July 25, 2016

10 Ways To Keep Your Balance as a Business Owner

I think there is this thing that happens when you own your own business and become your own boss. You go into it because you can set your own schedule and work from home and never get out of your yoga pants if you want to! Put your sensible corporate black heels on the top shelf of your closet….it’s Uggs all the way for you, baby! :) And in SO many ways, working for yourself is one of the greatest, most satisfying, exciting things you can ever do. Justin & I are SO grateful that we get to work together and travel together and build things together and go on this adventure together every single day.

But owning your own business can also take its toll. Spending too many days in a row in yoga pants can take its toll. Having work hours that blur into one another and countless hours at a computer- your desk covered with empty coffee mugs and Lara bar wrappers- can take. its. toll.And the fact is, somewhere around your fourth day in a row in yoga pants and your 117th episode of the Law & Order SVU marathon you’ve been putting on while you catch up on editing…..you can start to feel not so human anymore.

And that’s the catch 22. We started this business because we want freedom and adventure and to break the rules of normalcy. And all of that is amazing. But somewhere in there, I think at our most basic human level, we crave some structure & routine & to feel normal too. We’ve been learning this slowly but surely, and over time we’ve figured out a few things that we can do every day to give us back some of that normalcy but still allow us to be the great adventurers we want to be too! Here are a few of our favorite ones, in no particular order.

1. Make your bed every day. It sounds silly and small, I know. But a few things happen when you start out the day this way. First, you feel like you’ve accomplished something right off the bat. And that productivity is contagious….it’s a small win that spurs you on to get even more stuff done. Second, it brings order to the room. And that order is calming. Which is a great way to head into the day. And finally, I just find that I sleep better at night when I’m crawling into a bed that has been made rather than a tangle of sheets and pillows. And that sets me up for a good day the following day.

2. Clear the clutter. Speaking of order creating calm, if I ever find myself feeling anxious & distracted, 9 times out of 10 it’s because our work area/house is a mess. And it’s a mess because we’re actually here 24 hours a day, unlike people who go off to a day job. If I will just take 30-45 minutes to go through the house & do a quick straighten up before I try to tackle any work, then suddenly I feel like a) I’ve accomplished another thing and b) we are people who actually have it together and now I can accomplish anything. Even better: try doing this quick clean at night before you eat dinner/take off for the night. It will make dinner more relaxing & you can wake up to a clean house/work space rather than having this on your list first thing.

3. Have a morning routine One that doesn’t involve email! Before I ever delve into email or the work of the day, I like to start my mornings for me. I wake up around 7am and put coffee on (this in itself is such a relaxing ritual for me with grinding the beans & prepping the coffee maker). I cozy up with a blanket, sip my coffee, do a little bible reading, put on some good music, and start my day slow. When you start the day in email, you start the day with a million people pulling you in every direction before you’ve even had the chance to wake up. And that sense of being spread too thin carries throughout the day. Starting the day for yourself, fills up the tank so you can be more for other people. This morning routine is a relatively new change for me & I can tell you that it’s making a TON of difference!

4. Write your “Win the Day” list the night before. The “Win the Day” list is something I’ve been using for years now that is basically the 3-5 things you want to accomplish in a day (as opposed to a super long to do list that no one ever finishes). And even if nothing else gets done, if you can finish those three to five things, then you can call that day a win. But something that I’ve been realizing as I do this, is that if I will sit down and write out tomorrow’s list the night before it does two things: 1) first I know exactly what I need to work on when I sit down at my desk the next morning and 2) it helps to calm my brain as I should be turning off for the night. Writing it down gets it out of my head!

5. Take breaks throughout the day. Go on a walk with your dog, drink your afternoon coffee in quiet rather than on the go, sit somewhere and close your eyes and breathe. Study after study after STUDY has shown that regular breaks throughout the day make you so much more productive. And it helps you to feel like you’re not chained to your computer.

6. Shower & get ready. When we were at conference recently, I had a bit of an a-ha moment: I was getting up & getting showered AND getting ready every day. And I felt a million times better. When I work from home on the other hand, I’m (usually) showering but then I’m skipping the getting ready part because I’m just going to be working from home. So why put in the effort? And that has meant a LOT of days in yoga pants and buns on top of my head. And I realized that even though that sounds amazing, it was actually taking a toll on me. I just started to feel blah all the time and that’s how I was approaching every day. When we ran out to grab lunch or run to the bank, that’s how I was approaching other people too. When I shower & actually get ready, I feel better and more productive. And then I act that way too.

7. Download. On a very regular basis, sit down and write out everything that’s swirling around your brain. Keep it somewhere safe like a notebook dedicated to just this. This way your brain will know that it’s somewhere safe and it won’t try to keep track of everything, which keeps it constantly racing.

8. Have designated days Have set days when you do your grocery shopping & run errands. Have set days when you do all of your meetings. Have days when you sit home & edit uninterrupted. This will foster focus in your life. And help eliminate those days where you feel like you just ran one place to another and never really got anything done.

9. Keep a notebook with you I pretty much always have a notebook with me in my purse. It never fails that as we’re going somewhere or running to pick up something or grabbing lunch, suddenly my brain starts spinning with a hundred things I need to do. Having the notebook means I can write it down & then forget about it for the time being rather than trying to remember it all.

10. Shut down for the night. We like to have a couple of rituals, if you will, to signal to our brains that we’re shutting down for the night. I’ll shut my office door or Justin will turn out the light in his, I’ll light candles, I’ll turn on music for us to cook to, we’ll have a plan for what movie we’re going to watch that night or where we’re going to go. Having that ritual & that reward to look forward to makes us work harder when we should be to get everything done & then it helps our brains to shut down for the night and actually feel rested when it’s time to turn off.

We hope this helps if even in some small way!! Here’s to chasing the adventure…AND feeling like you have a life!

  ** So tell us, which one of these 10 are YOU going to try this week?? Here’s to finding the balance!

**PS: if you need even more help running your business like a BOSS, check out our J&M Ultimate Wedding Bundle just added to our store!!


  1. Lauren Swann

    Oh Mary, this was literally exactly what I needed to hear right now!!

  2. Anna K.

    Love this Mary, thank you for sharing!!!

  3. Shaina Koren Cinematography

    Thanks for posting this, perfect timing. These tips are so helpful, especially when you’re trying to incorporate all positive daily practices into your life. Really appreciate you writing about this.

  4. tonya damron

    i find myself doing a lot of these and not doing a lot of these…getting ready when i get up is a BIG fail! But when I do it totally changes the day because I’m read for everything

  5. Meg

    Thank you SO much for this… it’s both comforting to know that others deal with the exact same issues owning their own business AND that they’re finding ways around it! I love all these tips. I’m going to book mark this and try it out! :)

  6. Vanessa Chupp

    It’s too often that the feeling of ‘go work hard without stopping’ creeps in and everything else in our personal lives drop to the way side with the excuse of later. "I’ll make the bed later, I’ll get the groceries at some point this week… I’ll eat lunch later after these emails (mean while it’s already 4pm and all you allowed yourself time for was coffee for breakfast)". It’s no wonder the days end more often in a pile of anxious mess throwing itself into bed only to toss and turn until morning. The funny thing is I’m sure all 10 of the things you’ve listed we’ve talked about needing to do to make our lives better (and in effect our business too!) Thank you for sharing this today and reminding me : )

  7. Sarah Bradshaw

    I already do a lot of these— some of them have been in place for years (the morning routine), some of them are newer (downloading, win the day lists, notebooks with me, etc). The two that I REALLY need to start are "Clear the Clutter" and "Take Breaks." Absolutely planning on adding this to my new daily plan/routine! Thanks so much for sharing. So helpful.

  8. Alyssa Eckhart

    I just want to say thank you very much for this post. It was like a fresh breath of air for me! I’ve read many different posts from others about how to embrace this life of running your own business, but none impacted me like yours did. I do these strategies everyday but sometimes I get a little lazy and stuck to my computer because there is so much to do! Reading this really encouraged me to keep moving forward but also to take care of myself at the same time because it’s important to feel good about where you are in life so you can accomplish greater things where you are. It’s nice to be reminded that others out there understand. So again, thank you for this :)

  9. Jackie Lamas

    wow! these are so true! especially number 6. it really makes you feel blah when you don’t actually get ready and put your make up on or what have you. when you get ready, it makes a difference the whole day. kinda preps you. i have to try number 10… i’m terrible with this especially when i take my ipad into bed with me.

  10. michelle

    Thanks for sharing !! i like number 4 :D

  11. Kelly Green

    LOVE THIS!!!! Just what I needed to read :)

  12. Jil

    ok, so last week we made the bed every morning! it was an amazing way to start the day – you’re right, we felt a sense of accomplishment right away! follow up question: i want to change my to-do list to be more like your "win the day list" – but i’m curious what you do with your larger tasks that you need to keep track of, but aren’t going to be done in one day. do you have a separate list? SO MUCH LOVE!

  13. Jan Will

    Love your idea "Win the day" list. Definitely should do this! Thanks!

  14. Allison

    this advise is gold! I just quit my corporate job and started my photography business and have definitely dippied into the yoga pants and chocolate for breakfast phase :)

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