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Finding a Sweet Spot

Is a work-life balance possible? Yes, but it means we have to work at creating and preserving a space in our lives for the things that matter most.

Michele Chiappetta
December 28, 2018

Work-life balance. It’s a phrase so often uttered, your eyes probably glaze over when you read it. But if you’re a small-business owner, solopreneur, side hustler or freelancer, it can be singularly hard to stay balanced. It is all too easy to sit at your desk all day (guilty as charged!), work on weekends (which is exactly what I’m doing as I write this), or eat fast-food coneys on the go (not guilty — but I get the temptation).

Habits like that are convenient and easy to slip into. But the cost is serious. In a word: burnout.

Burnout is a common problem among business owners, says Martina Aumua, a locally-based lifestyle and passion coach. “My clients are high achievers who are suffering burnout,” she says. The common denominator? Her clients haven’t been taking care of themselves, allowing things to get to the point where they are worn down in body and mind.

While there is a movement to “unplug” and “disconnect” in order to create a more definitive line, it feels as if we are on a cultural treadmill that encourages us to accept as fact the all-stress-all-the-time lifestyle. It is as if seeking and living a balanced life is the impossible dream. Many people are accepting the out-of-balance craziness as the new normal and even are rewarded for it.

The solution, of course, starts with you. “You are your business,” says Aumua. If you don’t take care of yourself, she notes, your business eventually suffers along with you.

Marketing consultant James Bullis, who is president and founder of Ventin, a web solutions firm based in Jenks, Okla., echoes the sentiment. “As a business owner, I am my business’s greatest asset,” he says. “That means prioritizing my health and wellness.”

How do you do it, though? How do you live your life and manage your business so that you are happy with your schedule, feeling fulfilled, maintaining your health, protecting your relationships, and keeping mentally fit?

Answers will come — but only if you prioritize the issue and are proactively, mindfully committed to finding those answers. But trust me, you can do this. You can arrive at a way to balance it all. Here are some tips to help you.

Recognize the causes of imbalance
According to Inc. magazine, there are some common root causes of burnout. If you can nip them in the bud early, you’re less likely to suffer a problem. Working too many hours, overcommitting yourself, worrying about finances, failure to manage stress, not resting, eating badly — all are precursors to burnout.

Tip: Know your tendencies. Personally, I don’t worry much about business finances. But I easily eat a lot of doughnuts and work seven days a week if I don’t watch myself. If I notice myself doing these things, it’s a signal to reconsider my schedule.

Rest at least one day a week
Whether you consider it a Sabbath, a mental health day, a self-care day, or just relaxation time, it’s vital to dedicate at least one day of the week to not working. Read that again — you must refuse to work at least one day a week.

Tip: Treat it like an unbreakable appointment. If rest time is calendared into your schedule, you’re more likely to make sure to get your rest time in.

Set clear boundaries
It’s easy to grab your phone and check email before you hop out of bed. It’s easy to take business calls at all hours. But that’s a sign you haven’t set boundaries on your workday.

Tip: Establish set working hours. You don’t have to be open all the time just because you are your own boss. My hours are Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Having that set block of time in mind helps me recognize when I’m overcommitting.

Dress the part
If you work at home (as I do), it is all too tempting to wear sweatpants or yoga clothes. Don’t do this, at least not often. You’ll find it masks your weight gain, for one thing.

Tip: If you dress in business clothes, you are much more likely to notice an expanding waistband and feel motivated to address it. Also, it helps distinguish work time from rest time if you dress differently for each.

Learn to say no
Ah, the bane of many a small-business owner. You want work, and someone needs a favor. So, you agree. Then you realize you’ve overcommitted yourself. Do this too often, and it’s a sure way to get burned out.

Tip: Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Don’t say yes if you can’t do it. And honestly — saying no to the wrong things frees you up to say yes to the right things, like work that pays better and takes less time.

Take care of body and mind
The more you’re on the go for work, the harder it can be to take time to eat right, exercise, and have fun. You may even feel guilty about doing these things, for a whole host of reasons. But these things are necessary.

Tip: Remember — you are your business. Invest in yourself, knowing that your well-being will ultimately help your business grow. I often take breaks mid-afternoon for a workout, when I need a mental break as well as a physical one. Bullis does something similar: “Since I work for myself from home, I have set up my daily schedule to allow me to complete my client work early in the day and head to the gym in the mid-afternoon when it isn’t busy,” he says.

“I think that the biggest tip is to prioritize yourself as the No. 1 asset. I believed that I could sacrifice my health in order to become successful. However, all that leads to is misery. Now I prioritize my health so that I can operate in a peak performance. I am operating better than I ever have before. It makes me more effective for my team and my customers.”  

I’d love to hear your suggestions for what I should investigate over the next several months in terms of entrepreneurship in Tulsa. Feel free to message your ideas to Preview 918 on Facebook (which I can see anytime), or email me, or share ideas on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtags #lovethe918 or #tulsasmallbusiness.