Many entrepreneurs struggle with achieving work-life balance. They spend more time at work than they do living and enjoying life. This may be because they harbour an innate fear that if they’re not working for most of their waking hours, they are not being productive, which means they are failing at business.
We know. We have been there.
Entrepreneurship, while exhilarating can also be stressful and frustrating at times. It is particularly draining if you add other responsibilities on top of it. Entrepreneurs often wear countless hats and try to be brave while facing a myriad of setbacks – customer retention, debt, increased competition, suppliers – all while trying not to go completely broke.
This worry and stress can get to a critical breaking point if not addressed quickly. However, the sad fact is that entrepreneurs tend to struggle in silence because up until recently, the subject of depression among entrepreneurs was taboo.
In 2013, popular founder of the e-commerce site Ecomm, Jody Sherman, took his life. His death rattled the start-up community and reignited a discussion about entrepreneurship, anxiety and depression.
If you have started a company recently, you may be familiar with these emotions. You may be spending long hours working on finalizing and launching your business – isolated from friends and family. You may have even sacrificed your weekends and placed everything on your social calendar on hold. But overextending yourself is not healthy.
Finding time to unwind, spend with your family or just sleep for eight hours is crucial to your mental and physical well-being. There is a middle ground between working on your dream job and living outside your planner.
Here are 11 ways you can achieve a healthy balance between work and your personal life.
1. Play to your strengths
Look down at your chest. Is there is a huge red ‘S’ on it? If not, then it’s safe to assume that you’re not a superhero. You can’t be all things to all people. So focus on your strengths. Stick to the activities that you do well and outsource the other components of your business to competent individuals.
2. Schedule your tasks
As an entrepreneur, your to-do list will likely be very long. Prioritizing your tasks will take the pressure off you to multi-task or try to complete all your tasks in a short period.
Ella Legg, the founder of copywriting consultancy Ella Smith Communications, suggests that you organize your tasks into these four areas:
- Urgent and important
- Important but not urgent
- Urgent but not important
- Neither urgent nor important
3. Know your personality
Do you work best alone? Are you a morning person? Do you need to snack while working? Evaluate the way you perform most efficiently and create an environment that facilitates that version of you.
For example, if you work best alone, explain to your family members that you will take only urgent requests once you’re in your work zone. Noise-cancelling headphones can work wonders for the person who cannot hear anyone else around while he’s working.
If you are a morning person, try to do high-concentration tasks early in the day rather than leave them until midnight when you possibly won’t want to handle them.
4. Declare personal time non-negotiable
Whenever personal issues arise, if you are not the only person who can handle matters, you may be tempted to ignore and bury your head back into the marketing campaigns that you have scheduled. Try not to do that. It is best to take the time to handle personal issues.
Bear in mind that as a sole trader, you and your business are one. Therefore, whatever affects you personally also affects your business.
You must take the time to relax and rejuvenate. It doesn’t have to be long – 15 minutes per day sitting and remembering a fun moment while you drink tea or taking a walk in your neighborhood will not cause you to fail at business. But not doing so could cost you your life and family.
5. Have dedicated hours for work
Set work hours for yourself and try not to deviate. If you’re working from home, this may prove difficult if you have others who depend on you for such things as food and care.
Though it is hard to work within strict hours in this type of situation, it is not impossible. Schedule the breaks you need to take and make them work for you.
For example, if you have children who are not old enough to make themselves lunch, try packing lunch for them in the morning as you make breakfast. If you have a baby or toddler that constantly needs your attention, use the breaks as your own. Use that time to walk around a bit or grab a glass of water.
If you can afford to work outside your home, find a location that isn’t too busy. Decide beforehand what time you will break for lunch and be strict with your time.
Unless you set strict work hours as an entrepreneur, you’ll find yourself working past midnight much too often, which leads to burn out.
6. Familiarize yourself with finances
One of the biggest causes of stress for new entrepreneurs is cash flow. Worry creeps in when you’re not confident about the profitability of your business.
Install a trusted accounting software and get familiar with it as soon as you start your business. Record all monies spent in your business even if it seems insignificant. Create a budget and stick with it. Although as a sole trader you and your business are one legal entity, separate monies for your business from your personal monies if you can.
7. Manage future plans
It’s easy to forget events and commitments when you’re concentrating on getting your business off the ground. Therefore, don’t leave your future commitments to chance.
Create a schedule of all your important future commitment such as your anniversary, your kids’ school play, your dog’s vet appointment or a friend’s book launch. Whatever you know you’re obligated to attend or do, record it on your schedule so that you’ll remember that you are out of office on those days.
8. Make your workspace yours
Since you are going to be working in one area for most of the day, you might as well go ahead and make it comfortable.
This will improve your mood and efficiency. Invest in equipment that will support your eyes, back and shoulders, particularly if you work on your computer a lot.
Equipment can include a laptop stand, wireless keyboard and mouse and an ergonomic chair. Ensure you have good lighting. Natural sunlight is excellent but if this isn’t possible, them make sure your area is well-lit.
9. Commit to exercise
The importance of exercise is often overlooked in the start-up community as many entrepreneurs throw all their time behind the business while neglecting their health.
However, exercising is an activity that entrepreneurs must make a priority. Exercise is a great creative outlet, particularly for entrepreneurs who work on long projects that can cause a slump in imagination.
Exercising is an effective method for generating innovative ideas. Additionally, exercise releases endorphins – our bodies’ feel-good chemical. This relieves stress and makes us more productive. Therefore, give exercise as much priority as you do your clients’ work. You’ll perform better and finish faster.
Everything won’t always go right in your day. At the end of each day, do am assessment of what worked, what went wrong and how the issues identified can be fixed.
Problems are opportunities for growth so if you lost revenue based on a gap in your skills, commit to filling that gap by learning something new. If you were late in delivering an order, revisit your schedule and reprioritize tasks, giving yourself room for unexpected activities.
Remember that you are not the only entrepreneur who has to go through challenges so tap into previous experiences. Find friends or online entrepreneurs that are willing to help to assess your business plans and goals.
For many entrepreneurs, sleep is a luxury reserved only for a few who can afford it. Others believe that sleep only belongs to lazy business-owners who are not interested in growth. Nothing could be less true.
Sleep is essential for everyone, including entrepreneurs. A lack of sleep causes the brain to age quickly. If you don’t get enough sleep, your cognitive functions diminish putting you at risk for premature aging of the brain.
Not getting in those winks also lead to making poor decisions, irritability and an inability to recall information. To be a successful entrepreneur, you must understand and accept the importance of sleep.
Entrepreneurship is as difficult as it is exciting. But too many entrepreneurs sacrifice living fully and wear being busy as a badge. Finding a healthy balance between the two is possible and these steps will help you to achieve it without putting your business at risk.