10 tips for a better work-life balance

Last week, research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) found that the line between work and leisure is being blurred for company directors.

The CMI report suggested that, with many directors carrying on their work outside office hours, the distinction between work life and ‘real life’ is becoming increasingly hard to maintain.

A good work-life balance is important, not just for your mental state but also for your productivity. As a business owner it is naturally difficult to ‘switch off’ – but this is a skill that you need to develop.

Here are ten tips for improving your work-life balance.

1. Take time off

The value of time off really cannot be overstated. You cannot hope to be productive if you are constantly working – and, perhaps more importantly, it can be bad for your mental and physical health. Make sure that you schedule time off, and that you stick to it. This includes taking time in the evenings, and making sure that you get a proper holiday.

2. Remember to exercise

Daily exercise is vitally important. Half an hour walking round a park can be enough to get the oxygen flowing, and make sure that you are able to focus. Proper cardiovascular exercise can also help you to sleep better – as well as helping you to keep fit.

3. Schedule better

Scheduling is the key to minimising stress. By planning your time properly you can make sure that you don’t overbook yourself, and that you get things done in a timely manner. Consider ways that you can improve your scheduling. You might consider using one of the many free scheduling and task management software solutions available.

4. Learn to delegate

Many business owners find it impossible to delegate. This is completely understandable; you want to maintain control over every aspect of your activities. But you need to learn how and when to delegate. By identifying the tasks that can reasonably be given to someone else, you can free up your own time and actually get on with running your business – or even take some time off.

5. Take some ‘offline time’

For many people, the working day is spent in a flurry of emails, tweets, phone calls and IMs. If this sounds like you, you should make sure that you take some offline time. When you have finished work for the day, turn off the computer, turn off your smartphone, and ignore your emails. Concentrate on relaxing, and come back to the messages in the morning with a clear head.

6. Zoom out

Perspective is important but, as a business owner, it is often difficult to attain. Make sure that you regularly ‘zoom out’ and consider the bigger picture. The chances are, whatever it is that you are panicking about today is not as huge a problem as it might initially appear.

7. Don’t be afraid of change

Changing your practices is not, as many seem to think, an admission of failure. If you think you could do things better by doing things differently, give it a go. A change is, as they say, as good as a rest, and by altering your routine you may find that you become more productive.

8. Remember achievements

In the struggle to get everything done, it is very easy to forget what it is that you have already achieved. Set aside some time, perhaps once a month, to go back over your accomplishments. Remind yourself of the good things that have happened, rather than constantly focusing on the problems.

9. Manage expectations

Expectation management is a key skill for the self-employed. You need to be able to give a clear idea of what it is that you can realistically achieve, both for yourself and for your clients. People value honesty – but, conversely, they react badly to broken promises. So make sure that you only promise what you can deliver.

10. Harder isn’t always better

There is a slightly perverse sense amongst many business owners that, if something is difficult, it is intrinsically more worthwhile. This is often not the case. If there are two ways of doing something, all else being equal you should always go for the simpler option. This sounds obvious, but it is remarkable how many self-employed people choose the more difficult path out of habit.