Working to Live
In a “live to work” world that's relentlessly obsessed with “the hustle” it can be tough to know when it's time to clock out, especially when you're trying to hone your craft and/or build a business. It's a topsy turvy balance act, trying to give work your all while also prioritizing your loved ones and your own needs. Trust me, we're all working on it and no one's got it perfect.
You'll notice on the My Story page of my site that I list balance as one of my core standards. I take this one very seriously, and I'm no stranger to the struggle of work vs. life. Some days I find myself so engrossed by work that I fight to tear myself away for things like quitting time, lunch, or even a break to stretch and let out the pup. But quality time with my loved ones is essential to me, and I know how the business inevitably suffers when I don't take time for myself. So unplug I must.
It can be tough to clock out when the emails are piling up and you can't seem to make time for enough quality social posts amidst your real work (or vice versa). How can you balance your work and life well in today's “always on” world? I know this challenge all too well, but thankfully I've found some tools I've integrated into my work life that make the balance a whole lot easier. Here's hoping they'll do the same for you!
Tools for balance
1. Canned Email Responses
I don't know about you, but there are certain emails I find myself sending over and over again. It could be the response to an inquiry, request for more information, follow-up from a meeting, or letting someone know we're not a good fit. Before long I got sick of typing and retyping the same email over and over again.
I decided to take some time and create templates for these scenarios that included all the vital verbiage. I also knew I'd feel bad just sending the same form email to everyone so I made sure to leave myself room to tailor and personalize each one. I saved these templates in Gmail as canned email responses, and now those emails take me a fraction of the time.
It may feel more genuine writing out the email each time, but be honest. No one's got time for that. Make it easier on yourself and create those templates! You can even reference this helpful article from Bre of Rowan Made on how she uses canned email responses to her advantage too.
Takeaway: There's no honor in rewriting the same emails over and over. Write templates for yourself and personalize as needed.
Instagram is by far my top social media profile. The visual nature of it is so compelling and well-suited for what I do. Over time I've found that I need to be in a certain mindset to write compelling captions, and after figuring out when my best posting times are (via Iconosquare) I used to struggle to find the right words at the right time.
Later to the rescue! I use this app to import images I plan on posting into a media library, and I can schedule them out for the week at my leisure and draft the captions all at once. Then I just get a notification when it's time to post, and after a couple taps I'm golden!
Takeaway: Keep a library of content ready for social posting and draft your posts for the week all at once. This will keep you from scrambling to post when you've got nothing to say. Just set them and forget them.
The bulk of my scheduling needs for other social platforms center around my weekly blog posts. I like to share my posts a few times on Twitter, but also intersperse other people's quality content so I'm not jamming my followers' feeds with self-promotion.
Buffer offers an optimization tool to figure out the best schedule for getting eyes on your content, which is insanely helpful. This way I just fill up my queue with posts and they publish themselves like clockwork.
Takeaway: An active social media presence is important, but let's be honest. Social media is a black hole of distraction. Schedule your posts for the week and get back to focusing on the things that really matter.
4. Your Website & Media Kit (aka Info Packet)
Every service-based business gets the same types of questions. What's your process? How do you package up your services? How much will it cost? How long will it take? What do I get at the end? Do you have any references? Much like the canned emails, I quickly got tired of answering the same questions over and over again.
I created a page on my site to describe my process and another for testimonials from past clients. These two pages provide valuable information that help prospective clients decide if they want to dig deeper and potentially hire me. For those that decide to submit an inquiry, I created a media kit to speak to all the need-to-know's.
How can you balance your work and life well in today's “always on” world?
My media kit/info packet includes some client testimonials, a page dedicated to how I work, my branding packages (including the deliverables and cost), and a timeline for how long our work together will potentially last. This pdf took a decent amount of time to create, but it saves me countless hours now.
Takeaway: Your website is your #1 salesperson. Use it to your advantage by giving people the information they want. Creating a branded media kit also takes your professionalism to the next level while saving you tons of time in the onboarding process.
Trying to manage multiple projects through email is just a nightmare. You can never find the information you need and sifting through email threads is a terrible waste of time. That's why I use Asana as my project management tool. Once a client signs on, all correspondence and content related to our work together stays neat and organized within the Asana project. This keeps me focused on the tasks at hand while making it a breeze to find the right information quickly.
Takeaway: Email can really be a nightmare, especially when you're using it for your projects. Use project management software instead to keep the information you need easily accessible and to keep both you and your clients on track.
6. Boomerang for Gmail
As part of my “work to live” philosophy, I believe in strict office hours. I'm available to my clients via scheduled meetings Monday-Friday 8am-5pm with few exceptions. Sure, sometimes I want to get ahead on a night here or weekend there and get a few emails checked off my list, but if I'm answering emails at all hours this can translate to my clients that I'll be available at their beck and call all the time. This can get out of hand quickly and it's bad for a well-balanced business.
I still thank my lucky stars for the day I discovered Boomerang for Gmail. This life saver of an plug-in has a ton of amazing features, but my favorite is the ability to schedule your drafted emails to send later. Now when I want to get a few emails taken care of one night or over the weekend, I can schedule them for the morning of the following business day. My office hours stay intact and I'm able to get a little bit ahead.
Better yet, if someone tells you to check back with them at a later date on something, don't even bother putting it on your to-do list. Just write the email now and schedule it for the appropriate timeframe. Life-changing, I know.
Takeaway: It's important to set boundaries for how and when you work with your clients, and to stick to them to ensure you maintain that control and respect. But that doesn't mean you can't take some extra time here and there to get ahead behind the scenes.
The balancing act of work vs. life will probably always be just that, but it's a relief to know that there are measures we can take to make things a little easier on ourselves. Just remember, your life won't be measured by the number of hours you worked. Your true achievements are the relationships you build and the people you've helped along the way. We will always work hard, but we do it so we can enjoy our lives.