Office Hours: The Key to Finding Balance as an Entrepreneur
As the result of a mishap a little while ago, we posted over on Instagram about the need for instituting what we now are calling “House Rules.” These handy little guidelines serve to improve the quality of our business operations, and therefore our lives, as female entrepreneurs.
We asked our IG tribe what rules they’ve instituted for themselves and our friend over at Bohemian Blooms commented:
“I’ve had to stop answering my phone after working hours. Entrepreneurs need time off too. When we answer our phones or call clients back when we’re ‘supposed’ to be done for the day, we aren’t creating balance for ourselves or boundaries with our clients. Of course if something is urgent, it is understandable.”
Her comment definitely struck a chord with us because we know firsthand that when you are passionate about your business, especially in the beginning, you want to work day and night to achieve success. This is even more true for those who have a full-time 9-to-5 job, children, school and/or other obligations, because time is limited and evenings and weekends are likely the only time available to work on your business.
The good news is that regardless of your situation, you can still implement some practices that will help reduce the stress of always feeling behind or keeping your clients waiting.
Here are 3 tips for using office hours to help you find balance as an entrepreneur:
This may sound silly if you don’t technically have an “office,” but hear us out. We all need work/life balance, but we also understand the very real challenges of trying to grow a new business. So we want to help you determine your office hours as a two-part exercise.
Set office hours for the following:
#1 The actual hours of the day that you will work on your business. We get it. If you’re not a full time entrepreneur, it just isn’t realistic to only work on your business Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm. But, you can set hours that are realistic for you.
For example, if you work your day job, pick up the kids from school, and get them through their nightly routine and into bed by 8:30 pm, you may want to give yourself a 30-minute breather and work on your business from 9 – 11 pm. You may also be able to take advantage of your lunch hour and tackle some tasks during that time as well. Or maybe you’re a morning person, and you wake up early enough to give yourself an hour or two to put in some work before you start the rest of your day. Whatever the case may be, figure out what hours work best for you and write them down.
#2 The actual hours of the day that you will interact with your clients. Depending on your situation, these hours may be different from #1. Going back to our previous example, just because you are working on your business at 11 pm doesn’t mean you need to interact with your clients and customers at 11 pm. As much as clients love to do business with hard working people, you stand to increase your level of professionalism by communicating with them during traditional business hours. This will also help you set boundaries with your clients so they aren’t inclined to contact you after hours, or even if they do, they won’t expect to hear back from you after hours.
One tool that is very helpful with communicating with your clients during traditional business hours when you can’t actually do so is an email scheduler such as Boomerang. Boomerang allows you to schedule email delivery so that even if you are writing your emails at midnight or on weekends, your clients will never know because they won’t receive them until standard business hours. Bonus: Some phones and apps also provide the ability to schedule texts!
Now that you’ve set business hours for yourself, communicate them to others! Set expectations with your clients by making sure they’re well informed about when they can expect to hear from you.
Pro tip: don’t forget to include your time zone when communicating your office hours. We live in an age where so many of us work with clients all over the world, so indicating your time zone is definitely key.
After you spell out your working hours will some clients continue to contact you outside of your biz hours? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean that you have to answer or respond at those times. And if you inform them of your office hours up front, they won’t expect you to.
You’ve also go to communicate them to yourself so that you don’t forget! Consider:
Reminding yourself of your office hours will definitely help you stick to them.
You’ve set them, you’ve communicated them, and now it’s time to stick to your office hours. I think we all know that sticking to them is the hardest part because it’s in our nature to be so passionate about our businesses and wanting to succeed. We’re superwomen, so we often want to be all things to all people all the time. I don’t know about you, but I’m insanely guilty of this. But if we don’t establish these boundaries around our work, we’ll eventually run ourselves into the ground and we’ll be no good to anyone.
Of course, you should still remain flexible. Will there be times that you work and communicate outside of your office hours? Of course. But that shouldn’t be the norm. Utilizing great resources and having strategies in place should increase your efficiency, allowing you to work smarter, not harder, so that you can achieve your goals in a realistic and healthy time frame.
If you haven’t set office hours yet, hopefully we’ve inspired you to do so! If you have set them, leave us a comment below about how instituting office hours has helped your business and life.