5 Ways to Stay Balanced While Building Your Virtual Assistant Business and Working Your “9 to 5”
Starting a Virtual Assistant business can be challenging —
it is time-consuming, mentally taxing, and, surprisingly enough, many people (myself included) choose to build their business while still working their full-time “9 to 5” job. So how do you find balance in the chaos of adding personal administrative and financial work, plus the awesome burden of client work, to your full-time schedule and personal life?
I’ve been doing my best to answer this question for myself in the past few months.
Not only am I working a full-time job that keeps me busy four ten-hour days per week, I also work a part-time job on the weekend for extra cash. This leaves me pretty limited with the time I’m able to dedicate to building my business, let alone for finding time to rest and think about anything besides work!
My goal is to transition to full-time virtual assisting and freelance writing and I know all of the extra work I’m doing now will pay off eventually. Since I started my Virtual Assisting business in June, I have spent a bit of time figuring out what I need to prevent myself from getting overwhelmed or burning out before I reach my objective - here are some of the things I have learned to prioritize:
1. Become a master scheduler
I usually have some extracurricular activities planned around my work schedule and if I wasn’t able to see all of my plans and commitments time-blocked onto a calendar, I would never make it anywhere on time.
Having performed in a lot of theater productions in the past, I quickly learned how to fit a lot of rehearsals and performances around my work schedule but needed a clear way to keep track of all of my commitments. For the past several years, I have kept an organized Google Calendar and this continues to be the thing that works best to keep me on schedule.
I have a few different calendars that I use to see what I’m doing in my personal life and in my business, as well as access to client calendars to stay up-to-date with important events and deadlines. This gives me the freedom to look all of my calendars at once or toggle between them to get a sense of what I have coming up in the different areas of my life.
Not only has this helped to reduce the fatigue of feeling like I’m forgetting something, but it also eliminates the stress of double-booking myself or feeling like don’t have time to complete a project. I highly recommend time-blocking your life when things start to feel overwhelming!
2. Take time off to give your brain a break
Find what works for you and stick to it, but don’t forget to take time off. During the first few weeks of learning how to become a Virtual Assistant and getting my business up and running, I was thinking about it ALL THE TIME and it seriously affected my sleep and what should have been my downtime.
One night, while lying awake in my bed in the middle of the night, ruminating on what I had to do, what I was doing wrong, and how I could be doing better, I realized that I needed to take a full day off that weekend to shut my brain off and think about anything BUT work. I’ve done my best to stick to that boundary since then.
Though I have a pretty packed schedule these days, I set “office hours” for myself and am dedicated to sticking to them. Creating boundaries like an 8:30 PM bedtime when “Do Not Disturb” mode engages on my phone, setting Fridays aside as the main workday for my business, and taking Saturdays as my designated day off has been imperative for my mental health.
3. Make time for mental & physical well-being
This one definitely evolved from the previous two priorities I established for myself. I have always been aware of my mental state and how my physical fitness affects whether or not I am feeling mentally healthy.
As my schedule gets busier, I have taken what I would consider “preventative measures” to ensure that my mental and physical well-being don’t suffer under the weight of my work commitments. For me, those preventative measures look like walking with my dog every day, a big run early on Friday mornings when I can watch the sunrise and alpenglow hit the Sierra Nevada mountains, hiking or paddle boarding on Saturdays, and journaling more consistently.
Adding these activities as time blocks on my calendar has helped me stay consistent as well! I get excited looking forward to my dawn patrol run on Friday mornings because that time feels like the most solitude I get all week long. If I don’t have a hike planned for Saturdays, looking at my wide-open schedule and thinking of the possibilities for that day is thrilling!
Scheduling fun and spontaneity may not seem to make much sense, but at a time when everything else feels regimented, overwhelming, and unstable, planning breaks for myself helps me thrive.
4. Be gentle with yourself
I turned 30 in March 2020, right after the Coronavirus pandemic shutdowns began. One of the birthday gifts I received from my photographer sister was a magnet she made featuring a moody picture taken in Rocky Mountain National Park and the words “Be Gentle With Yourself.” This has become a guiding mantra that I remind myself of often.
Now that I am taking the leap of starting my own business and have added a lot more work to my plate, treating myself gently and lovingly is more important than ever.
Beating yourself up about things you wish you could’ve done better or deadlines you missed is not the healthiest or most sustainable strategy. I have a tendency to criticize my faults and failures which overshadows my victories. My knee-jerk reaction has always been negative talk, but I am training myself to remember that I deserve grace and that I will do better next time. Give yourself a break, you deserve it!
5. Celebrate your victories!
The last priority that I have these days is celebrating victories of all sizes! Celebrating yourself can be one of the easiest forms of self-care. I don’t think I could stay motivated to do what I’m doing for very long if I wasn’t recognizing my accomplishments and sharing them with people who I care about.
You can’t spend all of your time working, scheduling your calendar, and showing up for everyone else. Taking a moment to pat yourself on the back for reaching out to prospective clients, reading an article that will help you run your business more efficiently, or even posting a blog to add value to your website is important! You’re working hard and getting shit done!
Sharing victories with friends and family who are rooting for my success has also become a great way to celebrate accomplishments, as I tend to have a hard time celebrating myself. Having my friends and family invested in my success has kept me accountable and sustained my motivation to continue building my business and to set achievable goals for myself.
Where Do I Go From Here?
Obviously, I don’t have it all figured out and I’m adapting to this new life that I’m creating for myself as I go, but creating as much peace as I can manage through the chaos has helped me maintain my quality of life and stoke my motivation from day to day.
Building a business is an exciting new adventure, but you can't create a sustainable business model at the expense of your well-being.
How do you stay balanced when life gets crazy?