I don’t believe in the phrase “work-life-balance.” I think it sets us up for failure, because it’s impossible to achieve—at least for an entrepreneur. Balance implies 50/50 and no business owner can succeed only devoting 50 percent of their time to building their companies.
The reality of growing a business demands more than that, especially at startup, when a new business is nearly as needy as a new baby. (If you've ever been, or met, a new mom, you know their life isn’t exactly an example of “balance”).
As your business grows and you add employees, things get easier, akin to the relief moms feel when their kids grow beyond the toddler stage and they can finally take a shower in peace. But no matter what stage our businesses are in, women business owners—especially those with significant others, children or aging parents — rarely feel balanced. “When I'm at work, I feel guilty I’m not at home with my kids,” one woman entrepreneur told me. “When I’m home with my kids, I feel guilty I’m not answering client emails or working on proposals.”
Since the burdens of running the household usually fall on women (still!) even if they work outside the home, work-life balance has long been viewed as a “women's issue.” In recent years, however, the desire for work-life balance has become widespread. As technology intrudes into our lives 24/7, even men and millennials are yearning for less work, more life.
Is there an answer? While I believe the likelihood of any woman business owner finding true work-life balance is about as likely as finding the Holy Grail, I do think we can all find a more satisfactory way of managing our lives.
Here’s what it takes.
1. Accept you’ll never find balance. Instead, you’ll be seesawing up and down between priorities (see #3). Learn to enjoy the view, wherever you are, and savor the ride.
2. Give up the guilt. Easier said than done, I know. As women, we are raised to put others first and be people pleasers. If you want to succeed as a business owner without losing your grip, you’ve got to let some of that go.
3. Learn to prioritize. Your priorities will change every day—sometimes several times a day. It’s all about learning to triage what matters most to you—both at the moment and in the long term? If your biggest client is experiencing an emergency only you can handle, you might have to miss your daughter’s softball game. If your client just wants to have a routine conference call, tell him you have a previous appointment, schedule the call for tomorrow and go cheer your daughter on. Or start delegating some responsibilities.
4. Get help. Remember the old cliché, “Behind every successful man is a woman.” What could you accomplish if you had a “wife”? Stop trying to be Superwoman and think of ways you can buy time to focus on your priorities. For instance, maybe you need to hire a housecleaner, order dinner in every night or put your teens in charge of more household chores.
The bottom line: listen to your gut. Yeah, you know that every day you should make time to get plenty of sleep, exercise, meditate, socialize, etc., etc. Do all of those things ever happen in the same day? Not if you’re like most women business owners.
Instead of beating yourself up about it, check in with yourself at the end of every day and see how you feel. Maybe you feel on top of the world even though you just worked 16 hours straight. If you’re happy, great; if not, think about how you can make tomorrow a better day.
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of
America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.
Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation