5 Business Tools that Transformed my Work/Life Balance
We love stories here on the blog, and this post is no different. So turn back the clock abouta year ago. I was working two full-time jobs in my quest to make this studio work as the only job. It takes a lot of patience, hard work, and specific processes to make the juggle actually function.
There are a few things that I relied heavily on during 2016, that made the year even possible. I will forever be thankful for them, because without a system in place that I could get to at every moment and work with, I never would have been able to balance it all. I created a system that allowed me to work as hard as I did and keep track of everything. The system included a lot of dynamic tools such as Asana, as well as this wonderful Email to Blog feature that has since been removed from Squarespace. I had every part of my business templated, but easy to change. In the world I lived in during the "Year of Courage", as I deemed 2016, I needed to be connected digitally at every step of the way. It was a hustle, one of those "Let's see how hard you can work" kind of situations.
Let me tell you, it worked. It was a magical year, where I was able to really put myself out there as a designer, but it's not sustainable and never was meant to be sustainable. It was meant to lay the foundation. Once the framework is done, you can take a step back and re-asses.
Obviously going full-time and in a new work/life apartment that includes a second bedroom for the studio was a huge transformation. Being able to shut the door at the end of the day and put away work after 5pm is a huge advantage. It was so wonderful to be able to hustle for a year, so that I can now focus on removing the "hurry".
It's a part of so much of our lives, hurry up and order pizza for dinner, hurry up and book that client, hurry up and get your passive income in place, hurry up and automate your processes. It goes on and on, but while we can thrive and be happy in a hurry up environment, it was never the plan to continue in that way. My goal has always been to then put a pause on this hurry/hustle mentality and tone it down to put creativity and purpose into each project.
Sounds like the dream right? Well, it's not easy. It takes discipline to wean ourselves from that need for social media, that feeling like our "lazy Sunday" was not a good idea. That a book read, for frivolity was well… frivolous. Since when did reading a novel instead of a business book become bad? So many of my best creative moments came while reading, or hand quilting something . So I started to cut back slowly, and in a methodical manner so that as I go into the future, I make choices that fit the ultimate business goals of having an incredible work/life balance. Here are the tools I am using, and love to make the most intentional choices in my creative and business life.
Boomerang for Email:
Boomerang is a third part extension you can use with your gmail, that allows you to schedule out your emails. I use this in multiple ways to make a clear distinctionof what is business time and what is not. I will go into this further with one of the other apps, but I actually have a Do Not Disturb on my work email over the weekends.
Email Auto Responders:
This one is easy, autoresponders y'all are the best thing that has ever happened to the interweb. The best way to utilize them is on a schedule, giving them links to important information for your new inquiries. I have mine set up to respond to specific tags that come in from new requests from my website. The email includes a note saying we received their email, a pricing pdf as well as a link to the FAQ page where they might find some answers to questions, as well as a note saying we will be in touch within X amount of time etc.
FAQ Section on Website
This is so key, it helps your business greatly to have these all in one place. First thing is you want to have a CLIENT Faq and a PUBLIC Faq. For the public version, I have questions answered about projects, booking, inquiries, pricing etc, as well as blogging and other questions I have deemed general knowledge items that people ask. For the client version, I keep them in the cient portal in their footer, which includes a references section as well as faq. These would be all the questions that clients ask in the middle of the process. The "when do we do mobile versions of the website?" and questions, they probably were given, but as we know people might not read everything, or often forget the answers, so anticipating these and giving them the facts is key.
Kiwi for Gmail
The next thing I use to disconnect from my business on the weekend is Kiwi for Gmail. I use this because I like to use a desktop app for my mail, but like the features that gmail provides from canned responses, to the filters, plus the use of boomerang for gmail (see no. one). What I like about Kiwi, is that I use it ONLY for my business emails. I do keep the app open, beause we all know we sometimes need to write emails on the weekend. No one said I haven't stopped work all together, but keeping it at arms length is the key to starting a good relationship with that W/L balance.
Self Control App
For those of us with web based businesses, we know it can be really tough to disconnect, when half of our job includes being on the internet. Back in my print design days I would completely disconnect the internet for productivity stretches, but that is impossible in my current job. So, instead I have the Self Control App, that blocks certain websites. And when my little fingers just happen to accidentally push Command+T and then F and then Enter (aka: open Facebook in a New Tab) it tells me to get back to work by blocking the site. You can control what is blocked and give it a time length. So if you use Pomodoro it's a nice way of removing the distractions for that period of time before going back to it.
Other tips and tricks:
Remove Notifications from Social Media & Email on Your Phone & Computer.
Use a Completely Different Agenda/Scheduler for Personal than for Business. Read THIS article about how I went BACKWARDS in time for my calendars.
Use the Pomodoro Method! And don't feel like you have to stick to the original for this. On days I need this I do a Business 1hr/Housework 30 mins/Break 10/Business 1 hr/Housework 15 mins/Break 1hr model that works amazing. Maybe this should be a post in itself? I've been doing this for years and love it!