Recently, I have been involved in a big, new work project. You know the type –it gets your adrenaline flowing, requires creativity and discipline and takes up a lot of time and bandwidth. The kind of project that is both exciting and overwhelming at the same time.
Did I mention that I am pretty tired?
But unlike other times when I have faced similar deadlines on big projects, this time, while weary in a good way, I am not burnt-out like I may have been (OK, have been) in the past. The reason is that this time, I consciously tried to retain some work-life balance, and it made a difference. Not only am I not as tired at the finish line, but my work along the way was better too.
It is easy when you are an entrepreneur to let work become such a priority that other parts of your life take a backseat. After all, that sort of dedication may be one reason you are so good at what you do and why you’re still in business.
But, as they say, too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. To truly be effective in your work, you need to maintain a good work-life balance because losing that balance can lead to burnout, marital problems, health problems and business setbacks. If you don’t strike a balance, you may come to resent your business.
What is a balanced life, exactly? There are probably as many definitions as there are people, but a simple way to look at it is to imagine your life as a pie chart, cut into six equal pieces. If you want to have a balanced life, none of these pieces should ever get too big and all require some of your attention.
These six essential pieces are:
1. Your business. Let’s begin here. You have a business you love and one that probably takes up a lot of your time; after all, you are reading this article, right? So the first thing to remember is that you cannot neglect your business, even as you work to put it in its rightful place. If you are in business for yourself, then, like Goldilocks’ porridge, the time you put in can’t be too much, or too little, it has to be just right.
2. Your family and friends. Especially when you run a business, it is easy to let this part of your business take a back seat since you may think these folks in particular will understand why you need to work so hard. And they will, until they don’t. Once that happens, it may be too late. So the first non-work part of your work-life balancing act needs to be spending enough time with your loved ones.
3. Leisure time. Having balance means that you take time out to watch a game, hang out or otherwise do those things that you like to do.
4. Physical and mental health. When you are a small business owner, it is easy to become so stressed about time that you let your exercise routine and eating habits falter. But truly, one reason you go into business for yourself is so you can have a more flexible schedule to do things you want. Your personal well-being is at the forefront of what you do day in and day out so it’s important that you take care of it.
5. Personal growth. Take a class, read a book, learn something new, listen to music, go to a play, volunteer, stay involved. Business becomes a burden when it is the only thing in your life.
6. Spirituality and religion. Going to church or synagogue, meditating, talking a walk – however you connect, keep with it.
Satisfaction must be obtained in each one of these six areas in order for you to have a fulfilling life. There is little point in creating a great business if you end up being married to it 24/7. Every time you say yes to your business, you are saying no to something else. If you can figure out the areas in which your life is not balanced, you can start to adjust accordingly. The important thing is to take the time to reflect on what is important to you and make sure your schedule reflects that. What are some ways you achieve a work-life balance? Share your recommendations with the SBOC community below.
About Steve Strauss
Steve Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. Steve is also the author of the Small Business Bible and his latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need. A popular media guest, Steve is a regular contributor to ABC News Now and frequently appears on television and radio. His business, The Strauss Group, creates unique, actionable, entertaining, and informative multi-media small business content.