By Debra L. Stang, LCSW
The management books have much advice for female entrepreneurs who procrastinate, but most of them do not address the issue of working in great detail. When one’s business is at one’s home, it’s especially easy to get drawn into the trap of never really leaving work—for instance, foregoing family time to check and respond to emails, or regularly putting one’s “me-time” on hold due to client requests.
Finding a work/life balance is difficult. Here are some tips for those struggling or who wish to better.
What Is Work/Life Balance Anyway?
Work/life balance means different things to different people. Gail Granger, a communication professional who works from home, defines her view of work/life balance as “me in charge of my life and time.” She thrives on working into the wee hours of the morning and reports that her laptop is always within arm’s reach. In contrast, Thekla Richter, a home-based time management coach, states that her right work/balance is to currently work part-time.
Karen Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed., a psychotherapist, eating coach, and international author, tells clients, “You know what makes you work and feel best. You run your business. Don’t let it run you.” Figuring out a comfortable work/life balance is an important step. From there, there are three basic steps to achieving much-needed “me-time.”
Schedule Your Days
Successful work-from-home female entrepreneurs emphasize the importance of setting a work schedule and sticking to it. Diane Kobrynowicz, a health and wellness coach, states that she overcame her workaholic tendencies by recognizing that “I am in control of my life and my calendar, and if I want work/life balance, I must make it happen.” Other women schedule time into their day for exercise, spending time with their children or mate, running errands, or getting out of the house for a quick lunch with a friend.
Another important part of scheduling is to clearly denote when a work day has finished. Develop a routine, such as making tomorrow’s to-do list, putting papers away, and shutting off the computer. Once this pattern becomes a habit, it will signal the subconscious mind that the work day is over and that it’s time to start focusing on other things.
Establish Physical Boundaries
Another factor that helps work-at-home entrepreneurs separate their work space from their life space is by allocating a specific place in the house where work is done. Ideally, this should be a spare room, but if you don’t have a spare room, it can be a corner of your house.
Karen Koenig, for instance, has designated one room in a far wing of her house where she meets clients and works on her writing projects. Other areas of her house are strictly off limits to work-related activities. “Don’t use your bed for anything except sleeping,” she advises. “If your mind comes to associate your bed with work-related concerns, you may find yourself developing a sleep disorder.”
Coordinate Your Routine with Family
Amber Watson-Tardiff, partner in Legal Marketing Maven and account manager and copywriter for Solamar Marketing, found that achieving a work/life balance was an ongoing struggle until she hired a babysitter to take care of her children so she could further concentrate on work.
“It’s the only thing that has…made it possible to keep all my balls in the air,” she says. In addition to keeping the needs and routines of one’s children in mind, it is important to take into account the needs of other adults in the home, such as one’s significant other, parents, or in-laws. Richter reminds women that “creating a life balance for yourself needs to be done within the ecosystem of your family, because everything each member does affects everyone else.”
For instance, after staying home full-time with her newborn baby and considering a return to full-time work, Richter decided it made more sense for her to work part-time while her child is a toddler. “I chose to dedicate fewer hours to my business right now,” she says, “and more hours to parenting and running the household.”
No Exact Formula for Success
There is no mathematical formula to find the perfect work/life balance. Instead, one must pay attention to one’s intuition about what one needs and define work/life balance for one’s self. One can work from home and maintain a rich private life, but first one must explore one’s priorities and change one’s work habits to reflect the balance one is trying to achieve.