Achieving a work life balance as an entrepreneur: Reprioritizing your work and life balance

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Often founders decided to launch their company because of the freedoms, and the entrepreneurial lifestyle. However, achieving your desired lifestyle is not always easy. The pressures of running a company mean that your startup can suddenly take over your life. This article explores how to adjust your work schedule to increase your work-life balance.

Recognizing the importance of maintaining a work-life balance

It is first critical to recognize the importance of maintaining a work-life balance – even if you are running your own company. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that as this is your firm, you need to be working every minute of the day. Some of the benefits of maintaining a work-life balance include:

Approaches for adjusting your work-life balance

Adjusting your role - are there low-value parts that can be scrapped

The most important – and often overlooked – approach to improving your work-life balance is to look to adjust your role. As an entrepreneur, you have much greater control over the bounds of your work than most employees – ultimately you decide what you do and what you don’t do.

If you systematically look at the activities that you perform, there are likely some that are so low-value add that they can be scrapped. Others you may still need to perform, but potentially not as much as you currently do. Finally some you may be able to delegate to others.

One of the easiest ways of restoring the work-life balance is to reduce down the scope of the work that you perform – focusing on the areas that are most important, or that you are best placed to undertake. Remember, being a successful entrepreneur requires you to work effectively, not just hard.

Setting boundaries on the times that you work

Traditional jobs have set hours – you will not find many employees that mandate that you are on call 24 hours a day. However, when it comes to working for yourself, this quickly becomes a self-imposed expectation.

If you want to reclaim control over your life, it can be useful to establish defined boundaries on your work – dedicated time where you will be working and dedicated time that you will relax, essentially treating your startup more in line with if it were a regular job. 

Working only in an office (or co-working space)

Another approach that you can take to improve your work-life balance is to begin to work from an office. While there are many perks of working from home as an entrepreneur – including the cost-saving – a danger is that it starts to blur the boundary between work and home-life. Suddenly your work and your home life start to blur, and quickly you are working all the time. Creating a distinction between being in an office, where you work, and being at home, where you relax, can help you enforce downtime into your routine. 

One possibility common with entrepreneurs is to work from a co-working space. Not only will this help in creating the boundary between your work and office life, but it can also be of benefit in meeting other entrepreneurs – bringing a more social element to your regular work. 

Disabling email on your phone after hours

Modern communications make it particularly difficult to step away from work. If you always have your phone on you, are you ever truly out of a work mindset?

One way of dealing with this is to disable email on your phone(!) Yes, this can be tough to get used to – what if there is an important email that you now won’t see until the next morning – but ultimately, it can be necessary to allow yourself to take a break. Realistically there are very few emails that need an instantaneous response – most messages can wait until the next day. 

Scheduling in holidays - even if it impacts your firm

A final approach for balancing your work and life balance is to schedule holidays – even if there is a negative consequence to your firm. This can be a hard trade-off to make – particularly if you are a solo entrepreneur, where you don’t have anyone who can pick up the slack. However, for many businesses, unless you make the difficult decision to shut down your business to take a holiday, you end up never having a holiday.

It can sometimes be useful to think of barbers, family restaurants, and other small businesses run by a single employee. It is not unusual to see such stores closed for a week or so at some point in the year – especially around holidays. Clearly, there is a knock-on impact on their sales – if a barber is not open, they get no sales – but at the same time, unless they make this call, they will never have a holiday. At some point you need to ask yourself – do you really want to be five or ten years into this job, and have never taken a holiday?

Of course, if you are scheduling a period of time when your business will be closed, it is important to think through a period when it will have the least disruption to you and your clients. Look at historical quiet periods, and consider ways of incorporating a break, while having only minimal disruption to your business. 

Final thoughts: A balance is important - but don't swing to the other extreme either

Of course, a balance in lifestyle goes both ways. Just as it is possible to get too focused on running your business to the detriment of your personal lifestyle, it is also possible to swing to the other extreme. You may need to remain focused and put in some hard work, at least initially, to launch your company. Ultimately striking the balance is difficult – but, at least in the long run, it is important to work at achieving a compromise between the effort required to make your firm successful and sufficient time off to enjoy this success.

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