WW#012: Work-Life Boundaries

How’s your work/life balance looking these days?

I talked recently about the need to take regular breaks from work, and it generated some interesting conversations within our network: primarily, what to do when you know you need to take a break from work but you’re a victim of your own success, there just isn’t enough hours in the day, never mind taking a week off!

It’s a common problem. You work your backside off to get business and truly deliver for your clients, only to create a rod for your own back. The client gets used to you being available and to having direct access to you, and because you care, you find it hard to change the dynamic.

Here’s a bold suggestion – make yourself less accessible!

Now, I don’t mean you should start ghosting the person who’s paying your company bills, but I do mean introduce some boundaries.

Start slowly. Stop answering emails on the weekend. Let your client know that you won’t be answering comms after 5pm on a Friday. If you can, stop answering emails after hours during the week. Look at them, by all means. Draft a response, but don’t send it until a time that suits you (or use the schedule feature). Get the client out of the habit of expecting an out of hours response.

If you’re taking a week off, give your client plenty of notice that you won’t be available. Loop them into a conversation with the member of your team best placed to look after them when you’re off. Set your out of office. If you absolutely must check your mails, fine. But if you respond to them, understand that the message that you’re sending out may erode the boundaries you’ve started to put in place. If you don’t respect your own rules, how can you expect anyone else to?

Of course you’re going to get pushback. Clients love knowing they can get hold of you at any given time and there will always be situations where you are needed urgently. But if you help with forming new habits, introduce processes, like ticketing systems (that get a more timely and developed response), then eventually your clients will get used to the new boundaries you have in place.

Implement those boundaries with any new clients and let your team pick up the slack. You owe it to them, your clients and to the business to be on your A-game, and you can’t perform at your peak if you’re burnt out.

If you still don’t think that would work, or the idea of switching your phone off for an evening gives you a panic attack, then ask yourself why that is? Could it be that you need your clients to need you?

We all like to feel important, and when it’s your company it’s easy to believe that it will all fall apart without you there to keep everything running. But if that really is the case, then you need to take a serious look at your business foundations! Have you really put together a team and systems that can’t manage without you, or are you worried that your workforce is so good that you’re starting to feel like a spare part?

Everything I’ve said here requires some pretty serious self-reflection (& I did joke with my actual clients that this was not written with them in mind!!), but you may need some new thinking to create an unshackled life in a business that thrives without you necessarily being in the day-to-day (in fact your business will thrive more as a result of this!).

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James Potten


On a mission to democratise entrepreneurship by providing access to best practice, helping startups sustainably scale up.