9 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Achieve Work-Life Balance
As the old proverb says, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” For passionate entrepreneurs, however, work-life balance can be a challenge.
You likely started your business because you have a passion—one that fuels your drive and determination. But your passion can also infringe on your personal life.
When you love what you do, you may not want to take time off. To avoid entrepreneurial burnout (and burned bridges with friends and family) it’s imperative that you do. Research found that work-life balance is the biggest challenge entrepreneurs face, especially during the holiday season.
To help you achieve a healthy level of both work and play, consider these nine strategies:
- Get clear on priorities
- Become a great delegator
- Set boundaries
- Know when to say “no”
- Learn from your mistakes
- Develop strong organizational skills
- Network with other entrepreneurs
- Take vacations
- Make time for you
Let’s jump right in!
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1. Get clear on priorities
Small-business owners wear plenty of hats, especially during the launch phase. While you may believe you can get it all done, realize that some tasks are more important than others.
Avoid putting too much on your plate by identifying the top three priorities for your business. Having too many projects or tasks competing for your attention can drive you to work long hours with not much return on the investment.
Audit your to-do list and create buckets:
- High-priority tasks (time-sensitive that need to be completed asap)
- Mid-priority tasks (you can work on these a little bit each day)
- Long-term tasks (things that will take many weeks to complete. Reserve a little time each day to work on these)
- Repetitive tasks (try to find ways of automating these tasks or delegating them wherever possible. This frees you up to exclusively tackle more pressing issues).
2. Become a great delegator
Good entrepreneurs stay focused on their “zone of genius,” a term Gay Hendricks uses in his book The Big Leap to describe the things that capitalize on your natural talents as no one else can do.
This means delegating tasks that aren’t high on your list of priorities or that don’t fit your natural abilities. For startup entrepreneurs, this can sometimes feel like an indulgence, but it’s money well spent when it frees up your time to focus on your strengths and your life.
3. Set boundaries
Technology connects you to your business around the clock, making it easy for work to flow into your personal life.
If you’ve ever thought you’d just check email really quickly and then got sucked into a conversation with a vendor or potential client, you know that it’s a slippery slope. Create working hours for yourself and stick to them. Let your staff know when they can reach you and how to contact you in case of a true emergency.
Then (and probably the hardest part to commit to) unplug.
4. Know when to say “no”
Sometimes someone might ask you to do something that isn’t what you normally offer. Or perhaps a customer is asking you to do something you simply can’t deliver due to time constraints.
It’s tempting to say “yes” to every client or opportunity that comes your way—who wants to turn down business? But saying “no” is vital for protecting your work-life balance and your reputation. When you start to make promises you can’t fulfill, you overload your schedule and put future business at risk.
Always under-promise and over-deliver (but not too much). This strategy makes others view you positively since you always give them more than what they anticipated, which is important for your personal brand, credibility and professional relationship-building.
Let’s put it this way, if a client is expecting something in five days and it takes you seven, they won’t be happy. If a client is expecting something in ten days and it takes you seven, they’ll be thrilled.
Accurately forecast the time it takes to complete tasks and assure that you’re always under-promising and over-delivering. If something simply isn’t manageable, learn to say no to avoid any unkept promises and broken business relationships.
5. Learn from your mistakes
No matter how much experience you may have, all business owners will make mistakes. Repeating them, however, costs even more time and money. When things don’t happen the way you’d like, take time to learn why—but don’t waste time dwelling. Change what you need to change, and make different decisions moving forward.
6. Develop organizational skills
Busy entrepreneurs don’t have time to waste, and creating a system that keeps you organized will keep you on track. Find a tool that works for you and fits your personality. Some people like paper calendars that sit on their desks and serve as quick reminders of what needs to be done. Others prefer tech-driven platforms that offer the advantage of being easily shared with employees.
Find what works for you and develop routines that help you be more intentional with your time.
7. Network with other entrepreneurs
Being an entrepreneur can feel a little isolating. It’s hard to find someone who can relate to the trials and tribulations of owning a company.
Find small-business groups where you can network and engage with other owners. While this does add a task to your calendar, it can be energizing to talk to others who are meeting the same challenges that you are. You’ll probably learn from others, as well, which can mean you’ll avoid mistakes that cost time.
8. Take vacations
When is the last time you took a vacation and you didn’t work while you were on it? According to a survey of small-business owners, 85% admit to working while they’re away.
One of the biggest perks of owning a business is that you have more freedom, but you’re wasting it if you’re chained to your desk. Getting out of the office for a few days helps you avoid burnout and gives you a chance to reconnect with loved ones. And an added bonus: entrusting your staff to handle things in your absence demonstrates trust and can deepen your relationships.
9. Make time for you
Finally, put yourself on the calendar. Schedule in healthy activities like exercise and doctor’s visits. Also, make eating well and getting enough sleep priorities. It’s easy to ignore symptoms when you’re driven by a passion for your business. But remember, you can’t effectively serve your customer if you’re ignoring your own health. When you take good care of yourself, you can take good care of your customers, employees and business, too.
It sounds counterintuitive, but enjoying time away from work will positively impact the success of your business. A change of focus helps you reset and can even start your creative juices flowing. Running a business is hard work. Just make sure you’re not making it harder than it has to be by demanding too much from yourself.