Achieving work/life balance is challenging. This challenge can grow when you are self-employed, working as an independent finance professional (IFP).
The fact that the gig economy doesn’t adhere to a standard workweek of 9:00am–5:00pm, Monday–Friday can feel liberating, and fully shaping your work schedule can feel empowering.
But the positive aspect of flexibility can tip into the negative aspect of scheduling freedom: overextending oneself. Working long days and over 50 hours per week is not sustainable and can quickly lead to burnout.
Here are tips to prevent burnout and achieve work/life balance.
1. Set boundaries
Setting boundaries allows you to focus your efforts and realistically manage time.
Time management is an essential component of work/life balance. As you structure your daily hours, start with what you know.
If you have an appointment that requires travel time or a lunch date with a friend, that time is reserved. With the remaining available time, would you like to work on one task for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon? Or maybe you’d like to intently focus on a task for hours in the morning and then use afternoon hours to quickly move through less mentally intensive tasks.
Blocking time on your calendar is a nice visual reminder and highlights times when you’ll need to say “no” or “not today.”
It’s not easy for some of us to say “no” when someone needs our help, or to say “not today” when we figure it will only take an hour or so. Saying “yes” to every request can lead to forgetting things, dropping the ball, over-promising and burning out.
Practice saying “no” if you like and remember: Saying “no” is not being rude or mean; it’s being aware.
2. Set reasonable expectations
If you’re launching a career as an independent finance professional, you’ll need to build your client base. This requires networking and marketing yourself which, of course, requires time.
If you already have a client base, you may need to juggle competing priorities to efficiently manage time.
To help yourself understand how much time it takes to complete various to-do’s, jot down the time you begin a task and the time you step away from the task — either because it is complete or because you are human and can’t possibly complete everything in one sitting.
Keep a log of the start and stop times for a week or so and then reflect on how long tasks took. Looking back on the time you spent is not an invitation to judge yourself for not being fast enough; it’s an opportunity to objectively look at to-do’s and the time they require.
Also, noting your start and stop time will prompt you to streamline your workday and optimize your work performance. We all do better work when we stop trying to do a million tasks at once and simply focus on the task before us.
3. Set realistic goals
There are only 24 hours a day and, to maintain physical, emotional and mental health, you can’t work all of them. To keep your workday contained to 6–8 hours, consider dividing tasks based on their urgency and importance. Leaning into Dwight Eisenhower’s decision matrix, you could label tasks as:
- Urgent and important
- These tasks need prompt attention.
- Important but not urgent
- This is a necessary distinction: Importance is not synonymous with urgency.
- These tasks need a clear due date and may require incremental progress to reach the goal.
If you have a staff person or two that can assist, determine tasks you can delegate.
Being reasonable about the amount of time things take encourages you to be realistic and set attainable goals.
4. Set “me time”
Unplug. Unwind. Prioritize wellness time, downtime, me time — whatever you want to call it. Valuing yourself involves taking care of yourself.
If we feel physically ill, or our relationships are unhealthy and/or our mind is anxious, balance is lost. Because we are human beings, our physical, emotional or mental health must be nourished to achieve all that we want and hope to do.
Eating healthy, exercising and/or meditating for 5–10 minutes can be done in intervals throughout the day, so why not view self-care as an aspect of your workday?
Achieving work/life balance should begin with life because your life is more important than your work. Keep in mind: Self-care is crucial for life/work balance.
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