Being my own boss has always been a goal. Flexible hours, having no one to answer to but myself and being able to work from just about anywhere. Only it doesn’t really work out like that. Being your own boss certainly has its perks, but it also comes with the realisation that you do, in fact, have people to answer to. Another potential work hazard is a poor work-life balance.
IN SOME WAYS, WE’RE ALL OUR OWN BOSS
We often think that there are certain qualifying factors for being a boss. Owning a successful business or having employees, for example, but that’s often not the case. Working for yourself doesn’t necessarily equate to an abundance of power or wealth.
Some of us choose to work on our own terms, for ourselves, around a day job. Others juggle life around degrees or occasional freelance work. Sometimes, being your own boss means little other than having ultimate control and responsibility for how things pan out. It requires a large amount of self-motivation and really just means that the onus for success is on you.
Achieving a good work-life balance can be challenging whatever job you’re in. However, having to work from home as a student, freelancer or as self-employed (the list goes on), can even further blur business and pleasure. I’m one of the people who piles my plate, and as such, am currently employed in an office as well as splitting the rest of my time between a degree and freelance work. For that reason, I know both the pros and cons of employment as well as those of being my own boss.
I know I’m guilty of hitting a mental block from time to time. When the day reaches a certain point, staring out of the window, scrolling through Pinterest or even tackling laundry can seem more manageable than continuing on with the more mundane jobs on my to-do list, which I, of course, left until last. So here are a few simple things that tend to improve my own efficiency when I’m working from home.
KEEP YOUR WORKING ENVIRONMENT FRESH
The best word to describe spending every working day at the same desk, in the same room, is mundane. I can categorically say that I don’t want that for myself. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
A huge benefit of working for yourself is flexibility. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t sent a few emails from the comfort of my bed, but it’s not the best practice. Beds, sofas and any other places which you use for downtime are well worth avoiding when you’re trying to work. They’ll do nothing to encourage a productive mindset and there’s a chance they’ll make you’ll feel lazy and less motivated.
Saying that, I like to keep my environment fresh by having a few go-to working places; the kitchen table, my desk, and weather permitting, some outdoor areas are fair game.
TURN INTO A SINGLE-TASKING PRO
Despite my best efforts to do everything at once, I’ve admitted that I can’t. What’s more, I don’t know why I so often feel I need to. Honestly, juggling ten things across various tabs, apps, and accounts is my default. That is until it inevitably gets too much and I forget what I was supposed to be doing.
Single-tasking is my new way forward. I’m writing lists and crossing them off one at a time, making sure that I tackle them in a well thought out order (so not leaving all of the most difficult until after lunch and then kicking myself). A tidy mind is my ultimate goal and with every day I’m detangling the chaotic threads.
DRESS THE PART
Dressing in your comfies is right up there with working from bed on my things-to-not-do-when-you’re-working-from-home list. I’m a firm believer in dressing the part. I know I won’t work as efficiently in casual clothes in the same way that I can’t fully relax when I’m trying to curl up on the sofa in jeans.
Pj’s, sportswear and cosy two-piece knits are some of my favourite things to wear. However, in the absence of business hours, a clocking in machine and a colleague to let you know you’ve hit the half an hour countdown until home-time, you need other cues. Getting up and getting into more work-friendly attire sets me up for the day. Closing my laptop and getting into more comfortable clothes sets me up for the evening.
When I’m relaxing at home I’m a full advocate of wearing anything comfy. The two-piece knit I’m wearing here is from J5 Fashion: It’s so cosy and versatile. I wear the jumper half during work-mode and all it takes is a switch from jeans or trousers to the knitted bottoms to ceremoniously clock out for the day.
KNOW WHEN TO MENTALLY CLOCK OUT & ACTUALLY DO IT
Taking our work home doesn’t achieve a good work-life balance, but a lot of us are guilty of it. Stress doesn’t adhere to a schedule in the way that we do. Many of us find it difficult to delay it until we’re clocked back in the next day. It can be even harder though when you’re not physically driving away from work, when your phone is constantly logged into your emails and you’re seeing them pop up long after you decided you were finished for the day.
One of my problems is that my freelance income depends entirely on agreements made via email. For this reason, I very rarely log out of it. To my credit, I can quickly scan-read an email and 9/10 times will decide that it can wait until the morning. If you’re not someone who can leave an email unanswered (even outside of business hours) then to achieve a better work-life balance I’d strongly recommend physically logging off. Obviously, your ability to do so depends entirely on the nature of your career, but in my current lines of work, there aren’t many life or death situations.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE BENEFITS & HAVE SOME PERSPECTIVE
Working for yourself comes with so many benefits. As a full-time student, I didn’t see how lucky I was to be largely flexible or to control the hours I put in. Now, I realise how good I had it. When my work-life balance gets a little out of sync and I end up putting in more hours than usual, I’m grateful that I can counter it during a slower period. I’m thankful to have full control over my freelance workload.
One word I see thrown around in excess when it comes to work-life balance is guilt. Guilt for sneaking in the odd email or task on days off with a partner. Guilt for actually taking time off and not replying to emails quickly enough.
Although I’m not immune to guilt regarding either, I do encourage perspective. I enjoy working freelance (with the very rare exception) and so typically give projects 100%. Although, if I’m honest, my degree is more of a tick-box exercise, I know that the work I put in will be worth it eventually. These things are my decisions and my responsibilities so I put a lot of effort into them and deserve time off. I don’t feel guilty for prioritising life over work and at the end of the day, no-one should.
Achieving a good work-life balance is the dream. For both myself and others: My partner who takes work calls at home, friends who let work strains overflow into their personal lives, and you, whom I hope I’ve helped even slightly. I hope these tips are as effective for you as they are me. Please do let me know if you have any others in the comments!
* This post is part of a paid collaboration with J5 Fashion. As always, all words, images, and opinions are my own. Please read my full disclaimer for more information.