For as long as I’ve been an entrepreneur, I’ve wondered whether it’s possible to achieve a true “work-life balance.”
Even when I’ve found ways to create a better balance for myself, it isn’t long before things tip to one side or the other–it’s a bit like playing seesaw with your kid, actually.
The balance is precarious, and it doesn’t take long before it’s out of whack.
Then you’re struggling to restore that temporary balance once again.
Some people are masters at this balance. Maybe they work a 9-5 and know how to switch off at the end of their working hours, and they hold firm boundaries between work and life activities.
But if you live the online entrepreneur lifestyle, striving for a work-life balance can feel like you’re setting yourself up to fail.
So what if we reset our expectations and worked towards work-life integration instead?
Defining work-life integration and why it makes sense for entrepreneurs
What’s never really clicked for me when it comes to work-life balance is how much emphasis it puts on prioritizing each thing equally.
That’s why I love this work-life integration concept so much.
Rather than striving for work and personal lives to be completely separate, work-life integration recognizes that both sides will almost always blur into one another. There’s an ebb and flow between them rather than two equal things being perfectly balanced one way or the other.
Entrepreneurs probably struggle so much with compartmentalizing work and life because it’s almost impossible to leave work at the office when the office is down the hall or at your kitchen table.
And it can be impossible to get out of your head when you’re “off the clock,” and you rely on quick response times to bring in new clients.
Rather than making yourself feel guilty for responding to an email during your personal time, work-life integration means:
-You blend both work and life into the hours you have available
-You’re proactive about making time for yourself both mentally and physically
-You respect that you don’t have set work hours and that each day looks different depending on your priorities for that day
And I don’t know about you, but when I look at it that way, something that could just be seen as a minor difference in language makes a major difference to your emotional wellbeing.
How you can treat yourself to a healthy dose of work-life integration
Much like work-life balance, there are lots of things you can do to support work-life integration.
(And show yourself some much-needed kindness in the face of the million and one things you’re juggling as an entrepreneur, partner, mom, and so on.)
- Set clear boundaries and expectations for yourself and your clients.
One of my favorite recommendations (which I include in my client agreement templates) is to set specific hours for when you’re available and establish communication rules.
i.e., only responding to emails during certain times of the day.
- Create a schedule for yourself that includes work and personal activities.
Block off time in your day for things like family time, exercise, mindfulness or meditation, catching up on personal errands, and anything else you need to get done.
It might feel funny at first, but scheduling things like “downtime” in your day will help it become an appointment with yourself that you wouldn’t break–like any other appointment.
- Make it easier on yourself by delegating tasks or seeking help.
One of the best decisions I made for myself and my businesses was hiring outside help to do the tasks that were draining all my free time.
This way, I avoid the overwhelm that was becoming a part of my daily life, and I get to stay in my zone of genius so I can tackle my businesses and personal life with more clarity and ease.
- Take advantage of technology to streamline your processes and stay in touch.
It’s amazing how much a little automation can lighten the load.
Tools like client management systems, where notifications can be automated based on your specific criteria, keep you organized and flexible.
Plus, technology can help you integrate your personal and professional lives by connecting them whether you’re away from home/your kids, or away from work.
As long as you practice moderation and focus on what’s important, technology can be beneficial in keeping all the different sides of your life connected rather than separated.
- Practice mindful scheduling.
This concept takes scheduling one step further and helps you prioritize what matters most to you.
Not everything that winds up on your schedule needs to be there, and it takes a little practice to figure out what does.
For me, this means setting goals and expectations I can realistically meet with the time I have available. This allows me to eliminate tasks that don’t need to take up space on my calendar–or in my life.
Take a look at your current workload, prioritize what needs to be done, and set clear deadlines for yourself that give you adequate time to complete them.
Mindful scheduling can help keep you focused on the tasks at hand while still providing space for self-care, which is really what that work-life integration is all about.
When planning out your day, don’t forget to factor in intentional breaks–even if it’s just 5 minutes here or there–as well as activities that bring joy and relaxation into your life.
Give yourself a better chance to succeed
Entrepreneurs are more likely to implement work-life integration successfully than work-life balance.
Instead of striving to maximize your productivity and comparing yourself to others who seem to have work-life balance mastered, you get to define what success means to you on a personal level and reflect it in the goals you set.
While true equilibrium might be impossible for you, integrating work and life can create a more harmonious ebb and flow between the two so each side of you has space to rebound and support the other when needed.
Work-life integration gives entrepreneurs a healthy range of flexibility within which you can better manage your time and workload without feeling overwhelmed or guilty when you fail to keep things perfectly balanced.
So if you’ve ever felt like maybe work-life balance isn’t for you, give yourself a little grace and try work-life integration instead.
Cheering you on!