Practical Ecommerce

Achieving a work-life balance

Resolutions made in a new year are frequently discarded by the end of January. But a few years ago, when I was burnt out of running my own business, I made one resolution that I kept: to maintain a work-life balance.

When I was starting my business, I was hungry to succeed. And I would do anything I could to help, even if that meant putting in 12-to-18 hour days. I created my business for one reason: I didn’t want my children to be in day care, with both parents working outside the home. I wanted them to know their mother. As I launched my business, I would work non-stop while my son napped and continue after he went to sleep — sometimes until 4 a.m. I got by on very little sleep. But in the end, I had achieved what I wanted: a successful ecommerce business.

As the years went by, I watched both my business and my son grow. Often, he would sit by my side watching TV or playing on the floor as I diligently attended to my business. Gone were the days where I could pull all-nighters and ignore the business during the day. Then it hit me: What was I teaching by ignoring him while I worked at a computer all day? Sure, I was home with him, but what good was that if he didn’t have his mom?

Working all day, seven days a week, didn’t allow for much time for anything else. I made a resolution to balance my work, life, family, and hobbies. At first it wasn’t an easy transition. But over time I realized that I could do it. Now, twelve years after I launched my business, I am able to separate my business from my life.

Here are some of the steps I took to achieve it.

  • Set up a specific area for work. Even when I had my offices and showroom locations where my employees were, I worked from home often – it was important to maintain a home office. Now I work entirely from home. It is in a separate room, with a door I can close – perfect to keep quiet during phone calls or close when the day is done. Once the door is closed for the day, I don’t enter it again until the next business day.
  • Set specific hours for your work day. These hours may vary according to my peak and off-peak seasons, but either way my schedule stays basically the same. I work a set schedule and I don’t deviate from it. Unless an emergency happens, I do not work outside of those hours. There is nothing that can’t be done the next day. And while I used to sneak in a few hours on the weekends, I now leave those alone too. Family time is family time, which is just as important — if not more important — than my job. That means I’m done working at 4 p.m. so I can help with homework, cook dinner, and spend time with my kids.
  • Set up a separate phone line. I don’t want my personal cell or home phone called at all hours of the day and night. If you’re running a business out of your home office, set up a dedicated line that goes straight to an out-of-office response outside your normal business hours.
  • Give yourself a lunch break and a coffee break. Going 8 hours straight is not good for the soul or the stomach. I spent many days eating in front of my computer and quickly choking down a bite to answer the phone. I now step away and eat – at a table, away from my computer. My mind needs the break even if it is just for 5 or 20 minutes.
  • Stop thinking about work. This is probably the hardest to achieve, for me. My mind is constantly churning out new ideas, things to try, or adding items to my to-do list. During my downtime I may be reading a number of ecommerce or SEO blogs and catching up on the latest trends. Instead of letting it consume me, I allow myself the chance to catch up on my reading during the morning over coffee. In the evening, I try to turn off all work-related distractions, including my mind.
  • Don’t ignore your family or your hobbies. I learned that constant work, even if it is something you’re passionate about, can be monotonous and mundane if you do it too long. I’m a workaholic. I can’t stay idle for too long. I’m not one to sit in front of the TV for hours and vegetate. I have to be doing something at all times. But when my ecommerce business consumed all of my time, it burnt me out – and made me miss out on time spent with my family and myself. After the kids are asleep, the dishes are done, and the house is quiet, I no longer go back to work. I now pursue a new hobby: writing. Even if it’s for an hour or two before bed, I’m doing something for me.
  • Be flexible. Nothing is carved in stone. Kids get sick; emergencies arise. You get a really gorgeous day in the middle of winter and you want to take off and go outside. That’s the beauty of being self-employed; you can change the rules to fit your schedule if needed. Don’t be afraid to be flexible.

It turns out that balancing my work and family wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I am much more satisfied and happy, having dedicated time for work, family, and play.

What things have you done to help balance your career and your time?

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Comments ( 2 )

  1. Diego January 13, 2015 Reply

    Nice article Erica! keep it going

  2. Carlos Rivera January 14, 2015 Reply

    I have also worked hard on this. I no longer check business emails when I am not at work. I work eight hours a day maximum because more hours does not necessarily mean more productivity. Work smart, and fast.

    Making these small changes makes my weekends longer, makes my phone battery last longer, and makes my weekend (and weeknights) feel like it should.