June 28, 2016

The Best Things We’ve Done for Balance in our Business

Good morning!

This past weekend, we took off Friday through Monday to first go celebrate our 12 year dating anniversary by riding some roller coasters at Cedar Point, and then to go visit my Dad in West Virginia where we finished everything up with a sunset boat ride. And what an awesome time it was!

There was a time in our business where I think the idea of taking four straight days off in a row would have given me major guilt & anxiety. But over the past few years we have worked really HARD at seeking balance in our lives, and not just defining our success in terms of how the business is doing, but by how ALL the areas of our life are growing and thriving. It does me no good to be a total workaholic and build a successful business, if I don’t have a LIFE as a result! Or as I’ve said in the past, I didn’t quit a 9 to 5, to work a 24/7.

And it really got me thinking about what were some of the best things we’ve done to build that balance back into our lives when the business started to take over. I wrote down a few of my favorites & I thought I’d share them here with you guys too. Y’know, just in case anyone out there is looking for a little more balance in their lives! :) (Who isn’t??) Here they are! (PS: the photos are from Snapchat…don’t judge! :)


1. Shut off by 6:30pm. Hands down one of the best things we’ve done for getting some balance back in our lives from the business, is shutting down for the night at 6:30pm. At around 5:30, we’ll both start winding down what we need to do for the day. For me that might be my last round of email & creating my “Win the Day’ list for the following day. And for Justin that is probably getting to a good stopping point on culling or uploading images. But we both start preparing to end the day around that time so that come 6:30pm, we can close down the computers. put away the phones, and get into “home” mode. One of our favorite ways to start switching into “us” time is to cook dinner together. We’re usually still feeling like we’re in work mode, so all that chopping, boiling, and grilling helps refocus us on being home.

2. Set an email hour.
Like I mentioned above, around 5:30 I’ll start tackling my last round of emails (the second of 2) for the day. I try to do two focused half hours of email each day, and I’ve found for me that works best if I do one around 11:30 am and one at the end of my day. Most people are also winding down their days or making their way home, so I don’t get a ton of immediate replies back right away. And I can also end the day with a zeroed out inbox, which helps me go into that “home” time without a ton of things hanging over my head.  And the flip side of that, is that this is the latest that I ever want to be sending out emails. I used to be on email til all hours, replying back at 10 or 11pm. But then I realized that people weren’t respecting our home life & boundaries because *I wasn’t*. So now, even if for some reason like we’re traveling I do have to write my emails later than 7pm, I will save them as a draft and send them out the next morning. And I typically don’t respond to emails on Sunday at all.

3. Walk it off.
I’ve found that I’m most productive when I have a chunk of a task that I can complete from beginning to end in about 25 minutes (check out our post on the Pomodoro technique & BeFocused App HERE). And then that always needs to be followed by a mini-break of some kind. So when I have a big task to complete like a wedding blog post, I’ll break it up into the culling, the editing, and the blog prep. At the end of each section, I walk away for a little while and do something fun. Which for us, is usually taking a walk on the sea wall with Cooper & Atti. We’re really lucky that we have such an awesome place to walk right out our front door & we make a ton of use of it. I always find that when I come back from even a 5 minute walk, I’m refocused, recharged, and ready to tackle the next thing. When I just try to work straight through the day without stopping, I get really stressed out, cranky, and I find it really hard to wind down that night.


4. Create a signal.
Another great trick that we’ve learned is to create some sort of space just for working that also has some sort of “off” signal. So for example, we each have our own offices and at the end of the day we can turn off the lights and close the doors. And just flipping that switch, also helps us mentally switch into home time. But if you don’t have your own office (we didn’t for years!) it can be as simple as having a lamp that you switch off or putting your laptop into its case. Just something that says, work is over for the day!

5. Find some brain occupying hobbies.
If you’re anything like me, even if you’ve wrapped up everything for the day and turned off work….your brain still keeps on running. And it can be really hard to get your mind to stop racing about all the things you still need to do. One of the only things I’ve found that works for me when I get like this is to either read a good book you can’t put down or watch a show that really pulls you in (like Nashville or Bones!) Basically, I just need something to distract my brain from work and sometimes the only way I can do that is by giving it something else to do until it calms down.


6. Realize that rest is a “to do” too.
I’ve started to come to a realization these past couple years: rest is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. It’s as crucial to our business as workflow and marketing. And if we don’t want to burn out then we have to have that balance. Given that we realize how important rest is, we need to make sure it’s on our to do list right alongside the editing and the blogging. If we put priority on those things, we need to do at least the same for the rest that keeps us going.

7. Remember why you wanted to be a small business owner in the first place.
And this is the biggest one for us. We got in to having our own business so that we could work from home and be our own bosses. So we could set the rules. Write our own story. And live Life Un-ordinary. And we need to remember that. So when things are getting a little too hectic or we’ve been working too much, we’ll take off for a movie matinee. Or take a long lunch. Or start the day with brunch. We’ll work from our backyard or the beach, or go off on an adventure somewhere not knowing where we’ll end up. We’ll enjoy being home. The fireplace and the couch and silver “M” that hangs on our wall. Because that’s why we started this in the first place.

And it makes everything else that goes into running a business worth it.

Happy Pancake Day!


  1. Girish

    Great pointers, specially the last one.

  2. Urška Majer

    Love all of these. I started with the number three a few weeks ago, since i have quite a lot to study for exams and i agree…it’s amazing how much more motivated you can be with just a few minutes walk with the four feet best friend :)

  3. Tiffany Farley

    Love this! Also, if you use gmail as your email hub, boomerang just became my new favorite plug in. It lets you send emails later, brings follow up stuff back to your inbox, etc. Hannah suggested it because im always email responding at night, and I really love it. :)

  4. Alli McWhinney

    Love this, M! So many good tips, thanks for sharing!

  5. amanda hedgepeth

    Everyone needed to read this! I spent my first two years in business consumed and overwhelmed, and this year? I turn around weddings in 4 days and have my life and family back <3 LOVE YOU TWO!


    #3 So important! Since I’ve started doing this I’m so much more productive! I usually grab some fizzy water, a book and sit outside for 20 -30 minutes. That little escape has kept even the most stressful days in focus. Really great post! Thanks!

  7. Gail

    AMEN on the reading a good book/watching a good show pointer! Have you read The Fault in Our Stars yet? That’s become my new No. 1 recommendation for friends. I got so lost in its pages, I don’t think I looked up for an entire weekend!


  8. Nancy Ray

    Love this so much. Thank you for sharing! #7 is definitely something we can so easily lose sight of!

  9. Dan Speicher

    Great advice. As a new husband, with a wife that works, I have to remember to be available to her, or it may feel like I’m shutting her out. I’ve started sharing my week schedule with her so that she knows when I have a wedding, and what I have to do to prepare before hand, and deliver on the back end.

    The biggest thing that has helped is shutting my office door at 7 so we can relax together

  10. heather

    Amen! I also take walk breaks with the puppy and it is amazing how much it helps! Still working on shutting off at a good time though :)

  11. stephanie

    these are awesome! my mid-morning breaks are a 10 minute walk to a coffee shop. gives me something to look forward to and some exercise! and i love your last point. a very good reminder! -S

  12. sharon elizabeth

    Resting is SO hard to do, right?!?! I’ve LITERALLY had to write ‘OFF’ on my calendar… it helps me stay on track with giving myself days off!!!! Great post M

  13. René Tate

    Ahhh! Love this. Please post more about your workday schedules. This is so greatly helpful. :)

  14. sarah danaher

    Sooooooo so helpful!!! I’m going to try walking breaks… I think that could make a huge difference in my day.

  15. Sarah

    Thanks for sharing–so incredibly helpful!

  16. Dajuan

    Seriously, I really need to work on ALL of these!

  17. Rici

    Love these Mary, especially no.6 is helpful for me right now. Thank you dear!

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