I was new at this entrepreneur thing, coming from a career in minor pro hockey and trying to figure out this thing called the Internet. I had slowly built up a strong clientele and a few loyal employees.
Looking back now, I made lots of big mistakes. I tried do to everything, build products, grow our service business, missed out on killer opportunities and raise a young family. I was quickly burning out.
Do you find yourself burnt out from too much work or an off-kilter work and life balance?
Entrepreneurs, especially, tie themselves to their work because they are invested so heavily in its success from the ground floor up. Even when you are away from your desk or base of operations you probably find yourself checking work emails and answering calls. Maybe you even wrote up proposals during a flight to family over the holidays. If this lack of work and life balance seems to apply to you, you are risking your physical and mental health - which has a direct impact back on the work that you do.
Being a successful entrepreneur means having a keen sense of when your work and life balance is tipping too much in either direction - and knowing how to get it back on track.
Sixteen years later, I have identified most of my blind-spots. I’ve made the mistakes and now understand how to avoid them. Of all my experience as an entrepreneur, here are 5 must do's I recommend for maintaining work and life balance as an entrepreneur:
1. Cut out activities that sap energy
If your plate is too full, certain things will have to be cut from your list of to-dos to find a better work and life balance. As much as every entrepreneur has to believe (to a certain extent) that he or she can conquer the world, it’s equally important to acknowledge your limitations.
Are there aspects of your start-up business that might be cut back or assigned to someone else? Maybe there is even a piece of equipment that can carry out a more menial task. Investigate how other companies like yours handle various tasks, and learn through others’ experiences.
An example of this is when we started, I was doing the bookkeeping. Well actually I wasn't doing a very good job of the bookkeeping and I was getting very frustrated. I was trying to learn on the job how to do the books and this was a terrible idea. Finally I figured it out and decided to hire a bookkeeper who is darn good and very affordable.
More time for stuff I am good at and want to do. Check!
2. Schedule downtime
Has work ever gotten in the way of attending a movie with friends or taking advantage of your sister’s free hockey tickets? It shouldn’t. (Nothing should get in the way of a hockey game!)
Of course, there are always deadlines. But you are your own boss! Figure out a way to schedule downtime. That doesn’t mean blocking out 30 minutes to watch a show on tv. Well maybe it does. I know I had a bit of downtime during the final season of Breaking Bad. :-)
It means setting plans for bigger events, things you have a passion for, in advance and committing to them.
3. Outsource chores
When leaves or snow piles up on the lawn, when the kitchen sink becomes filled with dirty dishes, or when the dog desperately needs a walk, time for relaxation or play both get put on the backburner.
Life is full of little chores that can throw off the delicate work and life balance, if you let them.
The question for an entrepreneur is which of these can and should be outsourced. Hiring the neighbor boy for lawn mowing or the dog walking girl down the street will save you valuable time without costing you too much.
One way I would look at outsourcing is what I normally charge for my time per hour. I realized I was spending way to much time on our lawn with seeding, fertilizing, mowing, etc. that I was better off hiring someone and spending more time with work or with family.
In my humble opinion, this is a crucial component to work and life balance as an entrepreneur.
Physical well-being is just as important as mental well-being, and one directly affects the other. The chemicals released with physical activity help you think. Not to mention, exercise can provide a break, from work as well as the chair you may sit in most of the day.
What works best for me is getting my exercise done first thing in the morning before I do anything. I grab a drink of water and a piece of fruit and get going for 30-45 mins. before I get the work day going. But before I do the exercising, I spend time with the kids getting ready for school and take them to school.
Why do I do this?
Because I want to and my kids will only be this age for a short period of time. I want to be with them and not at my desk.
Don’t feel like you have any free time to exercise? Consider office aerobics or taking a walk around the outside of your building/house at lunch while eating.
Get up and move!
Sometimes it can feel like your entrepreneurial momentum might slow down if you do, but that’s not the case! Spending 10-15 minutes each day reading or even doing yoga at the office can help you muddle through big decisions or just give your brain time to recharge for the next task.
Do you work on the weekends? If you said yes, well stop it!
I think it is important to take the two days off and spend time away from the office and time with family and friends doing things you love.
Try it and see how you feel Monday morning when you get back into work mode.
This way, you have more mental stamina.
After all, running your company is like running a marathon, not a sprint. You want to give longevity to your success.
The “secret” for work and life balance boils down to time management. Where can you cut back? Where should you spend more time? Usually entrepreneurs need a gentle reminder to go out and play! Efficiency, productivity, and new ideas will all increase with a better work and life balance.