What most serious entrepreneurs know is that starting a company takes a lot of effort. There are times when we can get burned out, overwhelmed and wish we could take a vacation. We fear if we take a vacation, the pulse of the business will stop or that chaos would ensue without our guidance. Work-life balance is a challenge for business owners because we love our work and, a true entrepreneur makes work their play.
If you feel like you are working too hard or need a break, here are four tips that helped me maintain a bit of work-life balance, especially in the early days.
1. Watch your attitude.
I used to resent the hard work it takes to build a business and compare myself to friends who are spending their evenings and weekends playing golf or at the beach. It seemed like they are having more fun, but then I remembered that they have to go back to their cubicle on Monday to face their annoying boss and I didn't. I was in charge of my own time and destiny.
Think of your start-up as a newborn baby. In the early stages, you will have to work twice as hard to get the momentum building just like taking care of a newborn. Remember, keep the attitude that the intensity doesn't last forever. Once your business starts to gain speed, you can hire a team to support you and have more free time.
My early sweat equity returned to me a business that I love and gave me more than what I could get out an afternoon of golf.
2. Schedule time off.
I used to fear that my company was going to fold if I took some personal time to recharge. What I realized is that some of the best ideas come when I walked away from the business for a few hours or a few days. I also discovered a way to give myself a break without forcing it with what is called a "flexible-week."
Here is how the flexible week works. For one week out of the month, you can block off your schedule from your normal appointments. This off-week gives you some space in your schedule to avoid back-to-back meetings and constantly being on the go. Your mind and body will thank you for the break.
3. Communicate with loved ones.
Make sure you keep open communication with your spouse or significant other and children about your work schedule so they don't feel slighted by your absence during long work hours. This also helps prevent wasted mental energy on guilt and worry about their feelings so you can focus on tasks at hand. When you do spend time together you can make the most of it instead of having endless conversations about how your business is becoming more of a priority.
4. Keep boundaries.
I learned this the hard way. Many of my extra hours were caused by dealing with people who couldn't be pleased and not keeping my boundaries. I learned that no customer or vendor is worth crushing my peace of mind.
In the start-up phase and during cash-flow crunches, you may be tempted to be more lenient with a paying client for fear of losing that income. If you begin to work more hours to coddle a problem client, you will get into a bad pattern of pleasing and eventually you will be working more than necessary out of fear.
Of course, you want to give the customer your best, but I found that over-giving creates resentment and, ultimately, bad feelings when you start saying "no" to them. Knowing your boundaries and clearly communicate them in the beginning will make your work life more pleasant and you can spend more time on what you truly want to do.
The key to work-life balance is that you can design what fits for you instead of allowing the business to take over your life. You are always in charge of your time and how you spend it. There is no right or wrong and you'll find the balance that makes sense for you and your goals.