Ever since having kids and starting my own business, work/life balance has been a big focus of mine. And yes…I’ve absolutely gone down the rabbit hole of, “is ‘balance’ even a thing?”
And if it is, is it actually achievable AND sustainable??
As someone whose default setting is “hustle mode” (you can thank anxiety and my Type A personality for that), this has absolutely been a challenge. But I quickly realized that if I continued to brazenly go after my ambitions without tending to my well-being, protecting time with my family, and giving myself time to simply rest, I would find myself on a never-ending hamster wheel of stress, chasing my next goal without actually achieving the LIFE I set out to build in the first place.
With time and lots of practice, I’ve learned that we can intentionally create and lean into seasons of hustle and seasons of rest. In fact, when I protect my personal time and boundaries, I find I have more creative energy to tap into during those busy seasons without the extra stress and pressure I used to experience.
Now, I’ll be honest. This balance didn’t happen overnight. But it is something I believe every creative entrepreneur can achieve for themselves and their lifestyle goals with the right approach.
In this post, I’m sharing 10 essential work and life boundaries that have helped me avoid defaulting to autopilot, so I can be mindful about where and how I am focusing my energy. I hope you can borrow one or even all of them as you create a business that supports your life and protects your peace.
As a creative business owner, you get to decide when you work. But, I think after years of working in offices, reporting to bosses, and conforming to “normal” working hours ::cough cough the good ‘ole 9-5:: it’s easy to forget we have this power over our time!
Some people naturally balance life and work really well, while others struggle to find this balance. Either way, it’s important to acknowledge no one can work 24/7, and it’s up to you to find an approach that suits you and the creative work you love.
Unfortunately, I was definitely not one of those people who just fell into a balanced work/life rhythm naturally. This quickly led me down the burnout route because I tried to take on too much all at once and didn’t always know how to turn work mode “off.” Unhealthy working patterns were especially apparent during the pandemic when time and space blurred together without any end in sight!
So now I am careful to protect my time and draw boundaries around when I work. In my life, this looks like:
Another perk of being your own boss?
Deciding HOW you work.
You literally have ALL the options, which, understandably, can be equally empowering and overwhelming. You can choose to work remotely, in person, or create a hybrid version!
You also get to establish your work process with clients and team members so that they can meet your expectations and respect your boundaries.
For me, this looks like:
Requiring advanced notice through my scheduler. No one can book a meeting with me less than 48 hours in advance unless they ask me directly. This helps me keep my commitments manageable without last-minute things popping up, leaving me feeling stressed and out of control.
Establishing clear turnaround timelines. I am NOT going to scramble at the last minute just because someone else would like me to. This is a tough one for my fellow people pleasers, but I’ve found the expression, “poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine,” to be my mantra in these moments when I have to hold the line and stick to my turnaround policies. Taking this to heart has changed the way I work. Now I set expectations for minimum turnaround times. And I stick with them. Because it’s NECESSARY for my mental health.
We live in a time where everyone is accessible at the touch of a button at a moment’s notice. As a result, it can be hard to unplug, disconnect, or remove yourself from the constant demands of emails, phone calls, text messages, and more.
Setting clear boundaries around communication helps me stay organized and allows me to cut down on overwhelm. But perhaps more importantly, streamlining my communication truly helps my mental health and protects my peace because no one can be “on” all the time. Managing business communications also allows me to be present with whatever I am doing, whether I’m playing with my kids, enjoying dinner with my husband, coaching a client, or diving into a project with my team.
Access levels. As the CEO of your creative business, you dictate who gets access to you and the level of access they have. Some people might get instant unlimited access while others get limited access. Not everyone SHOULD have all access to you at all times. You get to choose who gets what from you and when. One of my favorite reminders to help me hold this boundary is: If everyone is a priority, no one is a priority…especially you!
Communication Types. It’s important to determine how people get access to you. Not everyone needs to have your phone number. Do you want them to text you, call you, Voxer you, email you, DM you, Slack you, or message you through your PM (project management) system? DEFINE what works for you, communicate it, and stick to it. Opening up ALL the lines of communication can be as overwhelming as drinking from a firehose. So, manage it, and protect the areas you don’t want to open up. For example, I hate texting for work and try to reserve my text inbox for family and friends. I am, however, willing to text via Voxer as this helps me keep my work communications separate from my personal conversations.
Establishing a single point of truth in my business has saved me countless times!
What is it?
A single point of truth is simply about establishing and clearly communicating ONE place that people can go for all answers or needs.
My team and I use ClickUp to manage all of the systems that run my business (I am an operations expert after all). I even have a few clients in there for larger projects. As far as I’m concerned, if something isn’t in ClickUp, it doesn’t exist!
For other simpler clients, I just use a basic Google spreadsheet. But either way, I make sure to establish the single point of truth with clients early on. This reduces confusion and unnecessary communication leaving everyone happier, more confident, and more organized.
Quick Disclosure: The ClickUp link I shared above is an affiliate link, which means when you click the link and make a purchase, it won’t cost you more, but I may receive a commission for sharing this with you. I promise I only ever share what I use and love, so I’d be sharing these with you anyway!
Take time off from your business! Whether that’s a big vacation or just a few days to step out of the weeds, you NEED this time outside of your work. I truly believe it is sacred and should be treated as such!
For me, time off is essential for my mental health. If I go too long without taking time off, I find myself feeling extra distracted and anxious. Not only does this impact my work, but it also has a negative impact on my home life. This causes a ripple effect, and as a result, I don’t get to show up as the present mom and wife I want to be for my family.
So, I carve out time in advance throughout the year, make it a non-negotiable, prep my clients and team in advance, and put that OOO email autoresponder up.
Negotiating prices can become a slippery slope, and it’s a surefire way to overstep your boundaries and undercut your profitability. When it comes to pricing, my rates are defined by ME and me alone! Over time I’ve come to learn that if people aren’t comfortable with my prices, that’s okay! In fact, it’s become a major red flag for me that indicates they are NOT my dream client!
I’ve been down that road before, and today I confidently choose to only work with people that value me, my experience, and my expertise! If I’m not the service provider for them, they probably weren’t a good fit for me anyway!
While I cannot offer this as blanket statement advice because every business is different and some industries actually require negotiating, I can say that for my business, price negotiating doesn’t have a place because it adds unnecessary stress and doesn’t feel aligned with my values as a business owner.
You get to decide what your priorities are at any given time. These include what you value most in your life and business. No one can establish your priorities for you, so it’s up to you to get clear on yours so that you can set the appropriate boundaries, make aligned decisions, and manage your life and business accordingly.
In different seasons, you’ll find that some fluctuate, evolve, and even change while others remain constant. You have the right to change priorities as things change in your life and business or as you move through each season.
So how to CHOOSE your priorities?
You can absolutely have more than one priority…BUT be cautioned.
If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority!
For me, my family is my TOP priority. They are my why and the reason I wake up and do this work every day. It’s all for them. So I weigh any and all opportunities that come my way with them top of mind.
In addition to my family, my top three priorities include: Health and Fulfillment.
Health, because if I am not physically and emotionally well, I cannot show up for my family, my clients, and most importantly, for myself and the things I love to do.
Fulfillment is important to me because reaching my definition of success in my business is something I closely identify with– it’s the achiever in me!
This next boundary is an extension of one of my top priorities: family. One of the ways I prioritize my family, and other important relationships is by intentionally carving out quality time together.
I am careful to schedule-in and prioritize quality time with my kids and husband. This kind of quality time is the most important thing to me right now, especially while my kids are young, and I base literally all of my business decisions around this time together. In my opinion, if it costs me our time together, it’s too expensive, no matter the opportunity.
Of course, there are gray areas and tradeoffs. This isn’t always a hard and fast, black-and-white rule, BUT being clear on this priority allows me to more easily create and choose opportunities that align instead of ones that don’t.
It is so important to protect and prioritize your health. But as creative entrepreneurs, it can be all too easy to fall into the trap of getting so absorbed with our work, passions, and responsibilities that we neglect our health.
NO work is more important than your health or well-being. I’ve taken steps to ensure that my both my mental and physical health come before my work.
I KNOW for a fact if I’m not good, my business isn’t good. I also know if I’m not good, it affects my family, which is always going to be my top priority.
I leverage the flexibility of my work-from-home lifestyle and the control I have over my time and energy as a business owner to make time for daily walks, nourish my body, and meet with my therapist so that I can regularly tend to all aspects of my well-being.
I’ve saved one of my favorite boundary-holding tricks for last. This phrase:
“Let me consider it” is pure GOLD!
It means you never have to say yes on the spot.
Instead of feeling pressured to make an in-the-moment decision, responding with these four words offers you the buffer, the time, and the space you need to weigh your options and reflect on how the opportunity impacts your priorities.
It’s so much easier to make decisions both comfortably and confidently when you allow yourself the time and space to process. This, in turn minimizes the dread of doing things out of obligation and gives you the opportunity to go back and “negotiate” or find a compromise for something that’s truly a win-win for you both.
I think of it as my handy power move!
As you evaluate and establish your own work and life boundaries, I hope you keep in mind that while boundaries tend to bring forward images of fences, intended to keep things OUT, in reality they are protecting what you hold most dear and keeping them close!
Once you establish your own priorities and the boundaries that will protect them, you’ll be able to spend your time intentionally, preserve your energy, feel in alignment with your work, and ultimately be an active participant in creating not only the business but the LIFE of your dreams.
The best part is, most of the changes you adopt to maintain your boundaries aren’t heavy lifts! Most are simple but powerful changes that will make subtle but impactful differences in the way you work, live, and engage with the world!
If you’re interested in truly building your business around the vision you have for your life instead of the other way around, be sure to check out my upcoming course. It’s a self-paced business course specifically for creative entrepreneurs like you that will teach you all the business “stuff” you didn’t learn in art school while ensuring you build a business you LOVE that supports you, your values, and your lifestyle. You can add your name to the no-obligation waitlist here.