Five Ways To Keep Your Business From Taking Over Your Life

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Taking a time out

During Improve Management Skills Month, I’ve touched on a few of the essential skills for business success, including written communication, social networking, and public speaking. As March draws to a close, I’m going to cover one more skill that is often overlooked by busy entrepreneurs, and that is the ability to switch off and relax.

In the beginning, you’re faced with the daunting task of growing your business to the point where it is generating a sustainable income for you. This is especially true if you’ve left full-time employment to launch your business, or if you’re the sole income earner for your family or even for yourself. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of spending every available moment expanding your knowledge base, working on your online and offline marketing, attending business meetings and trade shows, and networking with industry peers and others.

Once you start to get busy, it’s difficult to break the habit of devoting every free hour to growing your business. Of course, it’s necessary to continue learning, networking, and marketing in order to sustain that momentum, but if you forget to look after yourself, you jeopardize both your physical and your emotional well-being. If you get sick, you can’t work, and if you can’t work, you can’t make money, so taking time off is not a luxury, but a necessity.

Here are five ways to keep your business from taking over your entire life.

  1. Schedule activities with your partner, family, friends, or even yourself, whether it’s something simple like watching a DVD or going for a walk, or something special like a weekend stay at a resort. What you choose to do is not as important as taking the time to do it. That’s why it’s important to schedule it – if you just wait until you feel like you can afford the time, weeks will turn into months before you know it.
  2. Take up a hobby. Is there something that you enjoyed doing in the past but haven’t done for a while, or something you’ve always wanted to try? If you can’t do it at home, maybe you can sign up for a class or a join a club. It’s easier to commit to something that takes place at a regularly scheduled time, especially if you’ve invested your hard earned dollars into it.
  3. Develop a regular work schedule. Just because clients can email you or phone you at any time of the day or night doesn’t mean you have to be available 24-7. Instead of interrupting family time to take a phone call, check your Call Display to see whether you need to answer it. In most cases, you can let it go to voicemail, check the message, and return the call right away only if it’s urgent. Most people will respect that you do have a life and won’t take exception to the fact that you didn’t answer the phone or answer their email at 9:00 PM.
  4. Take a day off every week. The body needs that time to rejuvenate itself. It is no coincidence that most major religions observe a weekly day of rest. It’s a legal requirement in many countries for employers to give their employees at least one day off per week, so why should those of us who are self-employed treat ourselves like slaves?
  5. Delegate! There’s a good chance that some of the tasks that are cutting into your personal time can be done efficiently by a virtual assistant, thereby allowing you to fit items 1 through 4 into your schedule.

I probably don’t take off as much time as I should, but here are a few of the ways I’ve incorporated R&R into my regular schedule:

  1. I meet my sister and my dad for lunch once a month and usually spend a weekend with my sister every month.
  2. I have signed up for a yoga class which starts next week, something I haven’t done in three or four years.
  3. My hours of work are posted on the contact page of my website, and I rarely answer business calls or emails outside of those hours. The only time I work after 5:00 PM is if I have a speaking engagement, am attending a business event, or have an urgent deadline.
  4. I rarely work on Sunday. When I do, it’s to take part in a scheduled event or to do something I consider fun and relaxing, like working on my own website or blog.
  5. The day my husband decided to join me in my business was a major turning point for me, but even before that, I had my own virtual assistant to whom I could delegate certain tasks and projects, so I could focus on giving my clients awesome service without working myself to the bone.

What about you? How do you switch off and relax?

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A former professional organizer, I now eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

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  1. Avatar Heather Burke on March 30, 2010 at 9:05 am


    This is very well said. I shall try to follow you suggestions. Thank you.

  2. Avatar Janet Barclay on March 30, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    You’re welcome, Heather! Shall I check in with you and make sure you do? 🙂

  3. Julie Bestry Julie Bestry on March 31, 2010 at 12:25 am

    Excellent advice, Janet. Your strategies are essential. The only thing I can remotely add is that it’s also important, along with the day of rest, to have a day of “boss”.

    With so many of my organizing clients who are solopreneurs, they spend so much of their time working for their clients, they forget they, themselves, are their own most important clients. They don’t nurture themselves, and the more work they get, then less they nurture the business by taking time out for administrative tasks, so that “boss” stuff ends up seeping over into personal/family time. I always encourage people to take one day a least a half day…for administrivia. (Of course, a VA makes this problem fade away.)

  4. Avatar Janet Barclay on March 31, 2010 at 7:01 am

    Excellent point, Julie! Even people who have a virtual assistant should set aside time each week to touch base with their VA, answer questions, discuss new projects, and explore future ideas.
    .-= Janet Barclay´s last blog ..Five Ways To Keep Your Business From Taking Over Your Life =-.

  5. Avatar Melodee Patterson on April 1, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    I think I started watching Brewers baseball a couple years ago because my brain concentrates completely on the game. It really relaxes me!

  6. Avatar Janet Barclay on April 1, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Melodee, I’m glad baseball is starting soon, because you’ve been working way too hard – haven’t seen you around in ages!

  7. Avatar Nonnahs Driskill on May 27, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    So many people spend their time with their kids on their Blackberry. I know sometimes it’s imperative to take the call or check the text. Still it helps me to keep my phone/computer use in check to picture my children, now too young to have their own phones, in about ten years spending every minute they are with me fiddling with their phone or video game. AAAH! This is incentive enough to take a break from the business when I am with them.

  8. Avatar Janet Barclay on May 27, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Nonnahs. It’s not quite related, but your comment reminded me of an old poem that ends:

    The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
    for children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
    So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
    I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

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