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Juggling Act: Work/Life Balance and the Self-Employed Career Practitioner

by Stephanie Clark

While reflecting on this issue’s topic, an image popped into my mind. I envisioned one of those crazy jugglers who throw running chainsaws into the air and deftly catch and propel them again and again. If these performers didn’t maintain balance, they’d have an immediate and injurious price to pay!
As small business owners, the balance we must maintain is not a physical one; however, ignoring it can also have adverse consequences.
Apparently, Canadians’ unwillingness to address balance is costing corporate Canada perhaps $12B annually in work time lost to stress. Companies accrue these costs through absenteeism, as well as unproductive presence while at work leading to missed deadlines and unhappy customers.
Self-employed folk are likely just as guilty of not addressing balance. The simple truth of having to handle every task – accounting, marketing, customer service, service delivery, strategic planning, negotiating outsourced contracts – means that our time is in demand, and with limited hours in a day, it is also in short supply. Stretched too thin, we borrow time from what should be non-working hours to ensure that all our responsibilities are met.
As self-employed career practitioners, ignoring balance may not have the immediate consequences that the chainsaw juggler faces. Our reluctance to prudently juggle home and work will affect our health, our family’s happiness and our bottom line. The stress of overdoing it leads to all manner of physical ailments, proven time and again in study after study; rather than grumpy customers we have grumpy spouses and an unproductive presence at work could spell business disaster.
Don’t hide behind your long list of tasks, pretending this isn’t about you. Take action now before avoidance catches up with you; a spouse who finally gets sick of grumbling or customers that stop calling can spell disaster. Try small increments of change, one baby step at a time. Here are a few:

  • Breaks are important. Buy a timer for your office, and set it to remind you to take a morning and afternoon break. Put the timer in a highly visible spot and use it daily!
  • Eating is essential. Get someone to call you at lunch, log off from the computer and switch your phone to message mode. Eat your meal in peace.
  • Time away is crucial. Take a daily walk to clear brain cobwebs. Play “hooky” now and again. Take a holiday. Even if it is no more than a long weekend, a holiday will regenerate your energy.

  • Working in bed is forbidden! If you work at home, Do NOT work in bed. Ideally your workplace should have a door to close, but even a desk in the corner of the living room is better than one in your bedroom. Reserve your bedroom for other pursuits!


We all know that all work and no play is unreasonable, unhealthy, and unproductive. You can bet that those crazy chainsaw jugglers take regular breaks.
Next steps? Go buy a timer, ask someone to remind you to eat, assign time away in your schedule, and move work-related “stuff” out of the play room, er, bedroom!
Stephanie Clark is an award-winning resume writer, interview coach, and career strategist. Now entering her fifth year of full-time self-employment, she strives to juggle work and life with an eye to enjoying the best of both. Visit Stephanie’s website at

Stephanie Clark
Recognized within her industry as a resume expert, with work included in major Canadian and American publications – Best Canadian Resumes, Best Canadian Cover Letters, Cover Letters for Dummies, for example – Stephanie Clark serves job hunters as owner of New Leaf Resumes. Her expertise generates results for job hunters from new grads to post-retirement.

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