As an entrepreneur, you've probably heard it many times: "There's no such thing as work-life balance."
The widespread myth is that if you want to make it as an entrepreneur, you have to log 16-hour days in a windowless basement without coming up for air. But a startup is like a wild horse that will tear you apart unless you have a strategy to tame it.
Want to travel, work from the beach, or spend more time with your kids? With e-commerce businesses, you can decide where you want to live and build a $1 million-per-year business wherever you are.
I used to live in San Diego with a 45-minute commute each way, but then I figured out that I could build an office in my little beach community. Now our offices are a block from the beach, and I'm a five-minute drive away.
The Benefits of Putting Your Life First. You can live the life you want by engineering your business around your life. It takes work to achieve balance, but it packs enormous benefits:
- It charges your batteries. Just as your creativity and productivity come in spurts when you're working, entrepreneurship requires breaks to clear the mind. It's the reason people have their best ideas in the shower.
That's why I take one extended trip each fall with friends to recharge. In the past few years, I've hit Colombia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. This fall, I'm headed on a three-week trip to South Africa, Botswana, and Madagascar.
- It widens your lens. Travel, hobbies, and diverse interests make you a more interesting person, which allows you to have better conversations with others and come up with more-creative solutions.
Nearly all my successful business ideas came from something I stumbled upon while venturing outside my day-to-day routine. If you keep your head down and only focus on work, you won't be able to identify new opportunities.
- It allows you to live without regrets. Focusing all of your energy on business does nothing more than make you good at business. You may be successful, but you'll probably die lonely without ever seeing the world.
3 Strategies for Breaking the Startup Horse. I'll be the first to admit that I put my social life on hold for three years when I was starting my business, but I've gotten better at stepping away and living a fuller life. And you know what? Things didn't fall apart. Here's how I tamed the beast:
- Learn the Art of Management by Absence. Tim Ferriss popularized the concept of management by absence with his brilliant book, The 4-Hour Workweek.
The key is having great employees who allow you to step away from the day-to-day without things falling apart. When you learn how to outsource and give your team autonomy, it frees you up to create balance in your life.
This approach has paid dividends for me. Since the change, I've started going to a kettlebell gym in the mornings (the first time I've ever set foot in a gym). Next on my list is to get back into tennis and maybe even dating.
- Rotate Your Focus One talk at the 2013 MastermindTalks in Toronto really struck a chord with me. One entrepreneur who spoke suggested that a good solution is to rotate your focus every four months between business, health, and relationships. I think this is a brilliant strategy that I'm in process of implementing.
- Leverage Technology Today's digital world gives us more options than ever to work from anywhere at any time. With near omnipresent high-speed Internet access, you can conduct business from virtually any location. I closed my Shark Tank investment deal with Mark Cuban from an Internet café in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
5 Ways to Design Your Business Around Your Life. Here are a few ways to conduct business around your life--rather than the other way around:
- Outsource as much as you reasonably can. Fewer employees means fewer people to manage, hire, and fire. Use Upwork.com to find high-quality talent you can outsource work to from anywhere.
- Keep your office on your phone. I use TurboScan to turn my phone into a portable scanner. You can also use your phone to store your ideas with Evernote, which allows you to record things and review them later.
- Take advantage of online banking. Virtually all of your vendors can and should be paid via online banking. Just set them all up as payees, and you can log in from anywhere to pay your bills. You can also use PayTrust, a service that opens your mail, scans your bills, and allows you to pay them with one click.
- Hold meetings via Skype. Most people are familiar with Skype, but few use it as much as they should. Body language vastly increases understanding, especially in international communication.
- Do your homework. Check out the Panjiva app. Panjiva aggregates U.S. homeland security data of every container that comes into the country and makes it searchable. With the contents' description, weight, destination, and origination, you can not only source products, but also see who your competitors use, find suppliers, and even get a picture of market share. (There, I just saved you millions!)
No matter how you approach your venture, remember that a startup is only all-consuming if you let it be. By hiring great people, outsourcing and automating where you can, and taking advantage of technology, you can design your business around the life you want to live. Go forth and create experiences. The world is your office.