Dear Jenae — How do you maintain balance in your private life when swamped with work?

How do you balance your private life and household duties with work? There are up and down seasons, what do you do when there is a surge in incoming work that you don’t want to turn down? Would you cut off your social life, exercise, sleep or anything else (like admin tasks to be postponed later)? Where do you need to develop and improve? How balanced do you feel in terms is private life and work? 
Thank You very much in advance. These are my major challenges… 🙂
– Gabi
Hi Gabi,
Thanks for writing in with your questions! These are some great ones and I think they’re also really common struggles so let’s dive in. Once upon a time (OK, not that long ago) I looked around my extremely disheveled house with stacks of papers, take out food boxes and dirty laundry and then back at my computer and back at my mess. The mess was stressing me out but I needed to do the work I had because my clients were literally begging me to take projects and doing everything including offering higher prices to get me to take jobs. I realized a couple of things. 1) My business IS me. In other words, if I didn’t take care of myself, my stress level, health, etc. and I got sick or too stressed then I wouldn’t be making money anyway. 2) If self-care is almost as important as other aspects of my business like bookkeeping or translating, why was it so low on my priority list? 
And that is when I hired someone to clean my house, a food prep service, and started dropping my laundry off at “fluff and fold” where they wash, dry and fold your laundry and you just need to pick it up. My mood skyrocketed and I felt much better since I was eating better. Most importantly, I had regained a sense of control, as well as the time and energy to do my work. I know this isn’t the answer for everyone or even possible for everyone, but I do think that if you find yourself in a situation like I was in and you are working crazy hours, not taking care of your house AND you can’t afford to hire help to take care of your house, it’s a truly unsustainable situation. I knew my choices were either to hire help for my private life or turn down work. Continuing without change was definitely not possible. I think hiring help for your private life is worth considering even if it is only for a month or two when you’re in a similar situation. There’s no reason (hopefully) you can’t hire help for your private life if you’re making so much more money because you’re working so much even if both the work boost and the help are temporary. You can always go back to “normal” when the work dies down.
Now, here’s the other problem for me. I love working. I love the sense of accomplishment and I love when my clients are happy…I love it all. And that means I am a first-rate candidate for burnout and overworking myself, which I have had to keep in check (not always successfully). Part of how I’ve done this is by constantly reminding myself that it is completely illogical for me to invest time and money in growing my business but not in myself. Who will run this growing business if I’m in the hospital or depressed because I have no friends left, or delirious from lack of sleep? Definitely not me! 
I think work-life balance is something we all struggle with when we are solopreneurs or even small business owners with a small team. But I think the number one thing to remember is sustainability. I don’t working extremely hard for a short period of time is necessarily terrible (luckily, as entrepreneurs, it is always our choice), but I do think we need to be self-aware enough to know whether the consequences make that a good decision or a bad one. For example, I might start a “slow period” morning off with a to do list full of admin or business-building tasks, only to find my inbox filled with job requests (translation: the slow period is OVER) and decide to postpone those things for a bit (but never too long!). On the other hand, I know myself well enough to know that if I work past about 7 pm on translation specifically (even if I were to start working at say 1 pm…it doesn’t seem to matter), I will be totally unproductive the following day. That means that even in times of peak work, doing this is not a good decision for me personally or professionally. For someone else, it might be just fine. If I work without any days completely off (and no, checking your email while watching Netflix is not time off in my book), then I will not be very productive (about 50% for me) for several days and so this is also a bad use of my time. 
This leads me to your next question about where I need to develop and improve and my own balance. Just because I know these things to be true, does not mean I don’t still get carried away occasionally, especially when I am doing something I absolutely love and I am having tons of fun. For me, building a webinar is ripe for this scenario to occur. I have been known to work straight through mealtimes and look up to see it’s the middle of the night when I am working on webinars. So while I am extremely aware of how translation impacts me and when I am most effective after well over a decade doing it, I am still learning and still developing my self-awareness around coaching and consulting/growth strategy. I absolutely let myself get carried away in ways I don’t when it comes to translation, just because I’m still learning what impact spending all day building a webinar has on my productivity, for example. In other words, just because you’re having a blast doing something, doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t set boundaries (I use “stop working” alarms on my phone) or create space to relax! 
I am sure we will both keep improving! In the end, I think that the most important thing is to constantly ask yourself what works for you and what is sustainable for you. I hope this helps!
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Author: Jenae Spry

Jenae has been a French > English translator for over 10 years and a productivity and performance coach for freelancers for over 5 years. Jenae launched the Success by Rx blog to help freelancers achieve success.

Posted in Ask Jenae, Business, Productivity.

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