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Having a successful blog can be a dream come true. You get to work from home, write and curate material about a subject you love dearly, grow creatively, connect with likeminded people, and devise brilliant new business models for monetizing your efforts. Plus, you get to say lines like, “They like me! They really like me!”
But running your own business – and that’s just what running a blog is, if you get right to the heart of it – can be overwhelming, and it can be hard to have anything resembling work-life balance when it all comes down to you. How, then, can you stay productive while still having a life?
The secret: give yourself strict limits, work as hard as you can within a set time frame, and close your laptop. To get started, we recommend reading this great productivity guide for a few great tips that will keep you on top of those daily tasks, and also taking these top 5 tips to heart as well.
1) Master Your Inbox
Whether it’s a standard technique like Inbox Zero or a hybrid of a few, mastering that inbox is key to work productivity. But that doesn’t mean instantly answering everything that comes through; in fact, even taking one minute for a quick reply can seriously interrupt workflow, especially if multiplied across many emails across the day. Instead, consider turning off access to your inbox with apps like SelfControl or to your internet entirely with Freedom.
Then schedule time to check your email like it’s just any other task, immediately replying to, labeling or filing each one, rather than letting them pile up. If you use Gmail, use labels and filters to automatically categorize and file regular email types; an industry newsletter, for instance, you might not need to read immediately, so it’s fine to archive it before it hits your inbox, and you can read it at a later time. You’ll be amazed how much more quickly you’ll process email when you do so in batches.
2) Learn to Say No to Coworkers Who Demand Your Time
Perhaps you run your blog with a partner, or maybe it’s guest posters and advertisers who demand a lot of your time. Whoever it is, being in business for yourself means learning how to say no. That’s easier said than done at first, because most likely you’ve grown your blog by saying yes to any opportunities that came your way. But now that you’ve got a good sense of what you’re good at, what you enjoy doing, and what does and does not work for your blog, don’t be afraid to turn things down, or to at least delay them to a later date when you might have more time. If it helps, think of your time like an orange. There are only so many slices to give out, and when each slice is gone, there isn’t any getting it back. Do you want to spend your life giving it away for free, or do you want to get something in return, and have time for your family and for yourself?
3) Set Specific Boundaries
All of that said, the most likely time thief is you. You can see it right in the term: when you work from home, it’s so hard to draw the boundaries between work and home. Perhaps you regularly decide to clean out the tub to avoid doing the accounting, or maybe it’s “just sneaking in” another hour of work after the kids have gone to bed…and pushing back your own bedtime by an hour, leading to a groggier tomorrow. While it may be tempting and sometimes even helpful to blur those boundaries, it’s best to set a very specific schedule and stick to it. It may feel weird at first, but try building downtime into your schedule, whether that’s planning a lunch date with a friend or just a regular slot like, “Chill Out Friday Afternoons” or, “Do Something Special with the Kids Wednesday Evenings” that you can fill as you please.
The same goes for your physical space, too. Try to work in an office, not from bed, and establish clear rules about the time of day family members can disturb you, so it’s not just open season on your time. You’ll be surprised at how accommodating and thankful the people you work and live with will be when you set and clearly communicate those boundaries, rather than lashing out as you feel yourself losing control.
4) Let Go of the Desire for Perfection
Our culture has created a ridiculous idea about what it’s humanly possible for working moms to do. We’re supposed to be super successful at work and always be there for the kids with peanut butter cookies and do it all in heels. While walking backwards. And singing. But the only people who can actually do that are hiding a secret…They’ve got extra help. These days, you don’t have to be wealthy to get at least some of the same resources on your side. While asking relatives to babysit or help you cook is always an option, don’t be afraid to outsource domestic duties like housecleaning, or work duties like data entry to someone online. Virtual assistants are becoming increasingly trustworthy and popular options as well. If you’re worried about the expense, think of how much you can make in an hour if you’re working and compare that to the time cost for doing that chore. If, say, you make $50/hr, and you know it will take you three hours to clean the house, that’s $150 right there. How much would it be for a house cleaner? And for a little peace of mind.
5) Don’t Feel Guilty About Not Working
Yes, when it comes to your blog, it is all down to you. But that doesn’t mean that the blog is going to explode if you take a break once in a while – and we’re talking vacations here, too, not just sleeping at night. If you need more justification, just remember that taking breaks is rejuvenating, and you can only push yourself so hard before you need a recovery. Chances are, when you return to work on the blog, you’ll have more creative ideas than before you took your break.
Additionally, when you’re really feeling drained, take a step back and evaluate all of the activities in your life for how much they give and how much they take. Have you outgrown anything? Is there something that used to give you more and now is just a mental drain? Don’t be afraid to let go, even if you’ve committed to something. Because your energy is like an orange, too. Save a slice or two for yourself.
Running your own blog is an exciting and stimulating adventure, and it’s a great means for independence, too. But if you are your brand, you have to keep that brand healthy and relaxed. So, close out of that email, kick back, and let go once in a while – for the blog’s sake.