It happens to the best of us. First, we reach our goals of leaving the 9-5s. You are now working for yourself. Then we spend the next few weeks binging on Netflix and eating pizza for breakfast, only to find we can’t pay the electric bill at the end of the month.
What happens next to most of us is that we spend the next several months locked in the office churning out hours of work out of fear, only to burn out and go back to Netflix. Who said working for yourself would take discipline?
It’s a vicious cycle…and not one that’s easily broken.
Disclaimer: if you started reading this thinking I’ve got it all figured out, think again. I struggle daily, weekly, monthly to find the time to make sure all my work is done and also spend time with my family. After all, family is probably the main reason you decided to chase this work for yourself dream in the first place, right?
But here’s the rub: even though I don’t have it all figured out, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve that help me get closer to it every day.
Wanna know what they are?
Check them out:
1. Start Work at the Same Time Every Day
We start working at home to free up our schedule, don’t we? The problem is if you don’t set a specific start time and stick to it, you’re likely to find yourself settling in with the latest Jon Acuff book instead of getting any work done (entrepreneurs will understand this one!).
The point it to set a specific start time and stick to it as much as possible. Yes, things happen, and there will be times that despite your best efforts, you can’t sit at your computer until bedtime. But make an effort to get something done at the same time every day, whether it’s responding to emails in the waiting room or orally “writing” your next blog post on your iPhone voice recorder.
Your start time may have to be adjusted until you find what works for you, but trust me…it’s important!
2. Set a Daily Income Goal
This one’s been a life-saver for me. Rather than setting elusive monthly goals that I’m scrambling to meet two weeks out, I set a daily income goal. If I need to make $3,000 this month, for example, I set a goal to make $100 every single day. This way, I know if I need to free up a Saturday, I need to either make $200 on Friday, or I need to spread out the $100 over the week with smaller assignments or one broken down assignment.
Why this is great: aside from the fact that it breaks your goal into mini goals, which is always helpful, it also frees up time for your family because you know exactly when to stop working. That’s why I don’t say set a stop time every day…just a start time. This gives you the feeling of flexibility, but still gives you enough structure to stay productive.
3. Set Ruthless Boundaries
It’s hard. Maybe even the hardest thing about working at home. Your parents, friends and kids know you’re working for yourself, so why shouldn’t you be available to run their errands, keep their kids or do their laundry? You may even enjoy doing some of these things, making it even more difficult to put a stop to it.
But they’re not paying your bills. You must figure out for yourself what’s urgent, and what’s not. Sure, we can be good, serving people, but it’s not wrong to set boundaries. You have to pay the rent!
The easiest way to do this is to set auto-responders on your phones, emails and answering machines letting people know your work hours, and that you’ll be unable to respond until after these hours. Tell them ahead of time that you won’t be taking personal calls during that time and that they should tell you exactly what they’re calling for in their messages. That way, you can free up the time you would’ve spent calling everyone back to see what they want.
Don’t be a slave to technology! Instruct those closest to you to text “emergency” to your cell phone if necessary, so that there’s no questioning whether or not to answer.
Working for yourself has its drawbacks. It can be the best thing you’ve ever done as long as you can discipline yourself to work and others to leave you alone. Finding a work-life balance is really about figuring out what works best for you and your family and sticking to the plan. Don’t let yourself get caught on the Netflix binging/workaholic cycle. Remember why you did this and stay on track!
This is a guest post from Cheri Read, a single mom, entrepreneur and freelance writer for hire. You can find out more about her or her services over at cheriread.com.