Do we live to work, or work to live? When you run a small business, the expectations of fewer hours and setting your own schedule can be a far cry from the reality of long days and last-minute work disturbing your Saturday evenings. And that’s not sustainable. So if you love what you do but you’re worried about burnout, here are a few tips to help you rediscover that all-important work-life balance.
Set boundaries and stick to them
Being a business owner doesn’t have to mean being on call 24/7. Setting and maintaining professional boundaries can be one way to improve your work-life balance.
If you’re guilty of answering work calls after you’ve just sat down for dinner or working at the weekend to satisfy a last-minute client demand, it could be a sign that you need to set better boundaries.
Try to define a reasonable set of boundaries for your business and then make them clear to your customers from the beginning of your relationship. These boundaries could be as simple as ‘no work calls during meal times' or a strict 9-5 working schedule. Whatever you choose, you need to stand by them consistently if you want them to be respected.
Learn to switch off (your devices)
The marvels of modern technology can make it hard to disconnect from work, especially when you’re responsible for your own small business. Even if you’re using your mobile or laptop for relaxation at home, work is never far away. It can be tempting to ‘just check your emails’ and then – whoosh – you’re sucked right back into a business mindset, often setting your brain racing before bed.
If you find it hard to disconnect from work, switching off your devices might be the first step. Sometimes even an hour away from your phone and laptop can take a weight off your shoulders. Use this screen-free time for something you love, like reading a book, listening to music, doing some exercise or having a long soak in the bath.
Take care of yourself
Rather than feeling like you own your business, sometimes it can feel like you ‘are’ the business. You might be tempted to work a bit longer or push a bit harder - even if it puts strain on your health.
But these long hours, missed lunch breaks and stressed evenings can take a toll on your emotional and physical wellbeing. Push yourself too far and you risk burning out, and then you’ll have no choice but to take a back seat for a while.
Before that happens, prioritise and practise self-care as a business essential, not a nice-to-have. Check out our self-care tips for the self-employed for more ideas on how to look out for number one.
Ask for a helping hand
Having more ‘me time’ is all well and good in theory, but carving out that time can be a bit trickier in practice. Small business owners frequently fall into the trap of doing everything themselves. It’s hard to extend your trust and it can seem like a waste of resources to pay another person.
However, this isn’t just taking time from your home life, it could also be holding back your business. Not only is it OK to outsource, it can be a huge boost to your efficiency and profits.
If you are considering bringing in outside help, start with the tasks that don’t need your personal input, like admin, or areas that could benefit from external expertise, like accounting or marketing. With fewer tasks on your plate and someone to share your concerns, you might find it easier to switch off.
Not many of us enjoy the repetitive admin tasks that are an essential part of running a small business. Luckily, with smart software, you can make many of these happen automatically, shaving hours off your weekly workload.
It’ll take you a few hours to find the right tools and get them set up, but after that you can forget that these dull tasks ever existed. Organising meetings, taking payment, sending reminders, balancing your books - all of these things can be handed off to a dependable piece of software. The future is here!
For example, FreeAgent’s award-winning accounting software can make getting paid and managing your accounts a walk in the park. Try out our automations for invoicing, explaining bank transactions, and generating parts of your tax return with our 30-day free trial.