Routines, Deadlines and Balancing Your Business Life

I am not the poster-child for work/life balance, as my husband will doubtless attest. Like most of you, I’m head-over-heels in love with working my ass off, because I adore my little Indie Biz and want it to succeed. But I’m also acutely aware that there’s more to life than sitting at my computer all day, and the man I married is actually quite awesome and I want to hang out with him as much as possible.

Throughout 2010, I’ve made it a goal to improve my organization skills and achieve that ultimate dream – a balance of working my ass off and having incredible fun – all the while growing my indie biz bigger than ever before.

I’m not perfect, but I have learnt a lot throughout the year, and both my business and my husband are better because of it. Now it’s nearing Christmas, and I’m starting to plan goals and dreams for 2011, I thought it might be helpful to share my experiences with other Indie Biz chicks.

Find Your “Zone” and stick to it

Everyone has a “zone” – the specific time of day where they perform their best. Those magic hours where you brain and body work in overdrive and you’re an unstoppable productivity machine.

Your first step is to figure out when your zone is. For some, it’s first thing in the morning. Others reach their zone in the late afternoon, or at night when the rest of the house is asleep. Still others might discover their zone fluctuates throughout the week. This could depend on work schedules, meal and exercise routines or any number of other factors.

For a month, take note of how and when you work. During which hours do you get the most done? Do these hours change each day? When do you find yourself staring blankly into space? Is this the same time every day? Do you work better before a meal or after? With exercise or without?

Once you’ve pinpointed your zone, rearrange your schedule so all you do during that period is work on your Indie Biz. Lock yourself in your craft room, unplug the Internet, turn off your cellphone … focus on getting as much done as you can.

Don’t force yourself to work during non-zone periods. My “zone” starts at around 7 in the morning and lasts till lunchtime. I get up at 6:30 every morning (7:30 on weekends) and work on my writing till lunchtime. I don’t take a break except to eat a healthy breakfast. But after lunch, I’m done. I might do a few of the less taxing activities – taking photographs, catching up on blogs – but usually, I spend the afternoon cooking, baking, visiting friends or spending time with my husband.

I used to try and work through this “non-zone” time, but I realize not it’s fruitless. I’d achieve more in 15 minutes of “zone” time, than 3 hours of solid “non-zone” work. I’ve learned that when your brain isn’t engaged, you shouldn’t try and force it.

Separate Self-Imposed Deadlines from Actual Deadlines

In order to create structure in an inherently chaotic world, I, like many other Indie Biz owners, like to impose a deadline on every task. This blog post needs to go up by THIS time. This client’s work WILL be finished by next Friday. Your application for the state craft festival MUST be finished today.

When you feel the stress starting to get the better of you, take a look at your schedule and ask yourself which deadlines are actually deadlines and which are invented by you. In the example above, the craft fair application has a definite closing date, but your blog post and client work doesn’t.

You don’t have to do complete everything on your to-do list this week. The world won’t fall off its orbit, and your business won’t die horribly. All that will happen is you’ll feel a great weight lift off your shoulders.

When You Spend Time with Family, REALLY spend time with them

The people we love are the most important ingredient in the spicy tomato soup that is our lives. When you really analyze yourself, you’ll realize a large part of the reason you’re even pursuing an Indie Biz is for them. To give them a better life. To make enough money to send them to college, to have a flexible schedule so you can be there for them, to become independent so the family can move to Iceland without worrying about income.

Now that you’re working during the zone, you’ve freed up all this non-zone time to spend with your family. You won’t spend all of it with them – sometimes you’ll be folding the laundry or answering email or driving to the store, but when you sit down for a family dinner, or take a trip to the beach, or invite friends over for dinner, unplug yourself from your business and focus on them.

Turn off your phone, shut down the computer, and don’t talk about your business. Take a deep breath, and chill out. Focus on what’s truly important – the people in your life who make your Indie Biz worthwhile.

I hope I’ve given you a little to think about. In 2011, we should all try a little harder to strike that balance between working hard at our businesses and enjoying time with our awesome families. I know next year, I’m planning to work smarter, not longer, and my husband and I have some awesome adventures planned.

Readers, how do you balance work and family? What technique / tricks do you use to keep your business running without it taking over your life? What will you do in 2011 to improve your work/life balance?

Steff Metal is a writer, artist and heavy metal maiden living in NZ with her cantankerous drummer husband and their medieval sword collection. Join the Grymm & Epic community for creative entrepreneurs, or read her heavy metal rants on Steff Metal.

(Post Image from Flickr by Kyle May)

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One Response to “ Routines, Deadlines and Balancing Your Business Life ”

  1. [...] this woman is amazing. I came across a great post by her on work/life balance on Constructively Productive, and was fascinated by her clarity of [...]

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