Three tips for small business owners to achieve work life balance
I owned a small business for nearly 10 years, so I understand that the struggle to achieve work life balance is very real for entrepreneurs. After all, when you start a business your mind is constantly occupied with thoughts of your business. You’re generating ideas, worrying about expenses, or trying to balance finding the work with doing the work. If you work from home, the temptation to run into the other room to answer just one more email is so tempting! Pretty soon, you’re working 60+ hours per week.
Many business owners suffer from a lack of a healthy work life balance. In August 2018 Elon Musk told the NY Times that he logs 120 hour weeks and sleeps on the floor at the Tesla factory. While that’s a pretty extreme example, it got people talking about one of the common side effects of working too much - lack of sleep. Other CEOs or business owners - such as Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo - talk about the toll overworking takes on their families, telling a story about her daughter sleeping under her desk in the office. I personally experienced both of these challenges. The first year I ran my business, I regularly slept only 5 hours per night during the week, then was so exhausted on Saturday mornings, I’d fall asleep while my kids watched TV. I ended up hiring a babysitter to play with my kids on my “days off” so I could work more during the day and less at night. That solved one problem, but not the other.
During my nearly 10 years as a business owner, I eventually did discover some ways to reduce my stress levels and achieve a greater sense of work life balance. Here’s how I did it.
Outsource what you can. One of the first things I outsourced was bookkeeping. The day my new bookkeeper arrived, it felt really weird to give her access to my quickbooks accounts. But then I sat down and did something I really enjoyed and was good at while she generated my invoices for me, which I was not good at! I made more money than I paid her and twice as much work got done.
Plan your week in advance. I used to write a to-do list so I wouldn’t forget anything. That list was never finished, even if I thought I had time to get everything done. One day I realized I was losing time each day because I visited my clients at their offices and didn’t consider drive time when planning out my to do lists. To solve my problem, I created an excel spreadsheet that forced me to block off time for tasks, appointments, and driving. Every Monday, I listed all my meetings on the appropriate days, then looked at the tasks to be done and divided them up between the days of the week. It forced me to prioritize and if anyone asked me when I was planning to get to their work, I could honestly say, “It’s on my calendar for Thursday.”
Figure out when you can take time for yourself, and what’s worth giving up to get it. I hate exercising, but it’s good for me and I feel guilty when I don’t do it. After repeatedly skipping night time workouts, I started getting up earlier to work out in the morning. It’s a great stress management technique. It took me over year to make morning workouts a habit, but now I groan and get out of bed to exercise in my basement every morning no matter what. (See my favorite exercise videos of all time here.)To compensate, I go to bed earlier. I like late night TV, but I’ve learned the hard way I can’t burn the candle at both ends. Plus, if anything is REALLY funny, I’ll hear about it on social media the next day!
Achieving work life balance is especially important for small business owners. Your business can easily overtake your life if you’re not careful. Although it might not seem like it when you’re in the thick of building your business, your brain needs time to rest! When you achieve work life balance, you’ll have more time with your family, generate better ideas, be more enthusiastic about what you’re doing, and feel more in control. Plus, you’ll get to see your family, or your dog, or your friends more. Remember, owning a business is a marathon. Pace yourself. It’s good for your mental health.