Setting Boundaries ~ Office Hours and Other Self Employment Issues

One of the most difficult things to do when you're self-employed is set boundaries. When your office is in your house, it's so easy to sit down for "just a minute" and end up working for 3 hours solid.

I'm glad my office is at home. When I get home from a ten hour wedding day, I'm glad I can pop my cards in and start downloading the images. I can sleep well knowing that they're automatically being backed up to our cloud storage system. But I have to resist the temptation to sit down and start looking through the images, because after a long day like that I need to REST.

Yes, I really mean it when I say that it's a temptation to work too much. I LOVE what I do and as soon as I get home from a wedding or a session I want to dive in and SEE the images. It makes me all giddy to look through the work I've created and find those money shots!

But I have a husband. And as much as I love my clients, he's more important to me. I want our marriage to be strong and that means putting boundaries in place to protect the time we have together.

So here are some of those boundaries:

  • Email - I'll check and answer email 2-3 times throughout the work day. This will enable me to answer my clients quickly while being a little more efficient than stopping to answer an email right when it comes in. My goal is always a prompt response, but I just can't keep answering emails that come in at 9:00 pm. 
  • Office Hours - For the most part, I'll be in my office and working from 8 to 4 on week days. Sessions will be scheduled to take advantage of the best light at a chosen location, and my office hours will change from week to week depending on how many sessions and weddings I have. Saturdays will only be work days if I have a session or wedding scheduled.
  • UPDATE: One thing I love so much about running my own business is the spontaneity. I love being able to go on afternoon walks with my friends and their sweet munkins. I love taking the day off to bake. So I won't be nailing down set working hours that will be consistent from week to week. But, emails and phone calls received during work hours will be answered within 24 hours. (Weekend messages will wait until Monday.) 
  • Taking Days Off - The whole point of working for myself is that I love what I'm doing and I love setting my own schedule. So I'll be taking at least one day a week off as well as all the federal holidays. (At least all the ones Ryan gets off.) That way on work days I'm WORKING and not trying to juggle laundry, grocery shopping, and baking cookies too.
  • Stopping at 4 pm - I've always considered myself more of a baker than a cooker. And I think that's because it's more fun to make a sweet treat than to put a dish together when you're hungry and tired. And when I got home at 6 and rushed to throw a quick meal together, I really hated cooking. So my goal is to stop working at 4 pm so I can put on a cute apron, crank up the tunes, and ENJOY making dinner.
  • Wedding Weekend Rules - Wedding days are long and tiring, so a little extra planning is necessary. The day before the wedding (usually Friday) is prep day. My main goal is to get all my gear ready, information printed, and have my bags packed and ready to go. And then I get to relax. I want to be full of energy on Saturday, so I need to be focused towards that on Friday instead of trying to hurry and finish something else. Sunday is always a day off unless I have a wedding. That's reserved for church and family time. And Monday is reserved as a culling day. I sort through all the wedding day images and narrow them down to the best ones, the ones I'll deliver to my client. And then we order takeout and chill all evening. (Ok, so that's not a firm rule, but that sounds like a good tradition to start!)
  • Limit Social Media - Some days I'm convinced social media will be the death of me. But it's one of those necessary evils. I use Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for my business and marketing, with a little bit of Pinterest and Instagram thrown in (although those accounts are mostly personal). That's a lot of potential for wasted time. So I need to be strict with myself. Get on, do what I need to, get off. 10 minute timers, whatever works.

I'm sure throughout the year I'll need to adjust some of these rules to be more gracious or more strict on myself, but I'm a planner and I'd rather set myself up for success than find myself burnt out in 6 months.

I apologize if this was the most boring blog post ever. Here, want to see something cute? Check out #ourlittleyellowhouse covered in snow. And a dorky picture of me in the middle of our street right before we walked a mile in the snow and wind to our friend's house. Yeah, I'll have to cover that on Monday.