6 Ways To Maintain A Work-Life Balance As A Contractor
Some people think that owning their own business will give them more freedom. To an extent, that’s true. The reality, though, is usually that to get your business underway successfully, you have to sacrifice a lot and work harder than ever.
While working for yourself definitely has its benefits, it also means a lot of stress. Of course, the goal is that down the road, the benefits will come with more time off, a better lifestyle, even early retirement. But in the meantime, too, you need to find some balance between work and life so that you can avoid burnout, reduce stress, and enjoy life.
The sacrifices you make for the future only make sense if you’re able to stay happy and healthy. If you have a family, you also need to have time for them – and they need your presence, too. Working for a brighter future doesn’t mean you have to be totally consumed by work in the present. In fact, it’s counterproductive. But what can you do to create a balance in your life?
Here are some tips that will help you create personal space. They do require discipline on your part, but they will pay off in the long run. And working less can even benefit your business because you’ll be more rested and able to concentrate when you are working!
There was a time when it was a lot easier to stop working and go home. The distinction between the two was clear. But technology has changed that over the past decades.
It’s easy to get a phone call wherever we are because of cell phones. We also get emails and instant messages, comments on social media, and much more. Those can all come at us 24 hours a day.
But it’s not always necessary to answer them immediately! Yes, people do expect a quick response, particularly on social media. But the vast majority of people understand that there’s a difference between a huge international business and a local contractor. They know the reply won’t always come at once. It can wait until tomorrow morning.
It’s best to have one phone for work and another for personal things. That way, at the end of the workday, you can turn off the work phone. No more calls and no more notifications until the morning. If you use a computer for non-work activities, don’t use it to log into work email or other accounts.
True emergencies are few and far between. If you are worried that a work-related emergency might arise, you could contract an answering service that would only contact you if there is a real issue.
Respect Your Own Personal Space
Technology isn’t the only issue where we need to disconnect. Often, it’s convenient to have a home office, but that can easily overflow into the rest of the house. Simply put: don’t let that happen. The office should be for work, and work should stay in the office. Don’t bring paperwork out to the kitchen table or, even worse, up to the bedroom. Even if your home office isn’t its own separate room, be sure to reserve a section of the room that’s for work and don’t let it spread beyond its space.
Keep work in its place and in its time. Don’t let it overflow into the rest of life. As much as you want to get things done, it can wait.
Make “No” A Part of Your Vocabulary
We talked a while ago about how a mission statement can help you stay focused. One way is that it can guide what projects to accept and which ones aren’t for you. That’s an important decision for a contractor. You need to be able to say “no” when you’re asked to undertake some projects.
That negative answer might be hard to give because it means you’ll miss out on that income. You might also fear it could alienate a potential client. However, it doesn’t serve you or the client you don’t really have time to complete.
Sometimes the “no” can be a “not right now.” If the job falls within your skill set but you know you can’t get it done in a given time frame, you need to make that clear to the prospective client. But also let them know that you could do it at a later date.
Be reasonable about the workload you take on. Set limits to the number and size of projects you commit to so that you can have time to rest and relax as well as the energy and concentration to do your best on the projects.
Set Firm Limits
Any contractor knows that deadlines, weather conditions, and other factors can play into the hours we’ll work. Even the type of project we’re on makes a difference since some steps need to follow immediately on another.
However, it’s essential that under normal conditions we respect set hours. After a certain time of day, don’t respond to messages. Be off the job site. Lock the office door and head home. Leave work behind until the morning.
A lot of contractors, along with anyone else who runs their own business, fall into certain personality types. And those types tend to always want to get more done. Many could even be classified as workaholics. But it’s important to break those bad habits in order to have a healthier life.
Yes, there are always exceptions when you won’t be able to stick to an exact schedule. It’s not always possible to close up on the dot. But those times should be the exception, rather than the rule.
Keep A “To-Do” List And A Calendar
A lot goes into running a business. There’s the actual work that you do for clients, but there’s also all of the administration that goes on behind the scenes. It can get overwhelming at times.
Keeping track of it all with a to-do list and a calendar can help make it more manageable. You’ll be able to see what needs to be done and when. It can help you space out your tasks in a reasonable period rather than trying to get it all done in one day.
There are too many great apps out there to list that will help you schedule tasks. One of the great parts of doing it with an app is that you can set up recurring events. For instance, if you need to do a certain task on the 15th of every month, you just have to tell the app to repeat it every 15th. There’s no need to manually add it each time. This is a great timesaver and helps make sure you don’t skip an occurrence..
Having everything recorded on the calendar and to-do list can make it all seem more manageable. And that means you’ll know that you can call it quits for the day without overdoing it!
Take Your Time Off
Odds are, your business isn’t going to fall apart over the weekend. It’s not going to collapse if you take a vacation, either.
Force yourself to take time off. Give yourself at least one day off a week; preferably two. This allows you to focus on other important parts of life. It also allows you to clear your mind and return refreshed to work.
Longer periods away are great, too. For many of us who work in construction-related trades, there are natural times of the year when business gets slow. That makes these times optimal for taking off. But even if you’re working in a field where you’re busy all year, you still need to step away for a week or two. Plan ahead so that your crucial responsibilities are carried out, but don’t be ashamed when the moment comes to step away.
Only cancel times of rest when there is a real emergency. Be strict about interpreting what an “emergency” is. You need your rest and you need balance in your life.
At times it can seem impossible to achieve a work-life balance. Sometimes, though, it’s our own fault. Working for yourself means that you also need to have the discipline to say when it’s time to stop for the day or the week. It means you have to be firm with yourself. Your family, your body, and your mind all need your personal time off. You’re the only one who can make it happen. These tips will get you started in the right direction, but they will only be effective when you stick to them!