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Online businesses are amazing because you can work on them from anywhere. They give you tons of flexibility.
But, because your business is always accessible, it’s easy to let it consume your life. Especially when you’re working from a smart phone.
You might sit down to watch an episode of something with your spouse in the evening, and bring your smart phone along with you. You think, I’ll just quickly check my email and make sure there’s nothing major to deal with tomorrow.
And while you have great intentions of putting the phone away when you’re done, before you know it you’ve:
- Check some stats on Facebook and responded to some comments
- Examined your stats in the WordPress app to see if your social posts this week affected your page views
- Realized your client made some changes to your post in Google Drive and quickly scanned through them
- Responded to two or three emails that weren’t urgent
- Browsed pins on Pinterest looking for inspiration
By now, your show is over and you have absolutely no idea what happened in it. Your spouse is also frustrated, because you’re always on your phone.
Tell me it’s not just me?
I love the technology that has made growing an online business possible. But, addiction and accessibility are two major disadvantages.
Your to-do list for your business will never be completely checked off. There is always something you can do. A new idea to implement, a new marketing technique to try, a new post to write.
Even if you get done what you wanted to for the day, there’s always something else pulling for you attention. Your business can consume every minute of your day that you let it.
That’s why you need to set boundaries for your online business.
Honestly, this is something I still struggle with. I’ll be doing well for a season, and then life gets crazy and I have to work later, or start knocking out more tasks on my smart phone.
And there are times when your business just needs more attention, especially if you’re getting ready to launch a product, onboard a new client, or work through details of a project.
Balancing work and life is a juggling act, not a balancing act. One ball will always be up higher.
But your business shouldn’t always be the one floating up there. It’s easy to get so used to working all the time that it becomes second nature, and something that doesn’t really bother us anymore.
It should though.
No business is worth ALL of your time.
So here are some strategies I’m using now, or have used in the past, to help set boundaries for my online business.
Remove Your Business Email From Your Phone
Are you constantly checking for new messages in your inbox? It’s so much easier to do from your phone. Having to pull out your computer, especially if it’s when you’re supposed to be relaxing or spending time with your family is much harder.
Instead of just picking up your phone and making a few clicks or swipes, you’ve got to wait for your computer to boot. And then wait for your internet to open and your mail to load.
If you have decent internet it won’t take you as long as it takes me, but it’ll still take longer than doing it on your phone.
I’ve discovered it’s much easier to wait until I’m supposed to be working to check my emails on the computer. It’s not as tempting to me, nor as accessible.
Your business won’t shrivel up if you don’t respond immediately to an email sent after hours. So if email pulls you as much as it does me, take a deep breath and delete that account from your phone.
You will still have it on your computer, whenever you need it. You can even still manually log in on your phone if you get to a point where you need to work away from home from your phone.
Give Yourself a Quitting Time
When I was a teacher, it was easy to pace myself and plan to have all my work done by quitting time. I knew when I could leave, and once I left, work stayed there. (I taught special education, so there wasn’t a whole lot of grading that needed done…)
But since I’ve launched my business, I’ve found I don’t really have a quitting time. I can work whenever I need to or want to.
And while that is good, it also means I work much more than I really want to at times. So do yourself a favor and give yourself a quitting time each evening. When are you going to walk away from work for the night and button it up for the evening/weekend?
Put a reminder on your phone to go off five minutes before. Then wrap up what you’re working on and log off. Your work will still be there for you in the morning.
This time off will give you time to refresh and recharge your batteries. Your work will be easier when you come back to it, because you won’t be burned out.
If you work with clients, be sure to let them know what your typical hours are. Otherwise, they might take advantage of you, and expect you to be at their beck and call 24/7. That’s not healthy. I have my hours written into my standard VA contract, and haven’t had a problem with any of my clients overstepping.
Focus On the Task at Hand
Multi-tasking can be handy, but it shouldn’t be what you do all day long. If you’re supposed to be spending time with your kids or spouse, don’t try to sneak some business tasks in there too. Everyone will know what you are doing, and may even resent you for it.
So don’t bring your smart phone along to Family Play Time. Don’t keep it with you on the couch while you’re watching a movie for an at-home date night.
Likewise, if you need to write an article for your business and you need to focus, pick a time when you can give it your attention. For me that’s early mornings or quiet time. The writing process goes much more smoothly if I’m not trying to do a bazillion other things all at once.
Make your plan of the day, and set your priorities. Then focus on each task as you get to it. You will be more productive!
Do you know how many times a day my phone used to beep or buzz?
Every time I’d get a new:
- Twitter follower
- Pinterest repin
- Instagram and Facebook like or comment
I’d get notified. And I’d be drawn to check. The noise beckoned me, tempting me to pick up the phone and quickly see what happened. But, usually my “I’ll just take a peek” turned into a full-fledged several minute distraction.
It wasn’t enough to just see the notification on the screen. I had to open the app to read the comment or see which Pin got some traction. I had to open the email to see if it was important.
And before I knew it, time was wasted that I’d never get back.
Now, my notifications are minimal. The only ones that make noise are when I get a text, because pretty much only people I actually want to talk to text.
Decide what notifications you actually need, and shut the rest off. They’re just a distraction from what you need to be working on.
Put Your Phone Away
I no longer charge my phone right by my bed. It’s too tempting to do a final “one last check” before bed. And that means my phone was often the last thing I’d see at night and the first thing in the morning.
That’s way too much screen time! And the light makes it hard to sleep anyways.
So now it’s away a bit. It’s not as easy to grab for. It’s amazing – I once again feel like I have time to read before bed, because I’m not tied to my phone.
I also started putting it away during Family Play Time, and when I’m having special time with one of my kids. It’s not fair to them for me to be distracted, but it was too tempting to have it out.
Now it gets plugged in while I go enjoy time with my kids.
I’ve also started putting my phone away during almost all my meal prep times. I’m cooking from cookbooks more, because I discovered I was way too distracted in the kitchen when I was constantly looking for new recipes or reading comments. Why I felt like I had to read all 57 comments for a recipe I don’t know, but I always did. All the comments…so much wasted time!
Give Yourself Buffers
When a deadline is looming, you’ve got to give your business a little extra attention. Otherwise you’ll get a bad reputation for not being reliable.
To keep deadlines from overtaking your entire schedule, give yourself limits. Know how many posts you can knock out in a day. Realize what days are too busy for working.
Then set your deadlines accordingly.
And always, always give yourself buffers. I try to get posts done at least two days before they are due. Then if life happens, I haven’t actually missed the deadline.
Don’t overbook, and be realistic when taking on new work. You only have so much time each day, how do you want to spend it?
Remember You Are a Work in Progress
Growing an online business takes time. And it’s easy to feel like if we just give it more of our time, it’ll pay off faster.
But, is it worth the cost?
Remember the tortoise and the hare? Which one won that race?
You’ll be taking care of yourself and your family if you don’t give all of your time and energy to your business. I know it’s tempting, and it is something I struggle with.
But, each day is a new one. If you worked too much yesterday, forgive yourself, pray for help setting boundaries (or sticking to them), and try it again. You are a work in progress, and will continue to improve each day that you try to.
You are more than your online business. Don’t let it consume you!
Want more tips for growing a sustainable business as a busy mom? Check out my course, Balancing Diapers and Deadlines. It’s bite sized lessons will help you boost brain power, minimize decisions, and get more done!
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.