A shocking 97 percent of entrepreneurs surveyed reported working weekends and another 40 percent said they're "always working", according to a survey by The Alternative Board. But everyone has a personal life and letting your work life overwhelm all other areas is a great recipe for burn-out and discord. The real secret sauce to becoming an entrepreneur that few people will tell you? Meld your personal and work life together and don't apologize for it.
When I was in business school, a great amount of time was spent talking about how to balance your personal and professional lives. It's an interesting topic and one tested by a lot of research, but the premise is wrong. Calling it a "balance" creates stress for every small business owner and entrepreneur out there who gets told that it should be a 50-50 split. It will never be equal.
When I first launched my business, I had to make trade offs and make work fully part of my life. I told my wife and family that there would be times that I wouldn't physically or emotionally be there as much as I wanted to in our home life, but it wasn't going to last forever.
Early in my career, I worked 14 hour days six days a week and later on spent much of my time on the road away from home. I spent most of 2011 in Arizona while technically living 2,400 miles away in New York. If you want to truly reach a good balance, it means investing in long hours at the beginning to set yourself up for success.
Even Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook has said that "work-life balance doesn't exist, you just have to make it work". Sheryl makes a habit of leaving at 5 p.m. to have dinner with her family. But, that doesn't mean you have to. Find out what balance means for you and your small business and stick to it. Personally, I schedule everything -- family dinners, friends birthdays -- everything goes on the calendar.
It's not easy, and balance will almost never mean 50-50, but these tips may help you reduce burn out and spend quality time with the people you love, doing what you love:
Schedule your day by the hour--personal and business.
This will give you an idea of how and when you are spending your time and what you may be able to adjust. I break time up to include sleeping, eating and commuting. Just the sense of being in charge of your time alleviates some stress and guilt.
Be practical and honest about the time you have available and leave some room for adjustment so your entire schedule doesn't fall apart. If you know you need 30 minutes to unwind by reading your favorite magazine at the end of the day, block it in. Don't tell yourself you're going to review your business' financials at 9:30 p.m. just to squeeze it in -- set yourself up for success.
Don't allow constant "emergencies" to throw off your schedule.
Obviously, there will be times that force a schedule adjustment but create boundaries as to what constitutes an "emergency".
Delegate smaller tasks to employees.
If you don't have available employees, consider outsourcing very time-consuming areas like social media postings or website design and upkeep.
Protect your energy.
Years ago, my Mom would leave the office daily to walk to a local coffee shop even though there was a coffee machine in her office. Just getting out in the sunshine and stretching her legs allowed her to recharge and even to think through certain problems. Even the act of getting up and grabbing a fresh cup of coffee from our company's kitchen gives me the mental break I need.
Don't multitask on your personal time.
Be "in the moment" when you are away from the business. If you must attend to a business matter on personal time then make sure you delineate the time you will spend.
My parents ran a small business and I grew up in their office while they managed work and life together. Now that I manage my own business, I learn from their boundaries and set expectations accordingly. Some days will be be better than others -- I remind myself that it's OK to skip a family meal or gym session a couple of days in a row as long as I "balance" it out in the future, because it turns out work-life balance is less about the number of hours in the day that you spend at your desk and more about the experiences you're able to create and opportunities you carve out for your family in the future.