I want to talk to you about one “b” word, boundaries, in order to avoid that other “b” word, burnout. I learned early on that as a small business owner and work from home mom, establishing business boundaries is an absolute must. When the walls of your personal and business life are literally combined, it can put you in a risky situation. Risky in terms of your mental health, relationships, creativity, passion, and drive. You might be wondering why I chose to write about this specific topic, or how I know that a lack of boundaries can create such a negative impact on your life. The truth is, as I navigate my third full-time year in business, I can look back on these exact struggles I’ve had up until this point.
I’ve personally walked the walk of trying to build a business as a side hustle while working a full-time job, then run a business from home with a little one. So today I’m going to level with you. I know boundaries are already difficult to create for the best of us. Maybe more difficult to create for work from home Mom’s, when time itself is an already limited resource. I also know you need freedom to create based on the life that is right for you, your business, and your family. So I’m going to urge you to work hard early on to put some form of boundaries in place in order to live your best life, and still enjoy your business on a daily basis.
Before we get started, please know that I am acknowledging the fact that boundaries can be hard to establish. This is not a process that is going to happen overnight. Good habits are difficult to form and bad habits are even more difficult to break. I’m still walking the line as an imperfect business owner and work from home mom. But I’m also on the other side of being an unbalanced entrepreneur and I can see the beauty of putting the following practices into place as soon as possible.
CREATE BUSINESS HOURS
I mentioned above that setting boundaries as a work from home mom is potentially more challenging. I didn’t mean that in the sense of mentally trying to create new habits. I’m talking more of a literal challenge. Running a business from home with babies means that you are at the mercy of their schedule, health, nap time, etc. If you’re in a situation where time is already limited, whether it’s due to a full-time job or being home with kids, you may feel that creating business hours is an unrealistic expectation. I get that. However, as someone on the other side of these experiences, I know that creating business hours early on can help set you up for success in the future.
Even if you can’t work within traditional hours just yet, it’s still important to set those times in order to manage client expectations. You may answer emails at 5 AM before work, but you can schedule those emails to send at a later time using almost any email or client management program. The client does not need to know you’re working at 5 AM. What they need to know, is not to expect to receive a 5 AM response to their 10 PM question. Setting business hours now will also help to create the habit of keeping work for work and home for home in the future when you’re able to establish a more routine schedule within your day.
LIMIT SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media probably feels like an absolute must if you’re running a business in today’s world. The problem is, we all know how life consuming it can be! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “I would delete my Instagram/Facebook account…if it wasn’t for my business.” They are aware of their unhealthy boundaries related to social media, but they quickly form an excuse for their bad habits. If that’s you, I would like to challenge you to analyze how many productive work hours you spend on social media. How many of the hours that you spend on Facebook are actually helping you achieve your goals? Is your time spent watching story highlights bringing you an income? Do you have an Instagram strategy? Are you implementing tactical techniques to find potential clients while online?
Creating boundaries with social media may be one of the most difficult habits to form/break. But be honest with yourself and address the reality of how your social media habits are impacting your business and life. If you’re not using social media productively, then cut it out until you can. Remove the apps from your phone, and focus your time instead on productive tasks. Evaluate your relationship with these programs and act like the CEO your business needs you to be. Create a plan to use them productively and incorporate them back into your routine with strategy and purpose.
You are not your business, and your business is not you.
To establish priorities as a small business owner, you have to determine what is essential and needs to be taken care of first, in order to achieve specific goals and make progress. But, I want you to think beyond setting up priorities for your work day, week or even month. Before you can dive in on a micro level, you have to establish what your values are at the macro level and start there. What are three priorities in your business on a daily basis? What are three priorities in your life on a daily basis? These are the essential things that you will schedule on your calendar and use to influence all future decisions.
My priorities in life are 1. God 2. Family 3. Health. Whatever else happens, I make decisions based around these three things and ensure that they have been incorporated in my daily habits. My priorities in business are 1. Client Experience 2. Finances 3. Quality Service. Again, these three priorities influence decisions that I make in my business every day. Creating a list of three priorities for both my business and personal life, allows me to align my vision and goals as a human, wife, mom and small business owner. It ensures that my business and life are in harmony, while remaining separate.
I’m for small business owners. I’m on the playing field with you, sharing in your struggles and celebrating your wins. I can tell you it’s normal to have bad days as an entrepreneur. It’s not normal to allow your business to become your life. If you’re in the race and your hills feel more like mountains, then it’s time evaluate what’s really going on. Identify what’s working and what isn’t working. Establish priorities and stick with them. Align your vision in life with your goals in business so that they’re complementary, but separate. It’s difficult to come out of a dark place, but you have to start somewhere. And I promise, the baby step you take today, and continue taking each following day, will feel like a leap when you look back in one week, month and year. So take action, create boundaries, and keep going.