One of the biggest challenges I find with working for myself is switching off. The fact that I am so passionate about what I do and committed to it’s success (I’m sure many of you will recognise this), combined with working from home, means that boundaries (or a lack of) are a big deal. One of the biggest issues I find is that my phone literally brings work into my home life. You start off thinking it’s just a quick peruse of Instagram whilst the kids tea is in the oven and before you know it you’re replying to messages and trying to note down actions for the following day. You do a quick check of your emails in the evening whilst nipping through to make a coffee and suddenly you are fully back into work mode before realising that your other half is shouting through to ask where you’ve gone. Apparently the average adult spends 8 hours, 41 mins a day looking at a screen and we check our phones 150 times a day on average. I mean, crazy hey?! Social media is so important when you work for yourself, particularly if you have an almost non-existent marketing budget like I do. It becomes this window of opportunity for chatting to potential customers, starting new exciting collaborations and browsing all the things you probably shouldn’t be looking to buy this month (this last bit might just be me, in fact a bit less of this might help with the old marketing budget). But we know the mini dopamine hit we get from social media is addictive so this so easily slips into the hours outside of work time. It is one downside I think to the flexibility you get from owning your own schedule that the boundaries become so blurred. We know that it is really bad for our health not to have enough down time and yet it is so so hard to change. I know this because I have been there very recently. I used to have really strict rules around using my phone. I worked 3 days a week in-between school hours so had to manage my time like an absolute ninja but since recently starting to work on my business full time they have definitely slipped. Checking social media regularly leads me to be less productive in work and less present at home. So, here’s what I intend to do to bring back a bit of digital balance and re-establish my boundaries:
Apparently this means that it has to be a conscious and deliberate act to find them. You would think this was the case anyway but apparently not. We become so used to just clicking and scrolling that sometimes we don’t even recognise it happening. Hopefully this will prick my conscience.
Obviously this depends on the type of work you do and for some people this won’t be possible but for a while now I haven’t had work email on my phone and actually find this really helpful. I put an out of office on for days when I’m not working and people know how to contact me if it is urgent but I literally have no option to check my email without sitting down at a laptop i.e when I am actually working. At first it drove me a bit crazy, I had that fear of missing something and I was tempted to start sneaking out the Mac but actually now it has become normal.
I work upstairs in our loft which means the physical boundaries of leaving a place of work and returning are lost. I’m guessing this might be the same for lots of mums who work for themselves and I do think it can be tricky to separate the two. One new habit I’ve recently adopted is to create an ‘end’ to my day (whether this be at 3.25pm for the school run or 5.30pm for tea). I decide on that end point and 15 mins beforehand I finish up. I clear my desk (yes I am a major geek and have a real belief in uncluttered space so put away my pencil case…seriously), I leave my phone upstairs (for the next few hours I am just focusing on being in the room) and I do a quick 5 minute meditation. Sometimes I will pop my jammies on too before heading downstairs. I guess you can create whatever mini routine works for you (even if you are out of the house this still applies) but if you can make this a habit it is REALLY good for creating some boundaries in my experience. And physically leaving my phone upstairs (or indeed anywhere out of reach) just stops any last minute finishing up taking place.
I actually use Facebook a fair bit for my business (my Game Changers course involves a private FB group) but aside from actual work I allow myself a few social media breaks a day. I don’t reckon there is anything wrong with a mindless scroll through other people’s beautiful IG feeds, it can be really inspirational and lovely to virtually chat to other people, particularly when you work alone. But allowing myself these times as ‘breaks’ means I actually enjoy it a bit more without feeling guilty that I should be doing something else and it does work as a break rather than a distraction. It also means that when I am back with the kids I don’t use THIS as the opportunity to catch up on what friends are doing or the news. Whatever works for you but try out setting yourself a time limit or a certain number of times a day and see if that helps break the habit. If you’re a regular user (for pleasure rather than business) watch your productivity soar.
No phones in the bedroom. Now this is a hard one because my Headspace app is on my phone and I do like to meditate in the morning. However, I know this sounds horrendous but my willpower just isn’t strong enough and I’ve got into bad habits. I find it really hard not to start replying to text messages when I get into bed, sometimes even a scroll through Facebook, it definitely stops me reading my book which I love doing. It also doesn’t help with a positive and healthy start to the day. Back to my old routine - which was to wake up, stretch, breathe and think about the one thing I want to achieve. Work starts and ends on my own terms. I’ve already seen some really positive changes as a result of these but if there was one piece of advice it would be to work out what the biggest challenge is for you around your boundaries and start with this. Don’t try and do everything at once or it will be too hard. Choose one thing and focus on making this into a new habit before moving on to the next. Fingers crossed before long you’ll see the difference. If you want to get more organised and more productive with your time I have just launched a new course Organise My Entire Life. You can find all the details about this and any other courses run by Guilty Mothers Club here – http://www.guiltymothersclub.co.uk/courses/