When you work too hard, your personal life suffers. But on the flip side, neglecting your work for personal pursuits will see your business start to flounder. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential to growing your business without burning out, and to cultivating family and friendship relationships with the attention they deserve.
The idea of work-life balance isn’t just an excuse to work less. Working too many hours per week can have a serious impact on your health, with 55 hours or more per week shown to increase your risk of atrial fibrillation by 1.4 times. What’s more, people who work in stressful jobs that don’t allow for a healthy work-life balance have been shown to have a 15% higher risk of dying than those who know how to work less and enjoy more.
There’s a balance to be struck, and it will look different for every entrepreneur. So how do you find the balance that’s right for you? It all starts with honesty.
1. Be honest and realistic
State clearly (heck, write it down if you have to) what brings you joy. While many of the items on your list will be personal, like spending time with family or working in your garden, other items will reflect the passion you feel for your work. That’s ok! It’s important to be clear that both work and life bring you joy and fulfillment. When you are honest about the specific ways that your business and your friends/family recharge you, you can start to prioritize the time you spend with each.
At the same time, you have to be realistic about your work-life balance expectations. It’s tempting to think that you’ll spend more time with your family or friends when you get past the startup phase. Or the next round of funding. Or the next stage of product development. But there will always be another phase or another goal in building your business. The reality is that a thriving business’s demands are unceasing; the trick is to decide which of those demands are a higher priority than your personal commitments.
2. Commit to a few high-priority items
Once you pinpoint the activities in your personal and professional life that bring you the most joy, you can start to make them a hard-and-fast priority. In the office, that may mean a weekly roundtable discussion with your team that you find especially productive and engaging. At home, you may prioritize a weekly date with your spouse, or attending your child’s soccer games each Thursday night.
Whatever you decide to prioritize, stick to it with unwavering commitment. You may miss every other exhibition or competition your kids enter, but if they know they can count on you to be at that soccer game, unfailingly, they’ll know they truly are a priority in your life. And you’ll benefit from taking a break from work to enjoy something that gives you joy.
Learning to compartmentalize the different areas of your life is a survival skill. It’s unfeasible to think that you can devote laser-focus to every aspect of your life, all the time. “Doing it all” is an untenable bill of goods entrepreneurs are regularly sold. In reality, you may be doing it all, but you’re probably doing it all poorly.
To “do it all” with any success, you have to focus on each item in turn. When you’re at home, be at home. Resist the temptation to check your email or send even one more response. Put down the phone and put work out of your mind. It’s not neglectful – it’s pragmatic. Embracing this approach will make the time you spend both at work and at home more fruitful.
4. Say Yes and No in equal measure
Start to track your answers to potential commitments. You may not realize that you tend to automatically say “no” to one type of activity and more consistently say “yes” to another. And while you may not be aware of your preference for one “side” of your life, your colleagues or family will notice if you consistently turn them down.
Once it’s clear whether you tend to favor work or home commitments, it’s time to achieve a balance. Try to say “yes” and “no” to each type of commitment in equal measure, and keep in mind how your decisions in one arena will impact the other. This will help you maintain control of your priorities.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate
You won’t achieve the perfect work-life balance in one conversation. You’ll need to keep talking and more importantly, keep listening to the key players in your life to hear whether you’re meeting your work and home commitments. Both your personal and professional relationships deserve your time and attention, and the best way to make sure you’re giving it to them is to ask, then ask, then ask again.
Bonus tip: Outsourcing
You may also want to consider outsourcing as a way of lightening your load at work. Other than your core competency, you can outsource almost any task reliably and with stellar results. Check out our post on how to outsource effectively to help you achieve your balance.
Consider Cayenne Consulting as a partner who will help you shoulder the responsibility of building your business. Contact us to discuss how we can prepare your pitch deck, financial forecast, and business plan, leaving you time to focus on running your business.