4 Ways to Have a Life Outside Your Business

If you’re not recharging when you’re outside the office, you won’t be productive inside the office. Here’s how to reclaim your downtime.

By Alexa von Tobel

Are your weekends your own?

Think about it. What did you do on Saturday and Sunday? Catch up on emails? Put out a few business fires? Or finally slog through those household errands you didn’t have time to get to during the week?

If you returned to work Monday feeling more ragged than refreshed, you don’t really own your downtime–and that’s a problem.

You already know that taking breaks to refresh your mind is good for creativity and productivity. But I’d be willing to bet that most entrepreneurs have trouble putting this into practice. It starts by reclaiming your downtime. Here are four tips to do just that.

Schedule “me time.”

Me time is different for everyone. But regardless of whether it’s cooking, going to the gym, or relaxing at home with a book, make sure that you’re getting it in. For me, Saturday is my quiet time to kick back with a magazine or get a 10-minute chair massage so I feel like I did something nice for myself. It’s often how I find inspiration. For that reason, Saturday is my free day and I give myself permission to do absolutely nothing.

Set clear expectations.

Being the founder and CEO of LearnVest means people ask a lot of me during the week. I hate saying no and letting them down, but I’ve found saying yes to everyone means saying no to myself and the things I care about. Over time, I’ve learned to say no politely and with sincerity. Recently I had dinner with a few girlfriends. Since I’d said I’d be busy from the outset, no one was upset about the fact they hadn’t seen me in a few weeks. However, if I’d tried to appease them and make plans only to cancel at the last minute, that would have been worse. It’s just important to set expectations, and I do it with everyone from family to friends and even my husband.

Keep separate calendars for work and play.

Even on paper, my professional and home lives stay separate. I use several email accounts and separate calendars so I can see at a glance what my weekend looks like. If I check my personal email and see I have four errands to run, then I’ll know to power through so I meet with some friends. Since my husband and I have limited time and work similar hours, we throw things in each other’s calendar all the time. Again, it’s about setting clear expectations.

Outsource what you hate.

If the weekend rolls around and you find yourself running all these awful errands, try outsourcing them. Personally, I love doing laundry. But it takes up to four hours, which isn’t a good use of my time, especially if I haven’t slept, gone to the gym, or seen family. If you find yourself dreading certain chores, pay someone else to do them and find a way to save money elsewhere, say by bringing your lunch to work. The point is to filter out what you dislike and don’t really enjoy and maximize the things that you do love because, let’s face it, the rest of the week you’re maxed out.

ALEXA VON TOBEL is the founder and CEO of LearnVest.com, the financial-management and lifestyle website. She was recently selected as one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs and highlighted in Inc.’s 30 Under 30 list of cool young entrepreneurs.

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