a balanced life: running a business alongside a 9-to-5

Ever wonder how other women create a life that feels balanced, intentional and fulfilling?
A Balanced Life is my new blog series in which I interview mentors, makers, creatives and others who are intentionally seeking to live a more balanced life.
We talk about living life without the hustle, resisting norms around productivity + busyness, and about consciously making the choice to live life more attuned to your own rhythms, energy, needs.

Living a balanced life running a business next to a 9-to-5

To start off the series, I’m interviewing myself. 🙂

Astrid Bracke on running a business next to a 9-to-5.

I’m a work-life balance mentor supporting women to set boundaries, live in tune with their energy, and generally create a more balanced life.

I started my business in 2019 by organising local workshops around energy, work-life balance, routines and goal-setting.

In early 2020, just before the pandemic hit, I decided to take my business online and more international.

I provide 1:1 mentoring and write about work-life balance in my newsletter and through my blog posts. Next to running my own business, I work part-time as a teacher in higher education.

Find out more about me, read my blog, sign up for my newsletter and discover how my 1:1 mentoring can help you create the work-life balance you long for.

What does living a balanced life look like for you? What does a day in your life look like?

I’ve really had to cure myself of the need to always be productive. Until a few years ago I would always think about the way in which I spend my time in terms of productivity.

Living a balanced life for me means trying to organise my days as much as possible around the things that I find most important: taking daily walks, leaving time and space for reading and following my energy in the work that I do.

I’ve really had to cure myself of the need to always be productive.

My days vary quite a bit depending on whether I’m working on my own business or whether I’m working in my part-time teaching job.

There are a few things that I try to stick with no matter what’s on my calendar, though.

Reading before work

The first is taking 30 minutes every morning before work to read. This means that I usually don’t actually sit down to work until 9:30 or 10, but reading first thing in the morning makes me feel calmer throughout the day.

It also really strengthens my intention to organise my days less around work and work-tasks, and more about the other things that fill me up, such as reading.

Being pro-active about my working hours

I’m also increasingly pro-active about my working hours: I set my own hours for my business and 1:1 mentoring calls, but I have now also set my teaching job-calendar to no meetings before 10. I’ve also stopped cramming lots of appointments into my days.

Daily walks

And finally I try to take a walk every day, even when it’s grey and raining. I’ve learned that walking is really important to my mental health, and I’ve made it a non-negotiable.

Building and running a business next to a part-time job means being really clear about when I do what.

Building and running a business next to a 9-to-5 job has meant being really clear about when I do what.

I’ve got set times and moments when I work on my business, and have blocked these out in my calendar.

At the same time, I don’t work on my business at all (including social media) on Wednesdays, which is my busiest teaching day.

Generally I try to keep my own expectations low when it comes to working on my business outside of the moments that I set for it. This makes running a business next to my 9-to-5 more manageable. It also means that I can really follow my energy to rest when I need to, and work when I feel inspired.

What inspired you to live this way? Which choices and changes did you make?

I used to be all about productivity and used to be really good at working really hard.

But a series of mental health challenges forced me to make changes to how I work and live, and especially what I expect of myself.

I’ve become quite radical and generally non-apologetic about the way I work. I don’t keep my email on during the day, for instance, and only check in once or twice to read and reply to emails. I don’t work in the evenings because I know this makes it hard for me to sleep.

I’ve become radical and non-apologetic about the way I work.

One thing that has been really important in changing how I live is learning to listen to my body.

For the longest time I didn’t really know how I was actually physically feeling. It didn’t matter much to me. Anxiety, depression and burn-out have taught me that checking in with my body is the fastest way of figuring out how I’m feeling.

Cycle tracking, and especially the work of Claire Baker, Natalie Daudet, Maisie Hill and Jen Wright, has been a huge help. It has taught me so much about my energy patterns, and is slowly giving me more permission to rest when I need to.

What three strategies would you suggest for readers who also want to live a more balanced life?

1. figure out what makes you feel most fulfilled during the day. It might be having quiet ten minutes to yourself, reading a book, or doing a craft. Pioritise that and experiment with putting it first in your days.

2. set clear boundaries around when you’re working and not working (e.g. around working hours + availability; around when you’re checking email; etc.). Communicate them through your email signature or an automated reply. Mention on social mention when you’ll be unavailable, for instance when you’re signing off for the weekend.

3. if you’re running a business next to a 9-to-5, be very clear for yourself and your clients/customers when you’ll be working on the business. What are your business working hours? When do you still have time to rest or do other non-work things?

I hope you enjoyed this peek into A Balanced Life.

Want to find out more about setting boundaries, following your energy, living a balanced life and generally creating the work-life balance you long for?

Read my blog for ideas, sign up to my newsletter for exclusive strategies, or get in touch about 1:1 mentoring support.

I’ll be posting interviews every month or so. Do you have a suggestion for A Balanced Life? Would you like to be interviewed? Great! Send me a message. I’m always looking for inspiring people to feature.

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