Managing the Work/ Life Balance

One thing that I am most often asked about as a creative entrepreneur is how I manage my time for a healthy work/life balance.  At times this felt like such a silly question to ask me of all people as I felt for so long like I was running around like a mad person just trying to check things off of my to-do list.  But over the course of the last couple of months I've spent a lot of time consciously reflecting on how I run my business, and the way that I work, and realized that some things really needed to change.  I spent most of the beginning years of Honey and the Hive working non-stop - 7 days a week, all hours into the night, pulling countless all-nighters to get orders packed, sketches to clients, catch up on emails, or whatever the task at hand was in that moment.  All the while I had a family, a young child, and for most of it, a second job!  Looking back, I quite honestly don't know how I sustained that lifestyle for as long as I did, but it completely exhausted me both mentally and physically.



I try to remind myself that there is a reason why most businesses offer their employees sick days, personal time and vacations.  As a creative entrepreneur or a business owner of any kind, it is so important for us to step back and remember that we are our number one employee, we are our most valuable asset, and that we need to invest in ourselves as well.  It doesn't matter if you are a solo operation like myself, if you have a multi-person team, or if your creative business is a side hustle and you still have a full-time job on top of it - this creative dream business that we have built doesn't work without us.  Working 7 days a week and staying up until 4am packaging orders or responding to emails may have seemed like a great idea at the time, but back when this was the norm for me I was exhausted.  I was constantly sick, I was so stressed and my mental health really suffered because of it.  As much as I thought #hustlemode was the only way to go, and saw the working all night lifestyle being glorified on social media platforms like Instagram, I was just working myself into the ground and the only thing that any of this did was set me back.  

I'm still very much navigating through this terrain - Honey and the Hive has only been a business for three and a half years so I'm no genius, but over the course of those three and a half years I've learned a lot about what works and even more about what doesn't, so here are some of my best practices for a healthy work/ life balance.

Set a Schedule for Yourself
Just like a "regular" job your business is allowed to have operating hours.  This looks different for everyone, but what is important is that you set your boundaries.  If you walked into a job interview today and they told you that you were expected to work 7-days a week at all hours of the day and night, and on top of all of that, if a customer came to the store after it had closed you were also expected to leave your home and go tend to that customer immediately, chances are you would not be interested in that job.  But yet, we so often find ourselves doing just that with our own businesses.  As entrepreneurs we hold ourselves to such a high standard -  after all this is our dream, but we have to remember what is actually feasible and allow ourselves some grace.

For myself personally, I have allotted myself a certain timeframe within each day to do work related tasks.  Most days look about the same -  I start with planning out my day and any tasks that I need to be done over a cup of coffee.  With a clear intention for the day, I move on to answering all of my open emails, and then I transition into packing orders from the day before.  The rest of my day is spent between working on sketches, painting, answering emails working on blog or social media content, etc up until I have to pick up my son from school.  After we get home I allow myself one more hour to tie up any loose ends or finish up any projects that I was working on, and then I metaphorically clock out for the day to spend the evening with my family.

Of course, allow yourself some wiggle room.  There are times where I have a huge deadline, or an opportunity comes up with very little notice, or I just have a lot on my plate where I do have to work outside of the parameters that I have set for myself but what I have found is that the routine of working a more set schedule is so incredibly helpful for both my sanity and my level of productivity.  I get so much more done this way than I did when I was working literally non-stop - by setting a timeframe to work I am able to give it my all for that amount of time, rather than being half in, half out throughout the entire day.  Not only that, but my work is of a much better quality when I'm able to just focus on that, and not try to work amidst the chaos of everyday life.

Set Realistic Goals
This has probably been the most important thing I have done for myself as a small business owner.  I am a big fan of to-do lists - I love the organization, I love the feeling of accomplishment that I get from checking off a task completed, and I love having a visual of what I need to do for the day.  However, I am extremely guilty of packing on so much more than any human being is capable of doing onto these to-do lists.  Doing this left me feeling so defeated at the end of the day because I couldn't get through the tasks that I wanted to.  But I had to really step back and look at this objectively - there is no human being on the face of the planet that can answer 15 emails, pack a dozen orders, and then complete 5 client sketches by 4 o'clock.  There just isn't.  BUT what I can do is answer all of those emails, pack all of those orders, and complete 2 client sketches by 4 o'clock which I think by anyone's standards (reluctantly including myself) is an accomplishment to be proud of.

As you set your goals for the day, make a conscious effort to consider how much time each task will take, and make a plan that takes that into consideration.  If you tackle your to do list with extra time in your work day, consider doing something that will add value to your business - take an e-course, listen to an audiobook about growing your business, etc. or move onto another task to set yourself up for a better tomorrow!  Or hey, you could even just call it quits for the day and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.  On the flip side, if you come to the end of your work day and still have some things unfinished on that list - don't fret.  Tomorrow isn't that far away, and those projects will be there waiting.

Again, allow yourself some wiggle room.  I would never deliver a client's work late or not meet a deadline just because I didn't get it done by 4 o'clock.  But if I'm working on designing something for my own shop, where no one else is effected by it's completion, by all means I will leave that for the next day.  





Practice Self Care
It is very easy to consider self care a waste of time.  But there is a mantra that I try to remember each time I have these thoughts (and I actually even painted it!) "Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time".  Not only is it important to do things for yourself, to take care of your mind and body, and allow you to release some stress and have fun, but if you make self care a part of your life and routine it truly will help you to be so much more productive in your daily work.

Self care looks different for different people, it could be treating yourself to a bath bomb and a face mask at the end of a long day, it could be cuddling up on the couch with a good book and a cup of tea at night, a simple nap when you know your body needs it,  or maybe even a day out with friends just doing things you enjoy - whatever self care means for you….do it!  

I've found that when I allow myself these simple pleasures not only do I feel more refreshed, energized and happy all around, but I'm more productive in my work day, more ambitious, and I've even come up with some of my best ideas while relaxing in the bath tub.  

Take Time For Your Health
Again, this can mean a lot of things.  It can mean taking the time to eat a balanced dinner instead of ordering delivery just because you're busy.  It can mean making sure you get some exercise into your day.  It could mean taking a sick day when you need it.  (Yep, I said it.  Small Business owners need sick days too.)  It all comes back to the principle that YOU are the most valuable employee that you have - take care of yourself.  If you are running on empty, eating junk all of the time, and not taking care of your body how are you possibly going to be doing your best work?  

If this means literally scheduling it into your day (like I do!) then by all means, do that!  This is a new point for me - I've definitely been guilty of reaching for a quick fix snack instead of taking 15 minutes to make a meal, or having 3pm roll around and realize that I haven't eaten yet today because I had a lot on my to-do list.  But in the past few months that I have really been making a conscious effort to make my health a priority I have seen such an improvement in how productive I am in the day, and how I feel outside of my work environment as well.

So many of us as small business owners too have the unrealistic expectation that we have can't take days off when we are ill, especially those of us who work from home.  I've too often caught myself feeling like crap but having the mindset of "well, my studio is literally across the hall from my bedroom I should just work anyway" but here is the thing - I know my customers don't want to receive packages that are covered in my icky sick girl germs AND by not taking that day to recoup and let my body recover from illness, I'm only prolonging the illness.  Something that could have been a quick 24 hour bug will have me feeling awful for 3 days or more, during which time I just can't do my job to the best of my abilities.



This is by no means the definitive recipe for the perfect work/ life balance, and I am by no means an expert in productivity - but these are the things that I have learned over the course of the past couple of years as a business owner, and this is what works for me!  I hope that you find these messages useful and are able to implement some of these things into your life as a creative entrepreneur - whatever that means for you.  


Do you have any tried and true practices for managing the work/life balance?  Or any tips to be your best and most productive self?  Leave me a comment, I'd love to hear them!

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