I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a little personal for me and Thom, but I feel like it’s important to know.
Not too long after we started Thankful Cow Solutions, we were eager to get on the road and travel. We’d planned to be in Denmark to watch Blizzcon, visit my parents in Florida, spend Christmas with my family in Canada, head back to Rotterdam for New Year’s Eve, and then keep going to who knows where.
Was it too much, too quick for us? I’m not sure if that’s exactly what it was, but after our week in Denmark and a cheeky week meeting up with some of the awesome peeps from Digital Nomad Kit in Budapest, we were already feeling a financial strain. Digital nomading was turning out to be, well, difficult!
It wasn’t that we didn’t have or prioritise work; we were meeting deadlines and working away, even taking on some sponsorship opportunities.
Two things happened.
We underestimated our travel budget.
Not long after we got to Florida, we were looking at our bank account wondering where the heck all our money went! We were about three weeks into our two plus month trip and seeing moths flying about. Where did our savings go and why wasn’t the work we were doing replenishing our stocks?
I genuinely don’t know how we didn’t have more money, we were working so much! And that brings me to point number two…
We were working all the time.
Like seriously all the time. Once we hit Florida, it was like this switch went off and we were working from about 7am through to 7pm with some breaks to go for a swim, eat some food, or, rarely, go to the shops with my parents.
It was so not healthy and I don’t even know what what we were doing to work as much as we were.
Looking back at this time is a bit of a blur, really. We barely saw anything of Florida, didn’t spend much quality time with my parents or their friends, and hardly had social time just the two of us, because anytime we were alone – we were working. It didn’t help that Thom was pretty physically out of commission with severe back pain for most of the time we were away.
Now that we’re back in Northern Ireland, we’ve realised how unhealthy that first dip into digital nomadism was and we know where we went wrong.
Don’t let this happen to you! And we know we won’t let ourselves get into this situation again, that’s for sure.
We’ve implemented some seriously healthy boundaries in the past four months to improve our work/life balance.
Start using a Customer Relationship Management Tool.
We’ve invested in Dubsado which lets us set up everything for onboarding a new client and introducing them to the way we work. Dubsado holds our proposal templates, contracts, welcome emails, and invoice templates. I’m sure it can do more, but we’re only just learning it! (As an aside – Moni Rocks Your Socks just did two amazing tutorials on Dubsado which were so informative, you should check them out!)
The best feature with a CRM though is that it streamlines your onboarding process. We don’t have to worry about drafting these processes for each new client, which means it takes less time for us to welcome them to Thankful Cow Solutions. Even better, we have a welcome email package which talks through our entire working relationship. Where and how is best to reach us, what our working hours are, and what to do in case of emergency work.
Setting working hours.
I’ve probably talked about these in a previous post, but setting actual hours where we’re working and interacting with clients has been really beneficial for us. Ours are 10am – 6pm Monday to Friday, UK time. Sure, there’s times when we meet with our clients outside of these hours, but that’s prearranged.
We don’t feel obligated to work or interact with our clients outside these set hours which helps us set up boundaries. There will always be exceptional circumstances and things that crop up that we definitely take action on – and don’t hold our clients accountable – but before we were practically killing ourselves to make sure we responded to a client right away no matter what time they messaged us, even if it was 3am our time.
Set up Slack channels for all our clients.
This goes along with setting up boundaries. By having our work conversations in a dedicated place, in our case, Slack, we’re not constantly getting Facebook or Whatsapp messages from clients at all hours. We’re able to set our status – working or away – and keep all our work chat in one place.
Go for a walk every single day.
Prioritising our health – both mental and physical – has been hugely important for us. We like to go for our walk just after lunch; it gets us away from the home office for 40 minutes, lets us take a breath, and talk about whatever comes up. A lot of the time it’s the perfect work brainstorm session that has actually come up with many of the Thankful Cow ideas!
Stop neglecting our fun hobbies.
We’ve started making sure that we’re having fun and practising our hobbies. When we were working all day, every day, we were miserable and not having fun!
Now, we make time for our passions. Hearthstone, Elder Scrolls Online, crocheting, podcasting, cooking, reading, heading to the spa, going for coffee…. We do it all, now!
Invest in ourselves.
Now that we’re more settled and have this awesome balance going on, we actually feel able to invest in our advancement! This is huge!! I could not even imagine doing anything of the sort when we were in Florida, I have no idea how we would have managed it.
But so far this year we’ve taken a LinkedIn course, Thom took the 5 Day VA Starter Kit Challenge, I finished up a Hootsuite course I started in September last year. Plus, we’ve lots to look forward to: a 5 day LinkedIn challenge, my first 4 week paid coaching/mastermind/group training/butt-kicking sessions, and one of my amazing clients has given me access to her brand new programme to find your purpose!
So much awesome!! I never would have ever thought I’d be able to manage 3 different courses/challenge at once, yet here we are…. Because I’ve managed to balance my life and work. Bring on April and May!
So these are the steps we’ve taken to achieve this super important work life balance.
What have you done to achieve it? Or maybe you’re currently struggling with it and feel like you can’t stay afloat. It’s okay!! We have been there.
Reach out to Thankful Cow Solutions, we’re here to help and talk you through it.
Amanda Sloan is a Social Media Strategist at Thankful Cow Solutions and a blogger at Bean & Backpack. She’s a lover of restaurants, coffee shops, and nutrition. You’ll find her talking and writing about social media, vegan food, travel, specialty coffee, and positive mindset.