One of the best things about being an accidental entrepreneur is that your life, work, and business can't be easily separated. That's also one of the hardest things. The challenges we face in business inform our personal lives and personal challenges affect our businesses.
Rich as it is, the relationship between personal and professional life can be rocky and maintaining work-life balance can be tricky. I experienced this recently when, within a few weeks of declaring some audacious goals for my business, a routine mammogram turned up some abnormalities. In the following weeks I had additional mammography, a biopsy, and surgery, with the happy outcome that the abnormalities were benign. I wanted to put the experience behind me and get back to work, full speed ahead.
The problem was that I didn't feel like it. I enjoyed my client work and my speaking engagements, but I dreaded the creative and analytic work related to teleclasses and Internet marketing. Try as I might, I just didn't have the juice for these projects. On the life side, I felt I needed time and energy for processing, renewal and restoring my inner balance; on the work side I felt I needed to make up for lost time.
I've been caught between the promptings of my spirit and the requirements of my business more than a few times, and I know pat success formulas don't help. I also know it is possible to take care of ourselves and our businesses if we are willing to do the work.
Here are nine strategies that, taken together, can help to change course without abandoning the destination and help you restore your work life balance:
1. Don't panic.
Even if you feel panicky, you can choose modest, recoverable steps to address the situation. This is no time to get a divorce, fire an employee, or buy a new computer system. Tip: Talk with a coach or therapist to get perspective.
2. Return to Source.
Whatever your spiritual orientation or tradition, connect with what for you is the Source of life or spirit. Know that there is something larger than you that encompasses you. Spend at least 15 minutes each day connecting with that Source. (I like Mark Silver's Remembrance Practice described in his free downloadable workbook Getting to the Core of Your Business.)
3. Take a body inventory.
Are you sleeping well? How are you eating? What's your energy level? If these are not up to par, get a professional evaluation and take the steps that will restore your well being.
4. Tell the truth.
Sometimes energy flags when we've gotten into a pattern of pleasing others or living according to standards that are not our own. Notice if there is any imbalance. Notice where you're being less than forthright and get clear about your motives, then clean it up. (Talking to a coach or therapist can facilitate clear, authentic communication.)
5. Keep good company.
Are you stimulated and encouraged by your peers and clients? Do you have great playmates? Playing on the wrong playground with the wrong kids is neither fun nor productive.
6. Tune Up Your Thinking
There's substantial evidence that managing the way we think can have a profound and lasting effect on mood and motivation. See Powells.com for books you can use to tune up your cognitive skills and/or make a date with a therapist. (If you are otherwise in good psychological health a skilled coach can help, too.)
7. Set Healthy, Flexible Boundaries.
Yes, real life and real business are intimately connected, but that doesn't mean that you need to give up your privacy. To find your work life balance, set boundaries so that you can feel generous without feeling depleted and available without feeling invaded. Keep them flexible, because (doncha know?) things change.
8. Create or Refine Systems.
We can't manage real life and a real business or hope to achieve meaningful balance without good systems. Look at where things feel most out of sorts and resolve to create or improve a system to get things on track.
9. Keep the Goal, Drop the Plan.
Sometimes the best way to achieve a goal is to let go of our plans. Promptly and clearly revise commitments and offers as necessary to bring current activity in line with current resources. Why abandon ship when you can drop anchor while you make some repairs (or while you enjoy a few weeks in the sun!)?
As for me, these strategies led me to postpone the re-launch of the Authentic Promotion teleclass and take a break from Internet marketing. Having stopped the war between myself and my business, I restored my work life balance and now feel more engaged with the things that I choose to take on (like writing this article.) My audacious goals are now shining possibilities instead of looming obligations, and if it takes a little longer to reach them, arriving will be all the sweeter.