Mar. 30. 2016
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped® and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Besides reading your emails with questions about nutrition, the number one question I get every day is about Nutrition Stripped, owning a business, and finding balance/time to do “all the things” being an entrepreneur. Woo, these are loaded questions and I’m still thinking of the best way to deliver these for you guys in an easy way but today I wanted to hit on a common thread I was asked about- how do you balance it all? I’ll be the first person to tell you that it’s not easy, in fact owning a business is the hardest thing I’ve done in my life thus far (I have a hunch getting a puppy would be in the same line ha!). There are just as many highs and successes as there are lows and sacrifices to be made. I learn something new each day about myself, about what I do, and how to stay balanced and am incredibly passionate talking about this and want to share “all the things”‘ I’ve come to learn in hopes that it helps you balance your work-life situation!

work-life balance…¯\_(ツ)_/¯

When I first wrote this post it was catered to entrepreneurs and business owners, but when I was reading it, it didn’t make sense for everyone; what matters most is the common thread…work-life balance. Is work-life balance an elusive unicorn? What does work-life balance look like for you? Like, is this something people actually achieve? And when you get there, do you know that you’re there? I’m asking you these questions as if I would be asking one of my clients, as this is something we discuss and develop goals around; but truly take the time to ask yourself these questions. So, here are my top tips and good practices for cultivating work-life balance to help you feel your best! ‘Cause we ALL can use more of this.

No. 1

Manifest a morning routine. It all starts with how you wake up and what you make time for first thing in the morning that sets the tone for your entire day. I’m a huge advocate for self-care in the morning and doing things I absolutely love that keep me centered and healthy which allows me to be incredibly productive and efficient. If you need a little help creating your morning routine, check out this blog post where I share how to!

No. 2

Nourishment! This is an obvious one coming from me but so true. What we fuel and nourish our bodies with will inherently make or break our energy bank. I’m not too keen on the “what I ate in a day” style of posts, but for the sake of giving you some guidance, check these nourishing foods off your list each day, consume: plenty of filtered water (added lemon or making your Simply Infused Waters helps!), healthy fats make our bodies and brains really happy (especially ones rich in omega-3’s), protein to keep us satiated, energized, and rebuild from our workouts, and fiber rich vegetables galore for nutrients, satiety,  ! Read more on the NS philosophy here.

No. 3

Move that bod! No matter if you’re self proclaimed recreational athlete, fit, a beginner, yogi, etc.; we all can benefit from movement. In fact, studies (1) have shown that the more we move our bodies, the better our critical and creative thinking increases- so the next time you’re stuck in an idea rut with work or personally, take it outside for a quick walk!

Need a little extra workout motivation, check out my monthly Sweat it Out music playlists! 

No. 4

Learn something new every single day. Challenge yourself with new content- this doesn’t have to be work related but it can be. Another way of looking at it is in the general sense of living life! What are hobbies you’ve wanted to take up? What about activities you’ve wanted to try but haven’t made the time for it? A book you’ve wanted to read or a skill you’ve wanted to master? Learning something new expands our minds, our skills, and teaches us new ways to be innovative, creative, and mindful. I asked my friend and entrepreneur Sol Orwell, how he practices work-life balance with a booming business. One thing he does with learning new things:

“I think too many people forget that we’re working really hard to enjoy our life. So I’ve mandated that Fridays are my reading and meeting days. I don’t do emails on this day – instead, I head on over to my favorite cafe with my laptop. Over the course of the week I’ll have saved interesting reads in a variety of tabs (both business related and of-personal-interest), and I’ll just sit down and read. At the same time, I’ll have invited people to come join me – we can chat about business, about life, about whatever. I find this separation from the day-to-day not only gets me ready to kickass when the next week rolls by, but it also gets my creativity going, which leads to better strategy and leadership. It’s not always about working nonstop.”

No. 5

Boundaries baby. 2015 was a big shift for me in the word boundary and saying no! Learn to say no to the things that don’t “sit well” with you or have high costs associated with doing said task/activity– and by costs I mean nothing about money. Ask yourself what the true cost is doing some activity/task that you truly don’t enjoy or knowing your skills can be used better elsewhere. For example, a true cost of a task could be your vital energy, your health, your happiness! There’s a time and place for pushing through and making sacrifices even if we don’t’ want to do a job/task/obligation, but knowing the difference between this and compromising your joy is key. As one of my favorite quotes says: If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no.

No. 6

Set goals. What are your goals with work, your social life, self-care, relationships, etc.? Write these down and make a plan of action to work towards these. These can be long term focused or daily; for example with daily goals simply write out what “must” be done, what you’d “like” to get done, and what can “wait” if those tasks take you longer than you expected. Set a timeline- when will these goals be achieved? For daily goals, try writing down a time that you’ll finish task XYZ. Give yourself a time limit and stick with it!

No. 7

Clear space, clear mind. I’m a big believer in atmosphere and creating a positive vibe in my work area- this could be working from home or choosing the right coffee shop depending on what I’m doing that day. For example, if I’m working on design stuff, editing photography, or doing some social media I don’t mind the busyness of loud coffee shops. On the other hand, as I’m writing this to you now, I’m in a quiet coffee shop sippin’ on some tea and have a long list of posts to finish today. So, whether you’re working from home, your desk at work, the office, school, or a coffee shop make your space clear of clutter and set up the way you like that makes you feel most productive and focused. If you need a couple more tips on how to create an inspiring workspace, check out this blog post.

No. 8

Work smarter, not harder. This is one of the most cliché sayings about work, yet it’s so true when you break it down. Working smarter (same with working out smarter) is about being efficient, focused, and productive rather than filling your time just to feel “busy”. There’s a big difference between busy or spending time with focused productivity. Do you find yourself saying “what did I get accomplished today? I felt like I was working hard, but I didn’t get anything done!” at the end of the day? Try this: take inventory of when your energy is most focused for said task/activity. Playing off my earlier example, if I’m editing photography, designing, etc. I know my energy is best for these activities towards the late afternoon so I do THOSE tasks, at that time. Identify where your energy is highest and knock out those high priority items on your goal list at that time.

No. 9

Sleep more. Rest is essential for a balanced wellbeing but also for focus in your work so that you can work smarter, not harder, and make room for other things you love in life. Bad sleeper or want to improve your sleep, check out this blog post on a Nighttime Routine for Better Sleep. 

No. 10

There’s more to life than work. Know when to have fun, relax, and be wise about what you do when you turn off work. Creating work-life balance is about scheduling and making goals with the fun things in life as much as it is professional accomplishments. Remember that we’re here in this world to live, laugh, love, and feel happiness too! This might come off cheesy and superficial when I talk about happiness, but it’s true and sometimes we all need a little reminder and check. Have fun with the things you choose to do outside of your working time- be choosey about the energy of people you’re hanging out with, and always honor what you truly need. Even if that means staying in with a cozy blanket, tea, and a book or going out to get drinks with your friends!

He said, she said…

I want to hear from you! What are your good practices for maintaining a work-life balance? What about the challenges you face trying to create more balance in your life? What are your biggest obstacles with this? Share below and let’s get this conversation rollin’ you guys! #supportinnumbers

xx McKel


(1) Alejandro Lleras and Laura Thomas. Swinging Into Thought: Directed Movement Guides Insight in Problem Solving. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, (in press)

Photography: Kelsey Cherry