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8 Steps To Actually Achieving Your Own Work-Life Balance

Michelle Dale - Monday, January 10, 2011

I get asked quite often by Virtual Assistants and in particular work at home parents, “How do you obtain work-life balance?”

It is quite interesting for me actually as my life, whilst hectic, is pretty balanced, I have actually found this balance is more a state-of-mind than anything else. There are of course various things that can upset the balance at times, which are completely unavoidable, such as working on additional projects aside from my business, having tight client deadlines to meet, travelling and even having family and friends to stay, but aside from that, during times when life is running more ‘normally’ (whatever that is), I do manage to maintain a steady flow.

I do have a few clients who are life coaches, who specifically help people find their work-life balance, having never had any coaching on this subject, I decided to sit down and make a list of all the things which I do in my life on a daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly basis which have helped me to retain what I would call my work-life balance, which is run a business and other projects on the side, still be there to watch my children grow and develop, and maintain a loving, and considerate relationship with my husband.

These are the items which were on my list, that I consider essential to maintain this balance:

1. Planning

I plan the major things out in my life, so for example, at the beginning of each year, and then periodically, I decide what I am going to do with my business and with my family, in terms of where I am going to be taking them that year.

I also make smaller plans, for everything I am able to control at that time, such as blog posts for the next several months, newsletter schedules for the year, and anything else I can think of which I can get out of my head and into my diary, on my notepad, or mobile device.

2. Lists

I then make lists of tasks and actions to accomplish these plans. So for example, if we have decided to move to another country, I begin my list of things to do, research accommodation, travel arrangements etc… The key here again is to get everything, or as much as possible out of your head and written down somewhere, because this will help you deal with it better. By dealing with things efficiently, you will have less to do overall. Don’t sit there with your “tomorrow” head on – tomorrow rarely comes – make your lists now.

3. Prioritise

I categorise my lists, so I can see clearly what I need to do first.

List A: All essential items, and those that could provide the most short term profit.

List B: All the things that I would like to see accomplished, and those that could provide the most long term profit.

List C: All non-essential and non-profitable items.

I focus primarily on list A and B, and after those things are accomplished, I will then give consideration to C. Don’t touch C unless you have completed, or are near to completing A and B.

3. Outsource

From the lists (A and B) I then highlight everything I am able to outsource, or give to an assistant to help me with, whether they can complete the task entirely or only partially, I get this off my plate as soon as possible.

4. Schedule

Everything that is left to me, I schedule in for realistic deadlines, I try to stick to scheduling in no more that 8 hours of work a day, and I have to be honest, I do often end up doing more than that, but only because I am a workaholic, and like to get ahead. But think of it this way, because I only schedule in 8 hours, and I do more than that on a daily basis, then I am pretty much always way ahead of schedule, and the times that I am, I can easily take some time off, or choose to work less hours.

Please also note, that I never schedule any work in on the weekends, this is very important to me to spend these 2 days entirely with my family, and if I decide to work a bit in the evening then it’s always at my discretion.

5. Discipline

I have an enormous amount of self-discipline. At the end of the day, my VA business is responsible for funding the entire lives of myself and my family, so I always make sure that I am on top of everything, as much as I can be. I generally like to plough on through tasks and lists as soon as possible.

6. Relax

Earlier I said that I planned out all the major things in my life and business, because the minor insignificant things I have found, are not worth worrying about. If you have something weighing you down, and troubles on your mind -  right them down on paper. Then next to them, write everything down that you can do about them, and if there is nothing you can do about them, erase them from your mind and focus on the things you do have control of, and can do something about.

7. Getaway

One of the occupational hazards of working from home is that you can never really get away. I would suggest making sure you are able to shut the door on your workspace, and where possible – take your laptop, or mobile device and go out to work. A coffee shop, the park, even your back garden. If it’s a warm sunny day then you can still work and make the most of it. It makes working a pleasure when I can sit outside and watch my kids play ball in the garden, while I write articles, answer emails, do my social media – anything which is more of the mundane part of the business and doesn’t require total concentration.

8. Gratitude

The final item on my list is gratitude, when I am rushed off my feet with work or the kids, I feel so grateful that I have my children, and that I have enough work to keep me busy, pay the bills and put food on the table. Maybe this is the answer in itself, be happy that your life is so unbalanced and hectic, as I am sure there are hundreds of people who would give their right arm for what you have…

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Hi I'm Michelle, an entrepreneur specialising in virtual assistance, a digital and real world nomad, and a down-to-earth mother of three.

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