Best Practices for the Self-Employed Part II: Balance

I just wrote a post about keeping good business habits when you work for yourself. Now here’s the other side of that. Here’s how I stay balanced and limit stress:

 

*Get in at least one thing for me each week. 
Don’t be a martyr. When you constantly put yourself last, you suffer. Maybe not at first, but after a while, you’ll have a breakdown that will affect your work, your relationships, etc. This is a huge problem for a lot of women because we tend to put ourselves last. A lot. I’m not saying drop your work and your family and go hit the road like Thelma and Louise. I’m just saying the world will not stop turning if take some time for yourself on a regular basis. I try to do something for myself each week. Take a ballet class. Take a yoga class. Go climb at the gym. Read my favorite magazine on the couch for an hour. Grab lunch with my best friend. ANYTHING that’s meant for my enjoyment. It’s something I get to look forward to and keeps my stress levels down. I notice it when I’ve lagged on this for too long.
 

 

*Work on the plane on the way out of town, read my book on the way back home. 
I travel a ton, so there are plenty of flights each month that I could make productive. It’s an ideal space to work in; nobody hounding you, no internet (usually) to distract you, no phone buzzing every few minutes with messages or emails that slow you down. On the other hand, I love books. I love to read! It’s one of my “things” and the plane is an ideal spot to catch on my book of the moment. I don’t want to only work on flights, or only read and not accomplish anything. So I have a new rule: work on the outbound flight(s), read my book on the inbound one(s). Two birds. One stone. Ami’s happy.
Like I ever have that much leg room…Except for my twice a year 1st class upgrades. via

 

*Don’t overfill my schedule. 
When you’re self-employed, you kind of have to take work when it comes your way, just in case of an unexpected slump (e.g. the Recession) so you tend to overwork yourself. Burnout is BAD though! It’s very evident to everyone around you when you’re burning your candle at both ends. Clients might pity you at first, but when you’re constantly in that state, they may eventually start looking elsewhere for somebody who can handle themselves, and their schedule, better. When you’re burnt out for a prolonged period, you can actually start repelling business. Keep things at a manageable level! It’s good for your business, it’s good for YOU.
This is hilarious. Don’t hurt a seal though. Via

*Have at least one sleep-in day per work week. 
I get up most days of the week at 5am and travel most weekends. Sleeping in until 7am makes a HUGE difference. I learned a long time ago that my body doesn’t work on just 6 hours of sleep so I need a full 8 hours to feel good the next day. If I have to go to sleep at 9pm every night, my personal life takes a hit as well. Not that I need to be out partying every night, but I need to be able to hold an adult conversation past 8pm, so I have to balance it out and not take on so much so early.
What do you do to keep a good work/life balance?

Read Part I here.

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Best Practices for the Self-Employed (Or just me…)

If you are self-employed, you are well aware of the pros and cons:
Pros: you’re in charge, you make your own hours,
call your own shots, and your boss is the best boss in the entire world.
Cons: you’re constantly working, you pay your own insurance,
 you owe taxes, you don’t get paid vacation,
and your paycheck varies depending on how much business you bring in.
I love running my own show, but I’m a Type B personality
and probably the last person that should be running a business.

I hadn’t planned on being self-employed, that’s just how it worked out. I realized I liked it way better than being “held hostage” by a company/boss. I also realized, though, that I’d much rather play than work. So without an actual boss to answer to, sometimes I’ve gotta give myself a pep talk and a swift kick in the arse to be productive. Here are some of the things that help me stay on track:

Contribute to Business, Taxes, Savings, and Retirement FIRST. 
I am aware that is this regular business practice and common knowledge, but I majored in Exercise Science, not Business, Accounting, or Economics. I was slow on the uptake. This lesson was learned after my first really good year. I had made a lot of money, saved a lot for myself, then got blindsided by a HUGE tax bill. I was so bummed to see everything I’d put aside go straight to the IRS. When you run your own business, you get paid last. After that moment I had to switch things up. Money comes in, %30 goes straight into the tax savings account. Then I make sure I have everything I need to keep my business running smoothly: equipment for my bootcamp/clients, marketing materials, upkeep on my certifications/conferences/liability insurance, etc. Then other percentages go into my savings and retirement accounts. THEN I see what’s leftover. And that’s what I make for the month… Sometimes it’s a great month. Sometimes it’s not. But every month is in the black, not the red. So that’s always a good thing.

Do my business expenses the first week of every month, while I’m paying bills.

Business taxes used to drive me crazy… mostly because I did them once a year; on April 14th. I’ve since changed my ways, hired a CPA and keep really good records. Since I pay all my bills the first week of every month, I decided that I would also use that time to go ahead and record my expenses from the previous month. I can get all my spreadsheet ish done at one time (and usually in just half an hour or so), file the receipts away,  and not have to worry about it for a few more weeks. This is making tax time far less stressful!

Tackle the biggest obstacles first; before the end of the day Tuesday.

Sometimes, this just isn’t possible, but most of the time it is. So I put my head down and make it happen. By getting the most dreaded items checked off my to-do list first, the rest of the week seems far less daunting. When I’m really feelin’ good I go ahead and start the next week’s work early. It makes everything easier in the end.

Have all/most of my week’s work done by Friday morning. 
Again, this doesn’t alway happen, but it’s something I strive for. I want my weekend to be fun, not stressful. Since most of my weekends are working ones spent traveling out of town for conferences and education courses, I get home most Sunday nights around 11pm or later. NO time for doing things that need to be done by 6am, Monday morning.
Clean out my inbox every Wednesday and Friday. 

Some weeks this is impossible, but most it’s not. I just have to DO IT. Doing this first on Wednesday ensures that I respond to anybody I missed at the beginning of the week and my inbox doesn’t get out of control. Doing it again on Friday ties up any loose ends before the weekend starts. Sometimes I dread answering emails and piles of questions, but I love knowing that it’s done and that I’ve responded. I hate when I’ve written somebody and they take more than a few days to respond, so trying to golden rule that ish!
 

Any best practices you guys live by?

For Best Practices for the Self-Employed Part II: Balance, click here

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