Six months ago- heck, even three months ago- I was the LAST person who should’ve been writing an article on achieving work-life balance. I let the scales tip so far in favor of work that I actually cried myself to sleep from the stress. Life? I couldn’t even tell you what that looked like. Stop letting work ruin your life. Check out these incredibly easy and actionable secrets to achieving work/life balance as a work at home mom. My son was acting out because he was tired of hearing the words “not now, Mommy’s working” come out of my mouth. My weight skyrocketed because I NEVER got out of my chair and most of my meals consisted of cookies that I could eat with one hand while I typed. My back problems became catastrophes. I was miserable every minute, which sucked because I used to LOVE my job.

How did it get so out of control? Mostly because I let it. I was afraid to say “hey, the work load is too much for me.” I was afraid to say “no.” To turn down reviews, opportunities, more work. Money was so tight for so long. Now that I’m making money I can live on, I’m constantly afraid it’s going to vanish and I’ll be close to homelessness again.

Fear. That’s all that stands between me and achieving work-life balance. For you, it may be something else entirely. It doesn’t matter. These 5 unbelievably easy secrets will work for anyone. You NEED work-life balance. You NEED a life. Otherwise, you’ll burn out and end up miserable. What’s the purpose of working so hard if you never have a single moment to enjoy it?

My 5 secrets to achieving work-life balance

1. Take inventory and set necessary goals. Carve out a few hours (or even minutes) to think about what you have, what you need and what you’re working towards. For me, keeping up with rent and other big household bills is my immediate goal. Eventually having enough surplus to fix all the issues with my car is my next goal. Setting goals is the first step in achieving work-live balance Buying a new car is NOT a goal right now, because once I fix the issues with my current car, it’ll do just fine. I don’t NEED a new car. I also don’t NEED an iPhone 6, a bigger TV, every book on my growing wish list or a zoom lens for my camera. I want those things, but the world won’t end if I don’t get them. Stop working for things you don’t need right now, at least until you’ve achieved a better work-life balance.

2. Stop underestimating your time. My biggest problem was underestimating the amount of time it took me to do something. Maybe I should say, the amount of time I thought it should take me to do something. I felt like I had to jump on every request from every client immediately, otherwise they would think I was a failure. That’s my anxiety disorder again. Maybe you think you can get something done in an hour, so you take on 8 of those tasks. After all, 8 hours is a reasonable work day. But then each task takes 75 minutes. Just 15 minutes extra per task, right? Sure, but multiplied by 8, you’ve just added two more hours to your day, or 10 more hours to your 5-day week. Now I overestimate my time. If I get done early, I can work on getting ahead during the remaining time.

3. Repeat after me: NO. Stop taking on more than you can handle. End of discussion. If your boss comes to you and asks you to do a last-minute project five minutes before you’re signing off for the weekend, say no. Offer to do it when you get back online if it’s something you feel you can handle. Otherwise,  simply say no.

4. Stop violating labor laws! If you worked at, say, the local coffee shop and they told you that you’d have to work a 10-hour shift with no breaks other than the occasional run to the bathroom and fill-up on caffeine, what would you do? Me? I’d call the Board of Labor and report their butts! That’s illegal! So why do we think it’s okay to treat ourselves like sweatshop employees? Every day, we violate the very laws put in place to protect workers, but since we’re working for ourselves, we think it’s okay. Take your 15-minute breaks and your half-hour lunch break…AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER!

5. Shut it down and let it go. The biggest problem with being a WAHM: we never leave the office. It’s time to change that. Set up a work schedule and try to stick to it. You can be flexible if your kids have doctor’s appointments or sporting events, but you still need to set an end time. Then, when that end time comes, shut down all work-related files, folders and browsers. Turn off the computer and walk away. Go have a life.

Following these tip to achieve work-life balance have really helped me. I go out twice a week for a few hours. I spend more time with my son (we just beat Skylander’s Trap Team already!) and less time crying myself to sleep at night.

Balance isn’t just good, it’s necessary. Without it, we end up with pesky things like panic attacks, heart disease and a life of regret. For me, it came down to one thing: how I want my son to remember his childhood with me. I didn’t want him to look back and remember me as head poking out above a computer screen. I want him to remember me as a mom who stayed up until two in the morning with him during Christmas break trapping villains in Skylanders or finding cheat codes for the new Lego Batman 3 game.

I need work-life balance, so I created it. If you want to succeed at your own business, you need it too. Go create it.

How do you achieve work-life balance? Got any other tips for me? Share them in the comments!

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