During the early days of growing 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, I worked 16-hour days and still didn't feel like I was doing enough. The company was my pride and joy, so I gave it my undivided attention. Unfortunately it came at a cost.
I was overworked, exhausted, and completely burnt out. It affected my marriage and health. And the worst part was that logging long hours didn't lead to better productivity. Looking back, I wish I'd taken time to find balance; I would have been a better entrepreneur.
Now, I'm careful to budget time for my family so I can be my best at home and at work. Here are 5 tips for finding work-life balance, from an entrepreneur who wishes he'd figured it out sooner.
1. Tap Out at 40 Hours to Recharge
I understand the temptation to throw every waking minute at your business. But while long hours might be mandatory in startup mode, studies show that the standard 40-hour work week could be too long -- and any more than that causes a serious drop off in productivity and an upswing in emotional distress. So when it comes to your work schedule, give yourself a break from work to recharge once you hit 40 hours -- then dive back in if you must.
I take every Friday off to hang out with my kids, get outdoors, or pick up a new skill (like learning new languages). Instead of cutting into my work time, this helps me to be more focused in each part of my life.
2. Don't Bring Work Home
Our devices rule us. Far too many entrepreneurs reach for their phones before they even get out of bed. It might sound counter-intuitive, but diving straight into business first thing in the morning is not productive. In fact, it can kill your focus for the entire day.
Work emails are often about complaints or unexpected conflicts. If this negative flow of information is the first thing you absorb, it can set you off-kilter for the day ahead. Instead, when I wake up, I write down my goal for the day -- and never check emails without first having a clear focus for my energy.
To get your day started on the right foot, create a new morning ritual (writing down your intentions for the day or exercising) and try responding to your emails only when you're in the office.
3. Disconnect on Vacation
Unplugging on evenings and weekends is a start, but at O2E Brands, we take it one step further. We have a Go Dark policy for our employees, so they can unplug from emails when they're on vacation. I even get my assistant to change all my passwords to remove the temptation to check in.
A total business blackout has more benefits than you'd think. In fact, since I started going dark, I've been more productive and more creative than ever before. Unplugging allows me to give my travel companions the quality time they deserve.
Vacations are for resting and recharging -- not working. As long as you have a team you can trust, there should be no reason to check in daily. And if you don't trust your team to take over in your absence, it's a sign of a much bigger issue.
4. Schedule Your Downtime (So You Actually Take It)
Time is your most valuable commodity. To make the most of it, you have to schedule your downtime like you'd schedule your work day. Remember: you don't always have to be on the go. Personal time -- uninterrupted by work, life, or anything else -- is just as necessary to the health of your business as all your other commitments.
Every morning, I take an hour of 'me' time, where I exercise or focus on learning something new. This gives me a chance to check in with myself before heading into the rest of the day. I also take every Monday as a focused 'Think Day' to percolate new ideas and strategies for the business.
5. Find Ways to Give Up Control
Entrepreneurs are terrible at giving up control, especially with a business they built from the ground up. We're afraid to delegate tasks because it feels like relinquishing power -- but it is absolutely essential to the growth of your business. I'm not saying you should step down, but you do need to know when to take a step back and let others shine.
You can't be everywhere at once and if you try to be, you'll only burn yourself out (and alienate your team). If you've equipped yourself with a capable team who share your vision and values, they'll be primed and ready to take over certain functions so you can focus your efforts elsewhere.
For passionate entrepreneurs, work and life tend to become one in the same. Often we believe that in order to grow, we need to live and breathe our business. But when work starts to take away from your personal and family life, problems arise. The keyword is balance -- and it's time to tip the scales from time spent working to time spent living.