Life Balance for Home-Based Business Owners

by David B. Bohl

If you have a home-based business, you might not be as efficient as you’d like to be, because there are some built-in challenges to working out of your home.

For instance, do you have a quiet space set aside where no one bothers you? It’s hard to do at home—the dining room table isn’t exactly the ideal spot to work when your kids come traipsing through on the way to the kitchen, or your spouse assumes you’re available to talk since you’re in a “family” area.

Look around your home, and figure out where you can set aside some space for your desk, file cabinet, a table, and your printer or all-in-one fax-printer-scanner.

The ideal location within your home is probably a spare bedroom, preferably one that’s tucked away in the back of the house, semi-isolated. Due to the boom in home-based businesses, many homebuilders now offer floor plans that include a secluded home-based office with a separate street entrance. If you’re planning to build a new home, discuss this with your builder.

Another built-in problem is boundaries. Once you have the physical ones established and your office is situated, you need to think about setting work hours and a schedule. Sure, you can set your own hours at your home-based business, but if you’re smart you’ll have as much overlap as possible with your client’s hours, since that’s when they’ll want to talk to you. I.E., if the vast majority of your clients run an 8 to 5 business, you need to make yourself available during those hours.

Another issue can be getting into work mode. Since you’re at home, it’s all too tempting to slip into the living room and turn on the TV. One home-based business owner that I know gets up, showers, runs down to the corner store to buy a cup of coffee, then brings it back to the home office to start the day. This routine helps define the start of the work day.

Make sure you set aside time to spend with your family, and time to spend by yourself recharging your internal batteries.

Resist desire to work all hours. If you don’t do this, you’ll fall into “24-7-365” mode, which is typical of newbie entrepreneurs. You’ll find yourself working late into the night, talking to that client in India at 1am, then working on Sundays to get it all done.

Take time to think about what your work hours and days are, and stick to them. Have a plan for holidays, too … you’ll most likely want to plan to be off on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and 4th of July, but you might want to go ahead and work on minor holidays like Memorial Day, President’s day, etc.

Next, you’ll want to make sure your family is on the same page as you, so sit down with your spouse and children and outline for them all the great reasons why you are working at home.

Make sure you explain that working at home saves you commuting time that you can now spend with them (and be sure to follow up on this and spend the time.) Also explain that working at home will save money, since you won’t have to pay for the overhead of an office. With your kids, take the explanation one step further and lay it out—more money to spend on family vacations, birthdays, and Christmas presents.

Then segue into the importance of being allowed to get your work done so you will be able to do these great things with them. Stress that it’s only possible to save money and time if you can get work done, which means you need quiet time to focus and talk with clients. Close the discussion by asking for their support.

Finally, you need to plan for emergencies and use technology to overcome them. For instance, what do you do when there’s an ice storm and your internet connection goes out? Or worse, all of your home’s electrical power fails?

David B. Bohl has these suggestions for planning ahead for emergencies:

When you gain new clients, make sure you get a phone number for them in addition to their email, and give them your business number. If the power goes out, you’ll be able to call and explain why your computer is down and they can’t reach you via email.

Set up a separate business phone line, either via a dedicated land line or by using a dedicated cell phone for your business. The big advantages are that you can set up a business-like voicemail message and you can turn the phone off at night when you and your family are sleeping or relaxing together.

Have at least one back-up computer, preferably a laptop, that can run for hours on a battery, and keep multiple batteries charged. Also, make sure you have an internet connection set up and ready to go on that laptop.

Keep valuable and proprietary business information such as client contacts and your own individual material in a location that is physically separate from your home in case of fire. There are some online services that will store data for you, or you can periodically make back-ups and store them in a safe-deposit box.

Ever hear the old saying: “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know how to get there?” Well, that saying is just as relevant today as it’s always been…particularly in terms of life balance.

Regardless of how powerless you may feel at the moment, you have the ability to define what the rest of your life will look like. Change may not happen overnight, but it can definitely happen in increments. And it will never happen unless you consciously choose it, set goals, and take steps. It starts with self-assessment.

How do you get ahead in life? Well, that depends on where you want to go. You wouldn’t start off on vacation by driving aimlessly, picking roads because they feel right, would you? No, you’d pick your destination for your vacation first, then plan how to get there. And that’s how we move ahead in life, too—by deciding where we want to go by setting goals.

And in order to live a well-balanced life you need goals for all the many roles you play in life:

Career — these goals give us the opportunity to earn a living, express who we are, and develop our full potential.

Family — these goals give us the chance to show love, take on responsibility, share responsibility, and make a positive contribution to society.

Spirituality — these goals give us the chance to tap into power that is much greater than our own and that provides a source of inspiration and strength. From this, we gain morals and a sense of wonder and awe at the whole of creation.

Friends — these goals give you the chance to share, to care, and to bare your soul and bond with people you like.

Solitude — these goals earmark quiet time for your to recharge your batteries, calm yourself, rest up, and make plans.

Developmental — these are your goals that allow you to improve your emotional and intellectual development. Self-improvement is the name of the game here.

Financial—these goals allow you to plan for and buy a new car, a new boat, a great new home, a fun family vacation, retirement income, or anything else you want…or to achieve financial freedom so that you needn’t work for others. You can also set a financial goal to retire early if you like.

Leisure — these goals exist to make sure you don’t burn out. By making time for recreation, you restore your health. This category includes fun activities that help you blow off steam and give you chances to socialize, meet new friends, and develop new skills.

Health — these goals should never by neglected by entrepreneurs, but too often they are. If you’re not physically healthy, your brain function suffers, and your spirits sag. Therefore, you need to set goals for your diet, exercise, resistance training, and sufficient sleep.

David B. Bohl has these suggestions:

Set aside 30 minutes to write down what you want your life to look like in 5 years, in 10 years, in 15 years, and in 25 years.

Write down your goals for each of the categories above.

Refine your goals so that you set up mini-goals for each year, month, and week.