The majority of entrepreneurs say work-life balance is the biggest challenge they face, according to research from NodeSource. This puts it ahead of such headline-grabbers such as tightening talent pools and the online security.
At least initially, almost all small businesses require long hours of work. Owner-managers of small businesses often have a much longer workday than if they were working for someone else. Statistics Canada indicates that on average, 30.3 percent of self-employed persons work over 50 hours in a week compared with less than 4.1 percent of employees.
Why Should You Care About Work-Life Balance?
If you are an entrepreneur, you know that long hours are due to the individual nature of entrepreneurship, where the business owner ultimately makes final decisions and is responsible for the success or failure of the company. In owning a business, it is difficult, if not impossible, to confine concerns about the business to the workplace. Typically, these pressures will affect one’s personal life and family situation as well. Entrepreneurs will live and breathe the business because they have so much on the line – long hours are difficult to cap.
However, we also know that entrepreneurs need find away out of the dark side of entrepreneurship which include high stress levels, a high incidence of heart disease and a high rate of divorce due to the lack of work-life balance. BUT perhaps the most convincing reason is the large pile of evidence indicating working more doesn’t necessarily mean getting more done. According to a Boston University study, managers couldn’t tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80-hour weeks and those only pretending to. And when writer Kevin Kruse interviewed more than 300 entrepreneurs, Olympians and straight-A students, he found one of the key things they had in common was their prioritization of sleep, relaxation and taking breaks.
So this is where I offer some words of wisdom I learned long ago – If you can’t take care of yourself, how can to take care of others? In other words, if your business can’t survive without you, you had better take care of yourself!
How You Can Achieve Work-Life Balance
Now that you’ve been sufficiently frightened by all that could go wrong because of your dedication to your business, let’s focus on strategies for achieving this mysterious paradise we call work-life balance.
1. Prioritize. This means looking at what needs to be done, determining what are needs (vs wants) and cutting everything else out.
A great strategy I use is:
- Determine the main priorities
- Set deadlines for each priority
- Create a workback schedule for each prioritize
- Then prioritize again!
The important thing to remember is to be completely honest with yourself. This doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so don’t feel bad if it’s hard to stop one priority before moving onto the next.
2. Build talent. Remember all that stuff you just took out of your life? Guess what – it is back in your radar (you can’t help it – you are an entrepreneur). So it is time to take a look at those remaining lists of priorities and see what you can hand off to someone else. Perhaps reach out to Awesome Sauce Business Services (just saying) .
Seriously, you cannot do everything yourself. So it might be a good idea to look at hiring. However, forget the overhead – supplying an office, a computer, benefits! There are lots of opportunities to build your talent pool like a freelancer or a local student intern to take tasks off your plate. And once you’ve hired a solid team to work for you, don’t hold on to the idea that you’re the only one who can handle complex, creative business problems. It’s important not to become a “one-man-show” as an entrepreneur. A good team will bring new insight ideas to a stale problem every time.
3. Schedule. This goes back to where step one left off. Create a daily schedule. This means breaking your day down into chunks which you allocate to each of the priorities. Then follow the schedule. If you schedule one hour, stop and move onto the next immediately. The reason for this is you will feel hugely accomplished at the end of the day because you will have taken a ‘chunk’ out of each priority!
As Nathan Chan of Foundr magazine put it, “Utilizing your calendar is everything. … You treat family time/work-life balance as part of your schedule.”
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Remember, entrepreneurship drives economic growth by creating jobs, providing value in the market and driving innovations in new products, services and technologies. So please, take your life seriously, not just your business. Find your balance.