own Small Business
6 Month Review – Tracking Your Small Business Progress

Denise Strohsahl brand and marketing consultant for small businesses

Hello, I’m Denise from sandstonecastles, a brand & marketing consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I help small business owners like yourself to find the right marketing that’s in line with your brand and values.