Entrepreneurs are a funny breed. We aren’t better or worse than anyone else–we’re just different. Most entrepreneurs go into business for one reason. Passion. They have a dream to create something, or help others, and it is the driving force behind their business. At the same time, most entrepreneurs have a vision of creating a better life for themselves and their families. One where they have more control over their time, their scheduling–in fact, more control over their lives in general. Many business owners and entrepreneurs have a plan to create a structured existence where work passion and a satisfying home life can happily coexist. It should be easy–but it’s not. It seems like more and more of us are looking for work life balance tips.
This seems to be especially true for those who become entrepreneurs later in life. Those mid-life professionals who, for one reason or another, decide the corporate pool they’ve been swimming in is no longer deep enough to keep them challenged. They crave something more exciting–something that give their lives a sense of purpose. Sometimes it’s a decision they come to on their own. For others, like myself, it is a decision that is forced upon them. But the end result is the same. No longer content with just working to support a certain lifestyle, we strike out on our own to follow our passions and create a world of our own design. A design where work is not all-encompassing. A design where we make the choice of how and when we follow our passions.
So we create a life where we follow our passion. We no longer have a job, or even a career. We have a calling. We love what we do and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. What could be better than that? After all, if you are doing something you love, it isn’t really work, right? What is wrong with an 80 to 90 hour work week if you feel energized and satisfied?
Actually, there is nothing wrong with an 80 hour work week, if that is all you want. If a home life, relationships, friendships, or personal development are not important to you, then you are definitely on the right road. The problem is that most entrepreneurs focus solely on their business in order to become successful. To support themselves in a lifestyle they feel is necessary. These are people who define success in more traditional terms. It involves income, homes, cars, possessions, 401K’s, and all the other trappings of what society considers necessary for a successful life.
Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs–especially the reinventionists among us–start with a different vision of what success will be. It is a blend of meaningful work and a happy home life. It is so easy to lose sight of the original vision, even more so when trying to create successful business. Spending time at home with the family becomes secondary, something we can do later. It is almost as if we are unconsciously recreating the world we left behind, simply because it is the one we are most comfortable with.
If you find yourself on this path and realize you took a wrong turn somehow, there are things you can to do to create a better sense of balance while still following your passion. As Bryan Robinson, PhD states in his book, Chained to the Desk–A Guidebook for Workaholics, no one says you have to stop working. But there are ways that you can create a successful, fulfilling life filled with a passion for both work and home life.
1. Revisit your dream. What does your perfect life look like? I’m going to bet it doesn’t involve cuddling up with your laptop each night when you finally crawl into bed. Do you really want to spend more time with your spouse or kids? Is being home for dinner each night an important part of your vision? Did you think you would be able to go for a daily jog at lunch before hitting the afternoon meetings? When you think about the perfect life, think about the bigger picture, not just paying the mortgages. Include all aspects of your world to create a fulfilling vision.
2. Set Boundaries. Once you reconnect with what is truly important to you, the next step is create a structure that will accommodate those values. It is so easy to let work bleed into every aspect of your day, especially if you work at home. Set boundaries for yourself. Lose the 24 hour planner. Find one with the hours you want to work. Perhaps it is eight to five. Or maybe eight to eight. The point is to create a time for work, and a time for personal issues. Once you set those boundaries, respect them. Must emails can wait for a response–they don’t require a response at midnight. We also have the blessing and curse of modern technology to help us here. While smartphones mean we can be connected 24/7, there is nothing that says we have to be. In fact, most smartphones come with a little used button known as “Off”. It seems that few of us know how to use it. Another great underused feature is the “Do Not Disturb” option. Find a time that you know longer what to accept calls or emails and set it. You will be surprised at how peaceful you will feel knowing that you won’t be hearing that Pavlovian alert of a new email or late night phone call.
3. Stop Being Busy. Determine what your most productive actions are. Many of us fall into the trap of creating busy work, or work we feel may be productive down the line. The truth is we create most of those tasks to make us feel productive rather than be productive. Look at your weekly agenda. How have you filled it? Are the items on the agenda really moving your business forward, or do they just give you the illusion of being busy. Focus on what is really leveraging your business and let the rest go, or delegate it out, if possible. The old adage still remains true–Eighty percent of our results come from twenty percent of our actions. Focus on the twenty percent and free up time for that lunch hour jog.
4. Schedule a Crystal Period. This should be a sacred time meant for you. It’s similar to what Brian Tracy calls the Golden Hour. It is a quiet period of each day when you focus on your priorities. Reconnect with your values and what is important in the big picture so your vision becomes crystal clear. You can do this by meditating, reviewing your schedule, journalizing, or even working out. It is a time to review what you have done in the last twenty-four hours and what you need to do to center and re-energize yourself for the next twenty-four hours.
5. Make Yourself a Priority. When following our passions, it is too easy to let our own self-care fall to the bottom of the priority list. The simple truth is when we spend too much time on one aspect of our lives, we neglect others, and our health is usually one of the neglected items. Add time to exercise into your agenda. It can be thirty minutes a day, but it is crucial if you want to excel in other parts of your life. The same is true of nutrition and sleep. If you skimp on either of those, you are cheating yourself and those around you of the best things you could contribute, simply because you cannot function at an optimal level.
6. Go With the Flow. Realize that any plan may need to be adjusted at any time. There may be times when giving 150% at work is necessary. The launch of a new product can be overwhelming and all-consuming. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you are able to throttle back once the event is over. Don’t get stuck in overdrive. Sometimes caring for a sick child will take precedence and deadlines may suffer. Keep one eye on the overall picture, and be willing to give unexpected attention to unexpected areas when necessary.
Balance is a very personal thing. There can be no one work life balance definition that fits every person. We all have to decide what it means to us. As entrepreneurs, we have the chance to write that definition for ourselves. If you are struggling with balancing your work with your personal life, you might want to give some of these ideas a try. You may find you are able to create the perfect sense of balance you have been searching for.
Looking for a way to create a work life balance that works for you? Contact me for a free 30 minute strategy session where we will define what that life looks like to you–and how to get there.