A work-life balance is important for everyone, but it’s especially hard to come by as a contractor. But what is it? How do you find it? We’ve got the answers you need to become more productive, and happier, while on the job.
What is a Work-Life Balance?
The idea behind a work-life balance is simple - basically, there are times when you’re working, and times when you’re not, and you should have enough of both to be the happiest and most productive you can be. No one wants to be working all the time, but obviously there’s value in the jobs you get. Working too much, though, is more than just annoying and tiring - both the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and the American Psychological Association recognize that the stress of non-stop work schedules can actually make you sick, leading to you being even less productive while you recover.
A work-life balance is the boundary you create between the work you do and the life you lead so you don’t get to that point.
Why are Contractors Different?
Attaining a work-life balance is especially hard for contractors, but why? Don’t you work and live like anyone else?
Well actually, no. While you own a business, have clients, do customer service and maintain a website like anyone else, you probably don’t work anything close to a ‘regular 9-5’ schedule. Most of your work doesn’t get done in an office. You don’t have a boss monitoring your hours, and the issues that you fix at work are also issues that come up around the house (when’s the last time someone else did your home improvement?). All of which makes it incredibly difficult for contractors to separate ‘working’ and ‘living’ hours to get that healthy work-life balance. But in the end, the extra working hours you’re putting in are actually what’s keeping you from doing your best work, and might be what’s making you feel tired and stressed.
For office guys and contractors alike, the elusive work-life balance has become so challenging that there are entire websites devoted to learning it (see worklifebalance.com, for instance). But instead of adding the work of an online program to your schedule, we’ve pulled all the tips you need and organized them down below. And if you’ve mastered a work-life balance already and have tips to share with other contractors, leave them in the comments!
Work-Life Balance Tips and Tricks
- Track your time: for at least a couple of typical days. Most of us don’t realize just how much time we spend doing any one task, but once you’re aware you can start to make changes and start weeding out things that are taking up too much.
- Buy a calendar: or use the one on your phone. Either way, block off the time you need not just at the job-site but also planning, talking to your employees on the phone, and working through agreements with your clients. It’ll be easier to see the free time (if you have any, that is).
- Schedule in downtime: Once you have a calendar and you can see where there’s room for free time, schedule it in the same way you would a job-site visit. Even if it’s only 30 minutes, if it’s on the calendar, it’s more likely to happen. Make sure you’re really taking a break (no emails!).
- Consolidate and delegate: as many tasks as you can. Are you spending 1.5 hours driving because you run to Home Depot 3 times a day? Keep paper with you to make a list and cut it down to one longer trip. Or, send an employee, so you can keep doing the stuff only the lead contractor can do.
- Consider hiring: especially if you’re overworked because you don’t have enough, or the right, support for all the work you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be a full-time employee who can do everything you can just having someone part-time to run errands or do deliveries. The money you pay will be well worth the time you save.
- Set realistic goals: and stick to them. You don’t have to make drastic changes to feel a lot better - sometimes it’s just taking off one night a week, or taking an hour lunch break without responding to emails until the hour is up. No matter what, a little relaxation can go a long way, and being realistic can help you build healthy habits to improve your life and business.