Entrepreneurs by trade are passionate, visionary, hard working individuals. They all may have different approaches to balancing work and life, but most have type A personalities and enough determination to move obstacles. Their positive attitudes, ability to see bright futures and resolve to strive for success make them resilient to setbacks. These traits are a recipe for success but when all is said and done, this work ethic can be a threat to the entrepreneur‘s health and sanity. As business owners ourselves, we have been there many times…endless hours of work and no time for rest. Very quickly we realized that burning a candle for 24 hours leaves us with no candle at all. If all you do is work then you are sacrificing other necessities of life.
When I was pulling all nighters for projects and seeing clients in the morning, back to back, I told myself, “who needs sleep”. I will sleep when it is all done. But it was never all done. I have to say, change came for me when I received very bright advice from a client. She is a very successful woman with a fruitful business. We were going down on an elevator and chatting as she told me how she viewed life just like I did…just do and do until it’s all done. And then do more. Well, the next thing you know she got sick and the wake up call came for her. She gave me the best wisdom that day as we were talking. She told me, I used to be very proud of being a workaholic until I realized that there was no glory in it. Something clicked.
I know we praise hard working people but what is the difference between being addicted to something bad or being addicted to work? Addiction can be a sign of instability. No matter the cause of the imbalance, something good like work or not, we can never live in harmony unless we balance things out. Ever since, I have been working toward a healthier work/life balance and trust me it is not an easy thing to do in a world where you can answer your work e-mails at the diner table or relax with your laptop on your lap. I look at it the same way I look at being organized. It is not just the actions I take today or tomorrow, a change has to happen in my lifestyle. It takes constant awareness, a really good knowledge of time management, strong discipline and making the right choices at any giving moment.
This doesn’t mean that to this day I have it all right. There are still many all nighters and 12-14 hour workdays here and there. But one step at the time, right? In my endless quest to find the right work/life balance here are a few things I learned that might be useful to you too. Try one or all of them and remember there is no magical recipe or one-size-fits-all piece of clothing. You need to tailor it to match how you approach work and life in general.
Work Smarter Not Harder
I know we have heard it many times but do we really work smart or do we just work hard? By studying my habits, I realized that many times I was spending too much time on projects because I was not focused, was being a perfectionist or mismanaging my time. To avoid this, have a clear vision of the full project before you jump in. Have an idea of how long it should take and keep yourself accountable to getting the project done in timely manner. Good time management knowledge will get you far as a business owner. Here on our blog, we have many time management tips but two in particular to check out are: “Time It!” and “10 Time Management Apps & Software to the Rescue!”. They can really give you a good start on the subject.
Trim Time-Sucking Habits and Tasks
Things like micromanaging your staff, surfing the internet, perfectionism, worrying, multitasking, playing with your pets and so on will cost you more time than they provide in value. You know yourself and you know your habits. See where you are bleeding time and try to bring about changes that can help you.
Let Go of Guilt
This one is my Achilles heels! If I am not working, resting or relaxing, I feel so guilty. I never enjoy the down time to the fullest because I am always thinking about things that I should be doing other than taking some personal time to relax. For me I think it comes from years and years of believing that only those who really work hard deserve success. First I need to change that way of thinking, then I can work on enjoying my down time. For you, the reason may be different but figure out what makes you feel guilty and learn to let it go. We all deserve to have a life while working hard to make a better life.
We’ve all heard the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, and nothing is more true. Being successful doesn’t happen overnight. People that we call overnight success stories have had many, many years of trial and error that we don’t know about. We always assume they just made it out of nowhere and quickly. So we push ourselves to be at the top of our game from the beginning of our journey. Enjoy the ride, all the ups and downs and know it is a road that never has a final destination. Pause at rest stops, give your heart courage when it gets stormy and bask in the sun on your brightest days. Over pushing and stressing will only burn you out. Learn to be consistent but also know this is only one side of your life and other things need your attention and dedication just as much as your career.
Remember that every bad decision you make because you are in rush or over exhausted can take you a step back or take hours to be undone. Good decisions are the result of a mind and body well rested. If you just keep staring at the top of the mountain, you are going to miss the trail that will lead you there. Gardening has always has been a great teacher for me. It gives me faith in growth. I have learned that if I plant the right seeds and take care of them, they will grow. You might not be able to see the tree now, as the roots are just shaping in the dirt, but it will come. I have learned to not worry, to not over water, not to over do it and in time, I will have my harvest. Learn to enjoy the fruit of your labor by giving yourself some balance and peace.