Becoming your own boss can sometimes lead you to stress and burnout. Create a healthy work-life balance when you work for yourself by setting some boundaries.
Not everyone has what it takes to be their own boss.
While the media may portray self-employed workers as people with so much time to spare, it’s not all rainbows over here, and they certainly don’t have all the time in the world. The appeal of being in control of your day and having a more flexible workload does not come without challenges, unfortunately — the greatest of which is setting boundaries.
Boundaries are important when you are self-employed. However, not everyone knows that setting boundaries is the first step to setting better habits and achieving success.
Here are the most common challenges we encounter as self-employed, and what we can do about them:
Challenge: Fighting distractions that are not related to my work
What you can do about it: Set a dedicated work space
Setting a dedicated space for work even when you’re just at home is vital. However, anyone who’s working from home knows that there are so many things that can go wrong when you don’t have your own “working space”.
To avoid getting lost in your own domestic space, assign one space in your home as your working area. When you set aside a separate space for work, you’re separating work from your hobby. It conditions your mind to be in working mode, making less room for distractions such as food, your kids or pets, and even household chores. When it’s time to do something non-work related like watching a movie or reading a novel, get up and simply move to another location.
Challenge: Multitasking and dwindling productivity
What you can do about it: Set your hours and block time
Multitasking harms productivity, research says. This is because multitaskers have more trouble tuning out distractions. Their brains simply want to go back and forth with different tasks. Mental blocks are even more recurring for people who tend to switch tasks as well. Experts suggest that “productivity can be reduced as much as 40% by the mental blocks created when people switch tasks.” That’s a big chunk of time you could have saved when you’re not multitasking!
To improve your focus and productivity, start setting your working hours. Block time and do your work within that period. Resist the urge to switch tasks within that span of time as well and make an effort to focus on one job at a time.
Having trouble breaking away from the habit of multitasking? Try the 20-minute rule. Instead of switching tasks every few minutes, focus on one task for 20 minutes before moving on to another.
Challenge: Overworking or working beyond your set work hours
What you can do about it: Take breaks
The feeling of relief after a heavy load of work is incredible. However, spread too thinly, one can end up feeling stressed and burned out. To avoid this, set breaks and actually take them. When it’s time for lunch, get away from your desk and eat a proper meal. This separates your work from breaktime, giving you the proper rest you need.
It can be tempting to continue the work you’ve already started, but acknowledging the need for rest puts your health first. This includes your rest days too! When it’s time for a day off, take the day off. Go out to the park, watch a movie, or sleep some more. Take this opportunity to unplug and spend your time with your family without worrying about answering phone calls or emails.
Challenge: Building motivation to work
What you can do about it: Dress up
It’s easy to dress however you want when there’s no dress code to follow. But, like your workspace, dressing up for work helps create boundaries between personal and professional. Wear your perfume and your favorite accessories. If you’re working from home, dress how you would when you work outside. It doesn’t have to be a suit and tie. You can keep it casual but also put-together. If you like to put on makeup outside, consider doing your makeup too, even if there’s nobody else to see it but yourself.
Of course, once you “clock out” or end your work day, don’t forget to switch back to your non-work clothes. It maintains boundaries and lets your mental state go from work to relaxation mode.
Challenge: Organising and forming habits
What you can do about it: Discover your routine
Medical experts recommend creating a routine to manage stress levels. Better stress levels not only makes the tasks feel lighter, they also reduce risks for heart disease, improving your overall health in general. Routines create a structure for your day — a helpful strategy if you want to create healthier habits.
“Implementation of a lifestyle change implies that a routine is followed and habits are formed,” researchers suggest. Of course, good habits are not formed overnight. They have to be done consistently every day. Once you establish your own routine, you’d realise how much work you can finish with a structure or a model of how your day is supposed to go.
What you can do about it: Learn how to say No
When you are in charge of what you do and when you do them, it can be so easy to fill your schedule to the brim and overwork yourself. Sure, your job might be flexible, but that doesn’t make the work easier or your load lighter. Set boundaries and be selective with the requests you accept. This could be easier if you let your family and your clients know about your schedule. Tell them which hours in the day you’re free and which hours in the day you’re not. Don’t be afraid to decline an opportunity, especially when your hands are already full.
Finally, don’t beat yourself up for crossing your boundaries sometimes.
We can’t be perfect, of course.
There might be days when you’d have to work on a weekend or somewhere else other than your usual workspace, and that is absolutely fine! There will always be times when things don’t go as planned. However, that doesn’t make the attempt a failure. Whether it was a matter of discipline or external factors, recognise the need to relax and reset.
You can always try again tomorrow.
Articles and video interviews of self-made millionaires online make the self-employed life look so easy, don’t they? Surely, when you tread the path yourself, you’d understand that being your own boss doesn’t mean just planning for your next vacation as your work magically does itself.
It takes time, hard work, and dedication to become your own boss. Luckily, there are strategies like setting boundaries to help ease the struggles and responsibilities of self-employment.