Work-life balance. Sounds simple enough. Whether you’re a student, a parent or an executive, finding the ideal balance between work and lifestyle is something we’re all constantly striving to achieve. For the entrepreneur, however, achieving a work-life balance is the equivalent of walking the tightrope: with constant demands from both family and work, the entrepreneur faces the risk of plummeting to the ground in a blink of an eye.
Young entrepreneurs have an especially difficult time maintaining this balance as their drive and focus are purely based on seeing their idea come to life — a grand opening, for instance, or seeing their product on the store shelf. This requires countless hours spent on getting the business off the ground. And even after it does, an entrepreneur is relentlessly consumed with growing the business. In my more than ten years as a business owner, I’ve gone through it all (even more than once!).
Fortunately, I’ve learned that there’s more to a work-life balance than saying “I am successful” and “I have a life outside of work.” It means making daily efforts to ensure that both aspects of my life are equally addressed and neither is neglected. While I can’t say I have necessarily achieved that precious balance, I have made great progress in striving towards doing so. By making small adjustments in my daily routine, I am able to enjoy being both an entrepreneur and myself. Here are a few changes I’ve made that have brought me closer to a more well-balanced lifestyle — and perhaps will help you too.
Don’t Let Your Business Define You
Early on in my career I assumed that everyone would look at me based on how successful I was. That idea alone kept me awake at night: What if I fail? What if all I’ve worked for turns out to be nothing? What will I tell everyone? What will they think of me? These thoughts began to keep me at work for longer and longer. Failure was simply not an option. Today, though, I’ve learned that failure isn’t the abyss I had imagined it to be. I’ve actually failed (plenty of times), yet my family and friends are still around and have always been my biggest supporters. No matter what type of business you’re running, don’t let your business define you.
Disconnect (Even if It’s for Just a Bit)
My work hours? Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Well, maybe 18 hours a day (I do sleep after all). Unlike most Americans who have a regular 9-to-5 job, an entrepreneur’s job has no start and stop: we’re constantly working. Thanks to my iPhone, I can work from just about anywhere: standing in line at the grocery store, waiting at the car wash, waiting for my lunch to arrive, sitting at a red light, and the list goes on. The ability to be constantly connected is a monumental struggle for the entrepreneur looking to “disconnect,” even if just for a bit. While my wife will tell you that I can’t live without my phone more than six feet away from me, I have learned that turning off my notifications and ringer can be helpful. It allows me to clear my mind and breathe for a bit. While this was (and still is) a big challenge for me, I’ve learned that some things can wait, and the world won’t come crashing down if I don’t immediately answer an email.
Remember It’s OK to (Not) Talk About Work
I have to be honest: this is terribly difficult to do. I work with my wife, and while I’m blessed to work with her, it’s sometimes even more difficult. On the way home, during dinner and before going to bed, it’s almost impossible to not get into a discussion that somehow relates to work. For our own sanity, we’ve made a commitment to not talk about work unless we’re “officially” working. This allows us to enjoy our favorite TV shows, go out with friends and the like.
While your work calendar may be filled with meetings and phone calls, that’s hardly the case for your personal calendar. Though it used to make me feel silly to schedule in a time to call my dad or a date with my wife, I’ve learned that there’s nothing wrong with scheduling in your personal life; it’s actually a great way to ensure that you don’t miss out and let your days go by. So go ahead and schedule some “me” time.
Take Care of Your Body
It’s a known fact that stress can wreak havoc in your body. In addition to the general stresses of life, add to that the stress from the upcoming meeting to fund your next project, that board meeting to report quarterly earnings, or the long 12- to 14-hour days at the office. From forgetting to eat to losing sleep, entrepreneurs are rarely good to their bodies. While I’m not Sports Illustrated cover material, I’ve learned to make time for the gym, a good night’s sleep and a meal that is not out of a to-go container. Although hard at first, I soon learned that getting to the gym at 6 a.m. actually makes me more productive than not going at all. I’m energized and feel better about myself.
Put Yourself First
As an entrepreneur, it can be hard to focus on yourself when your business seems so much more important and time sensitive. Going to the gym? That can wait. Going on vacation? That can wait. Settling down? That can wait. Very often, we tend to put things on hold so we can put the business first. While some things can wait, it’s important that you don’t sacrifice absolutely everything for your business. After all, we only have one life to live and we have to be good to ourselves. Go ahead and take that vacation to Hawaii. More often than not, you’ll feel refreshed and re-energized after some time away from the business.
Spend Time With Others
While time is often our most important asset, it’s also the most fleeting. Sharing the little time we do have is extremely difficult. That said, I’ve found that some of my best ideas have come from the time I have spent with others. As a coffee enthusiast, I enjoy trying out local coffee shops with my wife and friends. Not only will talking to other people outside the business keep you grounded, you’ll also realize how much you can learn just by spending time with others.
While I can’t credibly sing victory, I’ve come a long way to achieving a better work-life balance than when I first started out as an entrepreneur. The best thing is that thanks to these small changes in my daily routine, I can actually say I’m better off today than I was before. Small as they may seem, these intentional changes have made me a more effective entrepreneur and business leader. And that’s a fact. It’s never too late to start. Even though you may see work-life balance as your Mt. Everest today, every bit of progress will get you that much closer.