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16 Tips for Maintaining a Work-Life Balance for the Self-Employed

When you’re self-employed, it’s easy to slip into thinking that it’s okay (or even necessary) to grind away each day until you collapse in a puddle on your bathroom floor. You’ve worked hard for the privilege of being your own boss, and you didn’t get there by clocking in at 9 and peacing out by 4:57.

We get it. You have a very impressive work ethic. Well done. Cheers!

But your mental and physical health demand that you give it a rest sometimes. Here are some tips on maintaining a healthy work-life balance when you’re in business for yourself.

Make your favorite things a priority.

Figure out what matters most and work it into your weekly schedule.

If spin class and Saturday Netflix sessions are at the top of your list, schedule everything else around those blocks of time.

You’ll be healthier and happier if you balance work and life.

Treat yourself.

When you work hard, you need to make sure you’re balancing it with good things – like yoga, massages, and other self-loving activities.

It’ll help you work harder and stronger when you get back at it.

Take advantage of slow periods.

For most people who are self-employed, when it rains, it pours.

If you budget your money right, you can take advantage of slow work periods by enjoying yourself rather than worrying.

Step away from the smartphone.

Seriously. According to TIME magazine, Americans collectively check their phones 8 billion times per day. And if you’re a self-employed person in 2017, 1 billion of those are probably you alone.

Establish a routine and set aside at least a 30-minute “no phone” and “work-free” lunch break for yourself. Or with a friend, your mom, your cat– anybody.

Talk about something unrelated to work.

If it’s hard for you to think of anything to talk about other than work, you are officially diagnosed with working too much. Try this. Or, pick up a book or something, geez!

Schedule things and make lists.

Make a schedule for the week and write down all your goals. That way, you always know what you’re doing and are moving forward.

If you’re good at scheduling, you’ll waste less time and be able to spend the saved time however you’d like.


Let yourself zone out. Your walk to the bakery in the morning for your favorite cup of coffee? That’s important.

And it’ll help you think more clearly.

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Say no.

You need to set boundaries in both your work and personal lives if you want to keep up your stamina in the long run. This can include anything from communication guidelines (like detaching from your email and phone after 7pm) to not committing to things you really don’t want to do.

You can say no to a job, the same way you can say no to that Saturday-night potluck you just didn’t want to go to.

Work smart, not hard.

If you’re going to be “at work,” then make sure you’re working. Many people feel like they’re working because they’re in an office all day, but they aren’t that productive.

The sooner you finish your list, the sooner you can unwind for the day.

Delegate, delegate, delegate!

If you are lucky enough to have some folks who work for you, don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to them.

It’s easy to think that nothing will be done correctly unless you do it yourself, but that’s silly– and hopefully you know that. Other people are good at stuff, too, and could maybe even teach you a trick or two. And if you’re a one-human operation who’s overworked to the point of seeking out tips for maintaining work-life balance (ahem), it may be time to do some small-scale outsourcing.

You have a friend who could use $15. Hire that guy to deliver your thingamabob across town. Boom! Just saved you an hour. You’re welcome.

Take some “me time.”

Even just 30 minutes a week. This will help you de-stress and get back to work with a clear head.

It’s easy to convince yourself that if you take a break (or have a life at all), everything you’ve worked for will come crumbling down. Yes, if you suddenly decide to take a 15-hour work week, stop showering, and get heavily into online poker, then everything you’ve worked for probably will crumble.

However, there is an extremely reasonable happy medium to be found. Go find it.

Hold yourself accountable.

Don’t trust yourself to stick to your new work-life balance rules. Your name is whatever your name is, and you are a workaholic. Get a friend, parent, significant other, roommate– someone– to hold you accountable.

Someone has to be there to slap the iPhone out of your hand when you won’t stop (can’t stop?) checking work emails while you’re eating dinner at 9 pm.

Shh… deep breaths. There is a 100% guarantee that your email will still be there after dinner.

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Work hard, play hard.

There will be periods of insanity when you’re building your business from the ground up, and your personal life may suffer.

Learn to get in the groove during these periods and work as hard as you can (knowing that it will end).

Then, when you do get the chance take a breath, make the most of it.

Keep track of your time.

Obviously, you should track work hours that you bill to clients, but what about the other hours in your week?

If you spend one week time-tracking, you might be surprised where you’re losing time. You will probably find that you spend time on things that don’t matter (like absentmindedly getting lost in Buzzfeed articles).

Once you know where your time is going, you can become more mindful of how to spend it. For instance, if you realize you’re spending too much time getting lost on the internet, you might realize that you really do have time for the gym after all.

Get rest.

You need to get the right amount of sleep to keep your immune system healthy.

Setting aside some time each week for downtime is crucial. And don’t feel guilty about it (that’s just wasting more of your time), because you need it.

Take a walk.

Ride a bike. Juggle oranges, ride a unicycle, whatever.

Every list of things people should do that’s ever been made includes “exercise!” but (scientific fact) roughly only 0.002% of us actually take this advice.

The mental/emotional/physical benefits of getting off your bum and moving around are difficult to overstate. It doesn’t have to be a 3-hour trip to the gym.

Try starting your day with a 10-minute walk. That’s it. 600 seconds. Oh, and see if you can bring yourself to leave your phone at home. Those few minutes to move around and get away from work will help clear your head and prepare you for the day.

And sometimes, that’s where the best ideas are born.

Turn off.

You need to turn off when you’re not working.

There is something to be said for letting ideas and problems marinate, but you’ve got to let that happen subconsciously. Save your energy for bigger, more complex problems and leave the nitty gritty at work. (And that means emails.)

Don’t forget that you’re working toward freedom…so you should take advantage of a little freedom along the way. (After all, that’s why you got out of the rat race, right?)

Pogo is an online business insurance agency dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and the self-employed get the right insurance, easily.
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