*NOTE: This is for you if you are looking for balance... even if your don't have a family or not starting a business.
Being a business owner… even starting a side hustle is exciting. You get to make the rules… Make your own schedule… Have more time for your family and friends - only all that “freedom” gets sucked into the business and leaves you feeling beat up, stressed out, and overwhelmed.
You started this business to have more time with your family but instead you find yourself screaming at the kids because you “gotta get this work done” - and all the expectations of more family time brings on severe mom guilt.
I’ve been there. When I began my journey as an entrepreneur, I was a single mother with a day job and an impossibly overloaded schedule. Trust me… I get it!
So PLEASE don’t throw in the towel just yet…
I want to share with you the practical tips I’ve learned over the last 7 years that helped me go from a hot mess to established photography business and a working routine with my family. I call it the Work Life Balance Guide!
Completing the phases and exercises laid out in our guide will require some focused effort, but YOU GOT THIS BABE. So carve out some time and let’s get this done.
The #1 thing I learned is you need to pause and reflect on what matters most to you in your entrepreneurial journey before you hit the ground running. Rather than putting out fires as they arise.
So let’s get started…
Note: The only way to fail at this Work Life Balance Guide is to never try it out at all. As long as you’re ready and willing to play along, you’ll be in a better place by the end of Phase 5 than you were before.
Before you take the plunge, be sure to download our Work Life Balance Workbook here.
Phase 1: Dreaming Intentionally
In order to find a work life balance that fits your unique situation, it’s crucial to be clear with yourself about what you actually want. Once I made the decision to follow my dreams, I began to notice a pattern in my conversations with people who were still stuck in dissatisfaction. They often knew what they didn’t like, but rarely knew what it was that they wanted instead.
It’s time to take a different approach.
Rather than focusing on the aspects of your life that you don’t want to replicate, try focusing on the environment that you want to create for yourself and your family. When completing this step of the process, it’s important to keep your mind open. This is not the time to dwell on your limitations, lack of resources, or doubts. Just for a moment, suspend your practical thinking and assume that anything is possible. What would bring you the most joy? What would make you excited to wake up in the morning? What would fulfill you? Until you’re honest about your dreams, you won’t be able to begin the more practical work of making them come true.
The steps in this phase includes mind mapping, visualizing, and creating your first long-term goal.
STEP 1: MIND MAPPING
I’ve come up with a few exercises that will guide you into recognizing your deepest desires. The first is creating a mind map.
Much like the webs you created in high school English class, mind maps apply a logical flow to theoretical concepts so that your brain can digest them more easily.
The central point will be your number one priority. Your Ideal Life! . Next, you’ll send out branches that represent each area of your life, such as your marriage, children, finances, and career. Now ask yourself what it is you really want. Remember, this is not a time to think about your limits.
You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’re able to fill this map out. Most of us know what we want, but feel ill-equipped to make it happen. This exercise will instill a feeling of hope and excitement in you that motivates you to make your plans a reality.
Take out a blank piece of paper or your WLB Workbook and create a mind map.
STEP 2: Visualization
Now, you’re in the groove. Your creative juices are flowing, and you’re allowing your mind to conceptualize what the dream life looks like for you and your family. Maybe it’s a swimming pool in the backyard, a flexible weekday schedule, or a yearly family vacation.
Chances are, you’ve spent a bit of time wishing your life looked different. Perhaps you’ve even chosen a person or business that you’d like to emulate.
Jot down the dreams and goals you want to accomplish for BOTH your home life and career over the next 5 years. Write it as if it already happened!
It’s 2025 and I....
**If you want to go more in depth here, download the WLBWorkbook.
STEP 3: FOCUS12
Now that you’ve gotten real with yourself about what you’re working towards, it’s time to set your focus. I call this the FOCUS12 because we will narrow down to the ONE big goal that we will work towards for the next 12 months.
I know you feel tempted to write 3, 4, or even 5 goals… DON’T DO IT!
You have limited time and limited resources… so trying to split your focus is going to cause stress and overwhelm, AND you won’t see results.
I know it may feel counter-intuitive but trust me…You are better off giving 100% to one goal than 20-33% to multiple goals.
This exercise is meant to help you take the first step to making your 5 year vision a reality. Remember, you don’t have to have every single tool in your belt right now. In order to grow, you’ll have to get out of your comfort zone.
Answer this question…
What is the ONE thing I need to accomplish in 12 months to bring me closer to my 5 year vision.
Don’t be afraid to apply a bit of pressure here. Do you want to lose a certain number of pounds? Save a certain amount of money? Gain a new certification? Write it down.
Example: I will start a photography business that replaces my part time income.
That’s it for this phase. You should now be clear on your vision for your ideal life and have one actionable FOCUS12 goal to propel you toward that vision.
Phase 2: Planning Realistically
This step will require you to dig deep, and it may feel a bit uncomfortable. You’ll need to come to terms with the habits and mindsets in your life that are holding you back from success. It’s important to complete these exercises in a space that feels safe to you.
Try not to bring any judgement to the table as you work through your thoughts, as it will only serve to keep you stagnant. You’ll need a pen, some paper or your WLB Workbook, and a spirit of hope. It’s time to clear your mental space of the old things and replace them with something new.
As entrepreneurs and family-centered individuals, we must be willing to take responsibility for both the positive and negative circumstances of our lives in order to make lasting change.
The steps in this phase includes reviewing, planning and scheduling.
STEP 1: Review90
First let’s look back at the last 90 days. It is time to reflect on our biggest accomplishments and take stock of any regrets we may have. Remember to have grace with yourself. This is not a bashing session… Balance can only be accomplished through mental, physical, and emotional health. So take a step back from your life and become a spectator. Have empathy for yourself, but acknowledge the things you wouldn’t want to see repeated.
Failure is simply an opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
- Henry Ford
Now, as you know, it only takes a moment for everything in our worlds to shift. So let’s ruminate on the present. Don’t leave anything out; we’re talking health, relationships, business, and personal development. What areas are you confident in and which one do you need a little work?.
Ok… You guessed it! It’s time to take a trip to the future. Envision yourself 90 days from this moment. Would things on the horizon that are exciting and what things are kinda giving you some anxiety? Again, have grace with yourself AND be transparent. There is a power you receive when you acknowledge the things that make you feel uneasy. So be open here.
If you haven’t already… complete the REVIEW90 and remember to be transparent and have grace with yourself.
Phew! I'm proud of you! You’ve done the hard work of being transparent.
You’ve given yourself grace and stayed grounded in discipline.
STEP 2: Setting your 90 day S.M.A.R.T. Goal
Remember your FOCUS12?
It’s time to zoom your focus into the first 90 days. By the end of this exercise, you will have created a to-do list for yourself that doesn’t feel too daunting to tackle.
FIRST - Start With the Goal
Create one S.M.A.R.T goal for the next 90 days. A S.M.A.R.T goal is one that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time based; we already took care of the T for you by relegating your plans to the next 90 days. This can be in your career or family life.
I want to have a published portfolio on my site that showcases my best work by 8/8/2020
NEXT- Break It Down
Now that you have a goal that will push your vision forward, break it down into 3 action steps or projects that will propel you toward reaching that target.
P1: I will schedule at least three shoots each month.
P2: I will learn more about skillful photo editing and apply my knowledge to my own photos.
P3: I will have my business featured on at least one like minded website with larger following than my own.
THEN - Get Clarity
It’s time to get clear one what success means for each of these projects. And you should do this BEFORE you start working towards the goal, when you are not in a judgemental or emotional space. So, consider the best and worst case scenarios that could result from each of your three projects.
P1: Best case scenario, my shoots result in gorgeous photos and I use my best shots to form an online portfolio. Worst case scenario, all my clients cancel at the last minute and I use family and friends as models for creating content.
LAST - Plan to Party
Here’s the fun part. Let’s say you reach that 90 day goal. How will you reward yourself? How will you rest up before tackling your next mission? It’s time to create your celebration plan.
If I build a high quality portfolio by 8/8/2020, I’ll treat myself to a 5 course meal at a fancy restaurant.
Complete your S.M.A.R.T. goal with 3 projects to help you achieve it an
Step 3: Planning your schedule
This is possibly the most important part of finding balance.
None of this is possible without a daily schedule. Even if you were single and untethered to any outside responsibilities, building a business would be tough.
As the leader of a household, setting boundaries between your work and family is non-negotiable. You’ve already made commitments to your spouse, your children, and your day job, as well as to any clients that come your way. The only way to honor all these commitments is to plan your days and week.
Note: If you are looking for a great resource I recommend downloading the WLB Workbook to work through this scheduling phase, then transferring your final schedule to the BestSelf planner. This planner is a GAME CHANGER and it pairs perfectly with all the work you are doing today.
FIRST - Brain dump!
Write down everything that you know you have to do each day. Take everything from your daughter’s violin practice to your nightly skincare routine and lay them out on paper. It doesn’t matter how you organize the information, just put it in writing so that you can get a feel for what happens when, and how often.
Do not forget to incorporate your daily wellness routines. Remember, a healthy person is a healthy business-owner. Make time for exercise, relationship-building, and enjoyment in your life.
Writing these things down shouldn’t make you feel restricted or bound to a set of rules; it should make you feel freed from uncertainty and chaos.
THEN - Prioritize.
Listen, mama. There is no such thing as doing it all. You will miss, forget, or skip out on certain things. You’re human. So instead of working yourself into the ground to check everything off every day, number each task according to its priority level. I like to consider two qualifiers when it comes to prioritizing: the importance of the thing, and the time sensitivity of the thing.
For example, driving my child to school is top priority, because it is both important to me and very time sensitive. Something like dinner at home would take second priority level, because it is important to me but can easily be moved around to a different hour of the evening each day. Business training and miscellaneous appointments rank third, since they are quite time sensitive but not crucially important. Social media networking or leisurely reading take fourth position most days, as they are neither time sensitive nor vital to the progression of my day.
Please remember as you’re completing this exercise that you know what is best for yourself and your family. If having dinner at the dining table with your family at 6 o’clock sharp is both time sensitive and important to you, don’t hesitate to mark it as a top priority item.
NEXT - Organize.
Now begin arranging your daily and weekly tasks into their appropriate order… I recommend using a time block scheduler (there’s one in the WLB Workbook). Because of all your work on the first two steps, your schedule should fall into place easily. To prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed, start with those tasks that were labeled top priority.
Then move on through your priority list as you place each item in its appropriate time block.
At this stage, you may benefit from activity bundling.
What does that mean?
Activity bundling is grouping things together that you do around the same time. For example, you may shower, brush your teeth, and get dressed together… So you can call that Getting Ready and give yourself a 30min time block for it.
Not enough time?
You may want to do Activity Pairing.
Unlike bundling… this is where you group important things that don’t completely relate. For example, the dinner time block on my schedule triples as family time and light exercise. Each day, I cook alongside my loved ones, eat with them, and then we go for a short walk. So I am able to get dinner on the table and clean up faster AND spend quality time with my family… while getting active.
Once you’ve listed your first, second, and third priority tasks, the blank spaces between are your leisure time. If a friend calls and invites you to a movie, you know exactly when you can or can’t make it… and not have to bail at the last minute because you overbooked.
FINALLY - Test.
Follow this schedule as closely as possible for one week, then return to it to make adjustments according to your findings. This system is always available for you to return to and adjust. And, for your own sanity, remember to hold this all very loosely. As you know, life isn’t very predictable. This should not add stress to your life—it’s meant to relieve you.
WAIT! Wouldn’t it be wise to share this with my family?
Yes, shared schedules are a fantastic communication tool. For now, though, hang onto your beautiful document and keep reading. This is a time for you to work through some things independently. Soon, you will incorporate all these practices into your family life.
It’s time to plan your schedule, try it out and revise it. This is about YOUR life. It needs to fit your needs. So make adjustments where it fits for you.
ALRIGHT NOW! That’s another phase down… You are on a roll.
You have gotten clear on your ideal life vision, created a FOCUS12, you know the steps you will take over the next 90 days to get you closer to it and create a schedule to find the time to complete each project and still have family time.
Now let's tackle the most daunting part… The MONEY!
Phase 3: Budgeting Consciously
Many creatives can get hung up on this step… And for good reason… Budgeting is not fun!
But it is VITAL!
Taking the time and energy to hash all this out before taking the plunge into building a business will not only make you feel more in control in the long run… It will fight off one of the most heartbreaking business pitfalls… lack of support.
The quickest way to lose the support of your loved ones on this journey is to avoid creating a spending plan… Purchasing courses, memberships, and other resources without really considering whether the return on your investment would justify the expense.
Here’s the good news: once you’ve created this system for yourself, it’ll stand on its own for the most part.
There is only one step in this phase.
STEP 1: Sign up for these 2 services.
This will serve as your financial dashboard
The service is safe and gives a picture your entire financial standing and it is super user friendly. It shows your transactions, your spending trends, and you can create your budgets and saving goals.
I recommend signing up online. Then linking all of your accounts, like checking/savings (personal and business), retirement, credit cards, etc… And don’t forget your spouses accounts too.
Creating your budget is the most important part of setting up Mint. I have the same rule for both money and time: make room to enjoy. Give yourself an allowance each month that has no specified purpose and is available for spending. You should be budgeting your household bills and business expenses… But also restaurants and shopping.
This software will guide you through detailed expense tracking, and it will also make tax season less scary when the time comes. Quickbooks’ self-employed platform shows you exactly where your business budget is going by tracking each expenditure down to the last penny, as well as categorizing each expense to build an insightful profile of your spending habits. It will also track mileage for business related travel and create professional invoices on your behalf. Lastly, Quickbooks offers the option to attach receipts to your incoming and outgoing transactions so that you document every financial interaction in your professional life.
Quickbooks Self-Employed software is a must have, whether you’re working with a hired CPA or handling your finances solo. You’ll never have to feel anxious about money again once you’re regularly updating the information on this platform, and the time you spend managing your budget will decrease significantly.
Sign up for Mint and Quickbook Self Employed online and download the apps for your phone.
Oh… Did I mention that Mint is free and Self Employed starts at only $1!
Note: Even if you aren’t running a business… Self employed is great for tax purposes and easy to share with your CPA.
Phase 3…. ✔️
Know our vision.
Have a plan to get there.
Have a schedule that fits our family’s needs
And a spending plan to fund the business
You’re on a roll… You’ve done all the legwork...
Now it’s time to include those you love most in the decision-making process
Phase 4: Communicating Lovingly
You may question the placement of this step in my guide, but hear me out.
As a Type A personality, I like to enter sensitive conversations with a full understanding of my own perspective, intentions, and priorities. I also receive information best when I’m approached with a solid plan.
When it comes to something as life-changing as starting your own company, you should both honor yourself and your passions by thinking through your desires in a nonjudgmental and private space and do your family justice by considering the effect your new direction will have on their lives and their relationships with you.
NOTE: keep a loose grip on the goals, plans, and possibilities of your blooming business. Be flexible. As exciting as it can feel to watch your dreams materialize in front of you, you have to honor your family’s feelings. Remember, success means much less when you’re celebrating alone. You guys are a team!
Before your start… Remember to stay open minded, be optimistic and positive, and -most importantly- give your family the benefit of the doubt that they will be supportive.
The 3 steps in this phase will get you on the same page with your family.
STEP 1: Say your piece.
Schedule a discussion and be sure to establish open lines of communication and healthy boundaries.
Explain to them how you believe your new path will bring you a sense of purpose and joy, which will naturally have a positive trickle-down effect on the way you show up at home. Be very clear about your determination to commit to the time you spend with them as enthusiastically as you commit to the time you spend developing your business.
Tell them your vision and the plans you have for them and your business. Tell them how important their support is to you and HOW they can support you best.
Example (after sharing vision): To get use closer to this vision, over the next 12 months I will start a photography business that replaces my part time income. The first step in to reach this goal is to build my portfolio, so over the next 3 months I have 3 shoots a month, be working on my editing skills, and networking with other businesses to get featured. I plan to schedule my shoots on Thursday evenings. My work hours will be Monday through Thursday 6p-9p, so I won’t be available during those times but every Friday evening we will have game night.
The goal of this meeting is to share your plans with your family and get clear on when you won’t be available but most importantly… It will establish when they can count on you to be 100% present.
STEP 2: Listen.
Now it’s time to hand over the mic.
Try your best not to interrupt if you can help it. Respect each speaker as they share by looking at them and being an active listener. Keep a notepad nearby to jot down any questions or thoughts you have about what they’re saying, as you will have a chance to address them at the end of the discussion.
STEP 3: Agree.
This is when you hash out any concerns and negotiate. If your family members have requested that you revise your plan, schedule, or budget in any way, address their requests by either agreeing to make the change or initiating a negotiation to reach compromise.
Schedule a meeting with your family and remember to keep an open mind.
Phew! As tough as this may have been, I assure you that it will be worth it in the long run.
Rather than being confused or unaware of the inevitable changes that will come into their lives due to your business, your spouse, children, and other family members will feel empowered to support you on your new journey.
So we are four down...
One to go! We are almost done!
You have got clarity on your dreams, created a plan to start walking towards it, get your budget in order and gotten your family on board.
Our last step is to set your environment up for success.