️Episode 046 – 3 Tools To Protect Your Work Life Balance as a Consultant (part 1)

When you look at the top reasons why independent consultants choose to leave traditional corporate jobs, their desire to achieve a work-life balance ranks high among the list. You left corporate because you want to drive your own schedule, to have more time freedom, and independence, to set your own priorities, to take more vacation.

Despite this vision, what ends up happening is you get bogged down by the day-to-day and your schedule is constantly hijacked by all the things.

This is definitely not what you intended to create but it’s possible to correct this imbalance. Listen in as I share the 3 specific tools that you can implement to protect your work-life balance.

I want to help you get out of the trap of feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and unfulfilled. 

The first step is to start putting an infrastructure in place to protect the work-life balance.

First, download the Life Balance Playbook that goes with this episode: https://www.melisaliberman.com/balance-playbook
Listen in as I share the 3 specific tools that you can implement to protect your work-life balance:  

  • [07:38] What most IC think the fix is to obtain work-life balance
  • [10:18] Tool #1- The Ideal Schedule  
  • [15:45] Tool #2 – Guiding Principles
  • [20:59] Tool #3 – Exception Management 


Ready for help figuring out how to apply these strategies in your IC business?

  • I invite you to book an IC Success Blueprint call with me.
  • On this call, we’ll dive into your business, get clear on your goals and challenges and determine an action plan for you so that you can create the business impact, income, and flexibility that you desire. 
  • To book yours, please visit https://www.melisaliberman.com/ic-blueprint.


  • Click here to download the WORK-LIFE BALANCE PLAYBOOK


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**note: This is an automated transcript, so please ignore spelling errors and grammar mistakes*


Welcome to the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. I’m Melisa Liberman, a fellow IC and business coach. On this podcast, I teach you to become a consistently booked independent consultant without becoming a pushy salesperson or working 24/7. If I can do it, you can too.


listen on to find out how. Welcome to the podcast, I’m so glad you joined me today because today we’re going to talk about the three tools that you can leverage to create and protect your work-life balance as an independent consultant. And the reason why I wanted to talk about this today is I’m prepping for a presentation that I’ll be giving out a virtual Summit hosted by the mom project. And it really got me to thinking, you know, more in-depth about what is work-life balance and why is it so hard for us as consultants to protect that work-life balance. And, you know, that’s one of the reasons why we left corporate, we wanted more work-life balance, I don’t know about you. But that’s definitely one of the main drivers for me to stay as an independent consultant for the last 10 years is the ability to manage and drive my own priorities. So, for you, if this is one of the reasons why you became an independent consultant and stay in this business, it’s so important to start putting this infrastructure in place to protect the work-life balance, which is one of your main drivers. So today, I want to share with you the tools, three tools specifically that can help you protect that work-life balance. Because here’s what I hear all the time, I became an independent consultant because I want to drive my own schedule, I want to have more freedom and independence, I want to set my priorities, I want to have more free time, I want to take more vacation. But what ends up happening in practice is we get bogged down by the day to day, you may be experiencing this to the client is constantly Hijacking My schedule, there’s no time to work on my business, much less have work-life balance, because I’m so knee-deep in my client delivery work. Or you may relate to this; I don’t want to take time off right now. Because I would be leaving money on the table, I’ve got a client a bird in the hand; I better work as much as possible to kind of stockpile like a squirrel stockpiling for the winter. But then the summer never comes. You never take a step back and say I’m not in stockpiling mode anymore. And so it’s like this hamster wheel that just keeps going and going and going. And you create this dynamic for yourself of really thinking you can’t fit it all in; you can be a business owner and deliver for clients and have a personal life and be able to spend time with your family. But it is possible. We want to get out of that trap for you of feeling exhausted and overwhelmed and behind and failing and unfulfilled. Like so many of us do when we’re in this mode of not taking a step back and really figuring out what is work-life balance. And how do I achieve that and purposefully, purposefully implementing it in our lives and in our business. You know, I really hit rock bottom. I might have shared this with you before on the podcast, but my rock bottom from a work life balance perspective, I can see the picture so vividly. I was working with a client. It’s a startup, right, very chaotic, constantly. Some new fire happening constantly haven’t planned ahead. So there’s some fire drill going on, or some kind of impromptu thing that the client wanted to do. And I just went all in on their chaos. I was in the mindset that came from working in corporate of I should always put the client first I should always be responsive. I should always, you know, do my best to figure it out. And what ended up happening the rock bottom was this, you know, it’s the middle of the day, I had planned to take time off to take my kids to the pool for like, you know, an hour and a half. I’m driving back from taking them to the pool where I’m pretty sure I took a conference call while they’re in the pool. But that’s not the that’s not the rock bottom. The rock bottom is I’m driving the client wants to have a meeting or impromptu meeting. I’m like okay, I can figure this out. You know, the kids are like ages six and under probably at this time. It was so Several years ago, and I’m driving, and I’m trying to have this meeting with the clients, I literally have my laptop open on the seat next to me, and just kind of listening to the, you know, to this video conference and trying to participate as best I can. And of course, the kids start fighting in the background. So I pull over to the side of the road, and I get out of the car, I don’t even know if I turn it off, that’s dangerous, and put my laptop on the hood of the car and continue to have the meeting. Because it’s less noisy, being on the street with all of the traffic going by then it is in the car where my kids are punching each other. And then I realized like, this is definitely not what I intended to create here. And you might have done that too, in different ways, right? It may be something similar to what I described, trying to juggle everything, or it could be your own version of this rock bottom. But whatever it is, I can assure you that if you’re like most independent consultants, you’re in some form of imbalance as it relates to your schedule, where you’re, you’ve put so much emphasis on client delivery, because of course, we want to make our clients happy, of course, we want to deliver results to our clients. Of course, we want to be responsive. So that, you know, we’re thinking that they’re going to, to really value us more because of that. But at the end of the day, we’ve completely gone off the rails and not have that balance that we were looking for when we initially started our business. And the reason why we continue. So that’s what I want to help you with today, that rock bottom, wherever it is for you, whatever you’ve hit from a rock bottom perspective, whether it was last week or four months ago, whatever it was, let’s figure out this fix for you, I’m going to share these three tools that we can use to start putting your work life balance back into balance. So let’s just talk about what most consultants think the fix is, first of all, and what it isn’t. And then I’ll share with you those tools that you can use to create work life balance. And I’ll give you a little teaser as well is that there’s actually another part to this formula, these three tools. And another really important part to the formula that I’ll share with you next week. So this is part one of your work life balance process. And stay tuned for next week where I’ll share the rest of it. I couldn’t fit it all in today. It’s so good. Okay, so with that, let’s first talk about what most consultants think the fix is, most of us think something around the lines of it will get better. I’m just going to power through until this client work eases up, I’m just going to power through and tell some milestone is reached in the project. And then things will go back to quote unquote, normal, I’m just going to power through until I get through this client. And then the next time all do better at establishing boundaries and expectations, which as you know, rarely happens, right? You just repeat the same patterns over and over again, because that’s what you’re used to. And what you create on autopilot is basically all of these things that we think are the fix are kicking the can down the road. So that you can do what you’ve always done and feel better because you think it’s going to improve later. But it’s really not going to improve later. Unless you do something intentionally to adjust your approach. And that’s what these three tools are about. So we don’t want to wait for these conditions to improve. Because at the end of the day, we know they’re not going to improve unless you change something about the way you’re approaching your business. So let’s talk about what the solution is. So we know what it isn’t, it’s not going to fix itself. It’s not going to fix itself by the next client being friendlier to work life balance. That’s not what the fix is, what the fixes are. These three tools that I’m going to share with you today, along with a strategy I’ll share with you next week. So let’s focus on the three tools today that I want to help you implement in your business and ultimately in your life. I’ll tell you what the three tools are and then we’ll dive into each one of them. The first is setting forth what is work life balance for you by way of an ideal schedule. So I’ll tell you what that means here in a minute. The second tool is creating your guiding principles around the way you manage your calendar and the 24 hours you have in a day. And the third tool is exception management exception management ahead of time We all know there’s going to be exceptions. And a lot of times we feel like we’re just at the victim of the exceptions. What I want to share with you in this tool is, when we dive into it here in a moment further is how you decide ahead of time, so you’re actually in control of it and not a victim of it. Okay, so let’s dive into the first tool, the ideal schedule, I just did this. This week. Again, I do this every probably six months in my business, sometimes quarterly, especially for me, I have kids who are still in school. And so things change for me pretty dramatically between the school year and the summer. So I tend to do this at least twice a year, if not more often. And what I want to share with you is what this ideal schedule is and how you can implement it in your business. And I’ll give you a couple of examples here, mine and the clients. So really what this is, is sitting down on a piece of paper and mapping out your ideal week. So you know what you want to fit into the week. And it’s literally a math exercise. How are all of these things that I have? It’s like a puzzle, right? I know what all the puzzle pieces are, I have free time that I want to have with my family, I have exercise that I want to do, I have client meetings that I need to conduct, I have lead generation for my business, whatever your puzzle pieces are, you’re going to write all of those down. And then you’re going to literally put the puzzle pieces into the slots of your calendar. I like doing this on my iPad with my Apple Pencil, just like drawing all of this out and figuring out how does it work? How does the math work in terms of fitting the puzzle pieces into the calendar and the 24 hours that I have in each day? And what is it 168 hours? Not doing the math here very quickly, but roughly 168 hours that you have in a week? What does that look like? Ideally? And does it look to you like balance, you get to decide, right? You can spend one hour a day with your family, and 20 minutes a day doing something for yourself like exercise or meditation or walk it whatever you like to do, you could literally spend an hour and a half a day doing those things. And the rest of the time working or sleeping and feel like you’re balanced. Another person might want four hours a day with their you know, personal life, family, and four hours working and that feels balanced. It is your definition of what is balanced. And you getting control of it and mapping it out and asking yourself, How does everything I want to do fit in? And is this the ideal for me and being really honest with yourself because I guarantee having done this over and over again. Not everything fits. Not everything fits. So, then you make the decisions about your priorities ahead of time versus in the moment. In the moment, you’re almost always going to defer to whatever the fire is, you’re almost always going to defer to whoever’s yelling loudest, you’re almost always going to defer to an oftentimes people pleasing versus knowing ahead of time, what is the ideal look like? And is this for me balanced? And why is it balanced? Why do I think it’s balanced? That is what you want to map out. I did this with a client recently. And we went through this whole process. She did all of our puzzle pieces, what are all the things she wants to fit in. And then we start she started mapping it into her ideal week. And it was so incredibly apparent. The math wasn’t even close. And by that, I mean when she took up all of the hours in the week, there were still half of the puzzle pieces left. And it was frustrating for her she wanted to fit in all the puzzle pieces. But only 50% of the puzzle pieces fit into her week into her ideal week. And no wonder she was feeling burned out. No wonder she was feeling like she was behind. No wonder she was feeling like she was failing. Because every week she thought she could fit all of those puzzle pieces in. And instead, the math told her only 50% of them would fit in. And so knowing that ahead of time, and making those decisions ahead of time about what you’re going to do and what you’re not going to do. And managing your mind to not feel bad or guilty about the things you’re not going to do is the key here, get ahead of this versus letting it happen to you. We’re putting a proactive ideal schedule in place. That’s essentially your blueprint, your blueprint for how you’re going to set priorities for the week, your blueprint about how you’re going to manage your schedule, your blueprint about what recurring things happen on your calendar ahead of time so that they’re mapped to your priorities. and map to what your version and vision of work life balances. So that ideal schedule is so important, it’s so important that I decided to create a playbook for you a work life balance playbook, I have put a picture of my own ideal schedule in there. So you can see an example of this. And you can go download it, we’ll put the link in the show notes. But it’s Melisaliberman.com, forward slash balance. So go download that. So you have this exact workbook. And you can follow along with what I’m telling you verbally. Okay, so that is the first tool, map out your ideal schedule that you decide is balanced, and then use that as a blueprint as you’re planning out your week. The second tool that I’ll share with you is something that I call guiding principles. So this is you writing down the guiding principles of how you decide not only you decided that ideal schedule, but going forward, what are the rules that you want to put in place for you know, when things come at you. So for example, this is so eye opening, to write it down to use as a way to decide in the moment what you’re going to say yes to and what you’re not going to say yes to. So part of your guiding principles is that ideal schedule. But in more detail. What it is, is things like just some examples here, as a guiding principle would be things like I work on my business, not client work on Fridays. So I work four days a week could be your guiding principle. Another guiding principle for you could be I never schedule meetings before 9am. I never scheduled meetings between three and four o’clock. But you know, for me, that is one of my guiding principles. Usually, I do make exceptions for it, which I’ve planned ahead of time why I make those exceptions, but I never scheduled meetings from three to four, because I want to have that open in case I need to go pick up my kids most of the time, my husband picks them up from school. So I don’t, that’s just becomes bonus time for me. Another guiding principle that an example for you would be I schedule time to work on my deliverables every day from 9am to 10am. Because I know that’s when I’m freshest. I do not schedule meetings during nine to 10. Because of that, write down what those guiding principles are as you document your ideal schedule. And as you think about your business and the way you want to operate your business and your life. So it gives you a structure from which to, you know, using that ideal schedule along with these guiding principles gives you that structure to decide what you’re going to say yes to and what you’re not going to say yes to. So it’s so incredibly important to really write this down so that you have visibility into what you’re doing, you know, in your brain as as you decide what am I going to say yes to and what I’m not going to say yes to, it’s in black and white on your paper, the thing I’m going to warn you about are something that I call poison thoughts. Be aware of these poisoned thoughts about your guiding principles about your ideal schedule. They are things like I will figure it out. I can fit this all in somehow, I get it all done eventually. Those types of thoughts are poison thoughts. Now, yes. Are you someone who figures it out? I’m 99.9%. Sure, That’s true. If you’re listening to this podcast, you’re someone who figures it out? Are you someone who can fit it all in somehow? Theoretically, yes. But in actuality, going back to that example, with my client, when you actually look at the stark reality of it, the answer’s no. There’s no way you’re ever going to fit everything in. So you better have a blueprint upfront about what ideal looks like and what your guiding principles are, because we’re never going to hit the ideal every time, right? So what are your guiding principles, and stop lying to yourself that you’re going to fit it all in somehow? Because number one that thought I can fit this all in somehow? Well, it seems very positive, in actuality, makes your calendar management very lazy. You don’t have to make the decisions ahead of time, about your priorities and what you’re going to say yes to and what you’re going to say no to, because you tell yourself, I’m going to fit this all in somehow or I’ll figure it out. It just makes kicks the can down the road. And ultimately, priorities are put upon you versus you deciding your priorities. These are poison thoughts because they sound really good, but they’re not true. And they end up putting you into a position where you’ll never have any work life balance because you’re just reacting to everything that comes to you. And most likely your propensity is to say yes, I’ll figure out the other stuff later and soon you literally have no time left for anything on the personal side or for your business. So that second tool is establish your guiding principles, write them down, understand how you’re managing the time that you have, and what those guiding principles are so that you can create the greatest amount of impact for your clients. So that you can leverage the amount of time that you have every week to its fullest and the way that you want to manage your time to feel balanced and fulfilled. And that you’ve got a good way to basically intake things that are coming at you, and have written it down ahead of time, so that you’re not reacting in the moment, which reacting in the moment usually leads to saying yes, and some thought around, I can figure it out, which puts you behind the curve, and ultimately sacrifices the work life balance. So that is the second tool. Again, go download that playbook that I created for you, Melissaliberman.com/balance, because I will give you those examples in there so that you have a starting point for things to consider as you’re writing out your guiding principles. And then thirdly, the tool that you’ll want to implement as part of this playbook for yourself. This work life balance playbook is what I call exception management. We all have exceptions, right? There’s going to be times where there are things that conflict with your ideal schedule, there are going to be times when people ask you to do things, or you want to do things that conflict with your guiding principles. So, then the question is deciding ahead of time how you’re going to manage those exceptions, the worst way to do it is throw your hands up and say it’s out of my control. I’ll just do what everyone told me to do, and figure all the rest of it out later and do better next week, that is not going to get you to the work life balance because it will happen to you over and over again. And again, you’re just kicking the can down the field. Right? So this third tool, is you writing out what’s going to happen when my client stakeholder when the owner of my contract, when my client sponsor asked me to rearrange my schedule, what am I going to do? It could be say yes, like you might be doing up until now. Or it could be, I’m always going to suggest alternative times first, without giving a bunch of reasons why that time doesn’t look like it works for me. But what about these other three times? It could be I’m going to always reach out to their executive assistant first to figure out what makes sense, whatever it is, as an example, to exception management. When your client sponsor as for something that conflicts with your schedule, how are you going to handle it? Or it conflicts with your guiding principles? How are you going to handle it? Ask yourself in advance, how am I going to handle late breaking requests? Things that are like I need this tomorrow? I need this in the next hour? Are you always going to say yes, like you might be doing now? Oh, I have to say yes. Because so and so as to me, or am I going to qualify this? If I do this, then I can’t do that. Or you know what? I don’t have time for that right now. What’s the impact going to be if you get it tomorrow by five, put it down in writing, you know, these tools, you just probably aren’t implementing them all the time. Because your brain is like I better say yes to this thing. The clients asking I better say yes, versus taking a moment and remembering what is the exception management that I want to have? What are my next steps when I get asked these particular things that are going to derail my plan that I had put in place my ideal schedule that I have put in place my guiding principles that I had put in place. Another good example is what are you going to respond to texts? I have so many clients who start off just responding to texts all day long, during dinner, on the weekends, while they’re driving, unfortunately, all the things because they think they have to be responsive to be valuable. Well guess what? What if you actually just made a rule here that my guiding principle is that I never respond to texts from 6pm to 8:30pm. And the exception is if the person texted me twice, whatever your exception you want, if you want an exception, what would that be? Otherwise, this is my guiding principle. So hopefully that gives you some really good examples of how to establish this work life balance playbook for yourself. Again, I will go recommend that you go download the playbook that I created for you. So, you have the template, I gave you a lot of good examples in there. And then you can really fill it in specific to you and what you think work life balances and what you want your ideal schedule to be and your rules and guiding principles and what how you’re going to handle exceptions. So, you’ve created this in advance and are much more likely to follow the plan than just let it happen to you and think you’ll figure it out later. So that’s at Melissa lieberman.com backslash balance forward slash whatever the slashes and then stay tuned next week, because I’m going to share with you another tool. There’s really two main things that you need to be putting in place. The first are the strategies that I shared with you today. And next week, we’re going to talk about the work life balance formula that is the other half of this equation. So do not miss that episode, I will see you then. And in the meantime, if you would like some help putting this into place in your business or solving any other challenge that you’re hitting up against in your business, or simply want really just a robust plan that you can operate against this year, go over to IC blueprint.com. and schedule a blueprint, a success blueprint call with me where we’re really going to dive into your business and create an action plan for you. And I’ve been working with so many people on this. And they’ve told me that they have so much more clarity about their business, what they need to be focusing on what they don’t need to be focusing on and what will truly move the needle for them in the next 12 months. So they’ll book yourself one of those as well. Two action items for today. Download your work life balance playbook and schedule your IC blueprint. Call your IC success blueprint call and I will see you again next week. Take care.


Thanks for joining me this week on the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. If you like today’s episode, I have three quick next steps for you. First, click Subscribe on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to make sure you don’t miss future episodes. Next, leave me a review in your podcast app so other independent consultants can find a benefit to and finally to put the ideas from today’s episode into action. Head over to Melisaliberman.com for the show notes and more resources to help you grow your consulting practice from your first few projects into a full-fledged business. See you next week.

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