“Work-life balance is a myth.”  A very heavy hitter in the online business space recently posted that to social media.

As a time management coach, I couldn’t agree less.  A desirable work-life balance is achievable, but only if you consciously work to create it.

Today, I’m sharing 5 ways to build work-life balance as a solopreneur or small business owner.  Don’t own a business?  You’ll probably still find them helpful.

5 Ways to build work-life balance as a solopreneur:  Introduction

So many of the people I meet struggle with work-life balance.  They feel tired, overworked, and even burned out.  They think they don’t have the time or energy to create the kind of balance they want.  Many of them aren’t even sure where to start.  So, they often don’t start at all.

Instead, they continue surviving with the same imbalance they’re used to.  However, neglecting work-life balance in the long run can lead to significant issues down the road.  It can cause increased stress, overwhelm, resentment, and even health issues.  In fact, up to 90% of disease and illness are stress-related.

Therefore, building work-life balance is important not only to help you feel better now, but to safeguard your physical, mental, emotional, and social health into the future.  Today, I’m sharing 5 steps to build work-life balance.

Define what work-life balance means to you

What doesn’t get measured, can’t be improved.  The first step to building work-life balance, then, is to define what “balance” means to you.

People sometimes believe that balance should look even and symmetrical… something like this:


In reality, though, balance is fluid – not static.  It’s less like a constant equilibrium, and more like an ebb and flow.  There will be times when, out of necessity, your balance skews more toward work or your business.  Likewise, your balance will sometimes skew more toward your personal life.

So, what does balance mean to you?  What are you seeking when you say that you’d like to improve your work-life balance?  It’s important to define this for yourself individually, because what feels balanced to me may not feel balanced to you.

For example, on the day I wrote this article, my workday was over 16 hours long.  I worked from 4:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.  And, I’m okay with that.  Due to various circumstances, it happened to be a day where I worked a lot.  I have an easy day this Friday, and I’m taking off half of the following week for my birthday.  So, even though I don’t want to work 16 hours every day, I’m happy with the balance I’ve created overall.

Maybe for you, balance includes doing one fun activity every week, taking 30 minutes to yourself each day, or taking off every other Friday.

You might find this challenging at first, and your definition of balance will change over time.  However, don’t overthink it.  Come up with what sounds good to you in terms of “balance,” and then try it out.  If it works out and feels right, great!  If not, try something else.

Identify (and enforce) boundaries

The next step in building your work-life balance is to identify boundaries in your work and personal life, and stick to them (except in rare cases).

What’s a boundary, anyway?  In this context, it’s kind of like a line you draw around yourself in relation to your time, attention, and energy as they relate to your work or personal life.  You can also think of boundaries as decisions you’re making in advance.

For example, I have a boundary that says I am not to be disturbed while I’m on a coaching call or giving a presentation online.  In other words, my husband won’t enter my office or try to get my attention unless there’s an emergency.

Here are a few more examples of boundaries:

  • I don’t coach clients or do consultations on Fridays.
  • I don’t work on my business on the weekends.
  • If someone wants to meet me for a networking coffee and they can’t do it on a Tuesday, there’s a good chance I’ll decline.
  • I don’t coach anyone without their knowledge or consent.
  • When I’m hanging out with friends or family, I take my “coach” hat off unless asked specifically to weigh in from a coaching perspective.

For example, if I receive an email asking if I can do a consultation on a Friday, that decision is already made.  I have a boundary around that.  It’s an easy “no” and a chance to find another time that works.

Have there been times when I’ve crossed the boundaries above?  Absolutely.  But, they’re few and far between.  Sticking to those boundaries as fully as possible helps me protect both my work time and my personal time.  That ultimately helps me build the work-life balance I want.

Identify the “life” activities that recharge or excite you

The next step toward building work-life balance that works for you?  Getting intentional about the “life” side of work-life balance.

There are two parts to this step.  The first is to understand the activities that excite you, and those that recharge you (some activities may do both).

Activities that excite you and/or recharge you

For example, I’m an introvert.  While I enjoy spending some time with people, it takes a lot out of me in terms of energy.  So, while going out with friends or volunteering with a group might excite me, I also know that I will feel a little drained afterward.  I typically need some time to pause and recharge.

What does this mean in practical terms?

Since it’s exciting for me to spend time with friends, but it doesn’t help me recharge, I’ll do my best to schedule it mindfully.  Maybe I schedule it for a Thursday evening, if my Friday will be filled with quiet, behind-the-scenes work in my business.

Or, if I want to volunteer in my free time, maybe I choose a project that I can do alone, so the time will be both exciting and help me recharge.  Even if my ideal scheduling scenario doesn’t work out, I do my best to sneak in some time to recharge.

Make a list of some activities that you enjoy doing outside of your business (exciting), and a list of activities that help you recharge.  Again, there may be some crossover between the two lists.

Get your activities on the calendar

As I’ve said before, building a workable work-life balance takes effort.  If it’s not on your calendar, there’s a good chance it won’t happen.  Scheduling time for activities that excite or recharge you in advance increases the likelihood they’ll actually happen.

Remember, these activities don’t have to be big, expensive, or take tons of time.  Maybe it looks like setting aside an evening for yourself.  Planning to meet a friend for a 20-minute coffee break.  A night out with your partner.  Whatever you choose, get at least one activity on the calendar each week, whenever possible.  Add more activities from there, depending on your schedule and needs.

Identify and incorporate microbalance activities

The fourth step to building a work-life balance that works is to identify and incorporate microbalance activities into your schedule.

What are microbalance activities?  It’s a term that I literally made up.  In essence, microbalance activities are brief, simple activities that help you recharge and decompress throughout your workday.  The human neurological system was not designed to do intense mental or physical work nonstop.  Microbalance activities can give your neurological system a rest.

Here are some ideas:

  • Take a 5-minute walk
  • Call a friend or loved one who you enjoy speaking with
  • Do a brief meditation
  • Spend a few minutes reading a book or interesting article
  • Take a bit to check your social media channels (if that’s something that helps you recharge and decompress)
  • Relax in a dark, quiet room
  • Enjoy a favorite drink or snack
  • Do some chair yoga or stretching
  • Spend a few minutes journaling
  • Watch a funny video

You can schedule microbalance activities if you’d like, or do them on impromptu basis.  Try different approaches and do what works best for you.

Guard the “life” time on your schedule

For small business owners and solopreneurs especially, it can be easy to cancel personal time in favor of getting things done in your business.  After all, if you’re integral to your business’s operations, who else will or can do it?

It isn’t wrong to cancel “life” stuff in favor of “work” stuff here and there (or vice versa).  However, doing it consistently can lead to increased stress, poor work-life balance, and even burnout.

Therefore, it’s important to treat your “life” time as important meetings on your calendar, and guard them as much as possible.

Remember, as a business owner, you don’t have to tell anyone why you’re not available at a certain day/time.  You aren’t required to justify, give in, accommodate, or rationalize.

The bottom line is, a disruptive habit of canceling “life” time in favor of work is playing checkers.  Preserving “life” time is playing chess.

By finding other solutions or simply saying no, you’re honoring the time and space you need physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially.  That typically means you’ll be better rested, recharged, and ready to tackle whatever comes up in your business.

5 Ways to build work-life balance as a solopreneur:  Conclusion

Work-life balance doesn’t happen on its own.  Just like any other state you want to create, it takes time, effort, and intentionality.  Today, I shared 5 ways to build a work-life balance that works for you.  Here’s a quick recap:

  • Define what work-life balance means to you
  • Identify (and enforce) boundaries
  • Identify the “life” activities that recharge or excite you
  • Identify and incorporate microbalance activities
  • Guard the “life” time on your schedule

If you’re struggling to create a workable work-life balance, here are a few things to know.

  • It’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed, unsure, or even guilty about wanting a better balance
  • It IS possible to optimize the level of balance you’re operating on
  • You don’t have to do it alone

As a time management and mindset coach for small business owners and solopreneurs, one of my greatest passions is helping my clients find ways to build their business while also nurturing their life outside of work.  Hop on a free call with me.  Let’s talk about what your balance is like now, what you’d like it to be, and how you can make it happen.

About the Author Amy Schield

Amy Schield, MBA is a time management and productivity coach for small business owners. Using a mix of simple tactics and neuroscience-based strategies, she helps clients manage their time successfully, set and achieve goals for business growth, and navigate the mental and emotional side of owning and running a small business. Acting as a personal trainer for the brain, she teaches clients how to get out of their own way, so they can finally build the business they want.

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