A recent study by the American Sociological Review states that 70% of American workers struggle with finding a work-life system that works for them.
Juggling the demands of running a business and personal life is an ongoing challenge for most of us, especially if you are blessed (or burdened) with an entrepreneur’s work ethic.
Are you continually grinding away, trying to grow and scale your business, only to find out you still aren’t achieving the success you want to? If so, then there’s a good chance that you likely need to sharpen your approach to the work-life balance.
If this sounds like a vague and distant concept, don’t worry –it’s not. Striking a work-life balance is extremely practical; and important for your long-term success, health, and peace of mind too. Now before we go any further, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a perfect work-life balance. In fact, many days I don’t have much balance at all. I find that when you’re embarking on a new project –such as starting a company, or launching a new product, finding a perfect balance may not be possible. However, and this is important, the problem is when you continue to burn the candle at both ends –even long after your company is off the ground. It’s easy to stay in that mode where you’re constantly working around the clock; while slowly you slip into the role of becoming a cog in the wheel.
It’s a common misconception that overloading yourself with work is the best way to get ahead. But remember: you want to work smarter, not harder. Sure you can do this for a while, burning the midnight oil and all of that, but eventually, things are going to catch up with you. More than that though, being constantly busy can actually limit your productivity. It makes sense when you think about it, by being constantly busy, you’re likely knee-deep in the daily tasks, the nitty gritty ones –which means that you’re far less likely to have time to devote to other, more high-level issues –like strategy, or growing your company.
A little fact for you: The best leaders and achievers focus on what they want, and this includes taking a sustainable approach and carving out a work-life balance that suits them.
While The Onion jokingly contends that the only way to achieve effective work/life balance is not to have a job (See the case of Sam Morrison, who was able to find a perfect balance only after being laid off!), the reality is that it’s entirely possible to carve out a work-life balance for yourself, no matter what stage of the game you’re in. How you manage your time is ultimately up to you.
If you’d like to carve out a work-life balance for yourself, here’s a look at some tips that will help you to find success.
- Don’t Strive for Perfection – It Doesn’t Exist
In a perfect, idealized world, your work-life balance would happen effortlessly and like clockwork. You’d wake up effortlessly waking up at 5 a.m., hitting the gym, scooping up your meal-prepped lunch and heading off to the office, getting home a little after 5 p.m., dialing up some Uber Eats, bang out some chores, and wind down with a nice book in bed by 9 p.m.
But let’s face it, that’s never going to happen on a consistent basis.
Life happens– All. The. Time. Things are consistently dynamic and always changing.
Don’t get too hung up on designing the perfect schedule. Instead, strive for a realistic one. You may focus more on work certain days, while others you may be more inclined to golf, spend time with the family, or relax and zone out. That’s okay. You need all of these things to be a happy, fulfilled individual.
Balance is key here. Choose the middle path always. Patience, young grasshopper.
Often when you try to work on multiple tasks in the same day, the transition from one to the next isn’t very smooth. One thing that I’ve found that works for me is to try to accomplish specific tasks on certain days. Batching by “theme” if you will. So if you wear multiple hats in the company, maybe you’ll have Mondays for accounting or accounts payable, and Tuesdays can be all about marketing. This allows you to keep your focus easier and get more done on that particular part of your business.
If you have multiple businesses, think about segmenting the work for each one on separate days.
- Take Time to Take Time for Yourself
As a talented and savvy entrepreneur, YOU are your number one asset. So treat yourself accordingly. Would you work your #1 employee into dust? Probably not, you’d run the risk of driving them to burnout. So why do that to yourself?
You’ll never be the best version of yourself if you are always tired, rundown, and unfocused. Find a way to schedule the time to recharge even when your calendar is completely bonkers. Never give up the time that you have dedicated to yourself.
Exercise is an essential component of this. It will improve your health and focus over time. It will also boost your production of endorphins; chemicals that make you feel happy.
Consider adding a 20-minute routine in your morning for contemplation, journaling, or self-reflection. You’ll be amazed at how effective this short period of silence can be for reducing stress and anxiety. I’m also a big advocate of taking ten-minute breaks throughout the day. It’s easy to get fatigued when sitting at a desk all day, and plenty of studies out there show how taking short breaks can actually increase productivity.
Regardless of what you choose to do with your “me” time, don’t be tempted to give it up when your calendar starts to get full.
- Don’t Silo Yourself – Ask for Help When You Need It
We are happier, more productive people when we have a strong support system around us. So find some work that you can offload and outsource it to your other team members.
If you don’t have a robust team that you can outsource to, consider enlisting a virtual assistant to perform some of your more menial tasks. You’d be surprised how much value a remote team member can add to an organization. Do you need to be answering all of your phone calls, managing your calendar, booking trips and posting to your company’s social media? Probably not. If you’re not sure where to start, be sure to check out my other article: Outsourcing and Delegating: What Every Entrepreneur Should Know. You may also want to head over to Sidekicks.com if you’d like to learn more about typical tasks that can easily be outsourced. (Hint: Customer Service, Social Media Management, and even Amazon Management can all be!)
Accept your limitations. Sometimes the demands laid upon you can outstrip what you can shoulder.
Take time to assess what is mission and critical, then ask for help. Don’t inundate yourself with busy-work; you’ll never get ahead that way.
- Communicate Your Needs Effectively and Respect the Boundaries of Others
To make the most out of your time, you need to understand where and how to focus your energy. Nail down what priorities are important to you and which benchmarks will help you to identify success.
Communicate to your team what these specific needs are and set expectations ahead of time. Take the time to make this a reciprocal process with your team. In doing so, it will enable everyone to respect each other’s boundaries and help everyone meet their individual goals.
Here are a few examples of how to make this function within your system:
- Is exercise a must in your workday? Make it a priority, make your team aware of it and find a flexible way to schedule it.
- Have you considered dedicating one day per week you ‘me time’? Tell your team that you will not be responding to emails, phone calls or texts. Schedule it and stick to it!
- You’ll also want to consider holding “office hours;” that is, designating a specific block of time each day for employee interaction. The fastest way to kill productivity is to have people constantly walking in and out of your office all day. By having designated times for employees to address issues or ideas, you are setting clear boundaries for your time. You’ll also want to consider roll call meetings or weekly summaries so that you are up to date with what everyone is doing, without them having to come running into your office with every question or problem.
- Identify Tasks That Don’t Contribute to the Overall Goal
We all get overwhelmed at times and feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. The fact of the matter is, maybe there is enough time but you’re just not focusing on what is most important.
It’s time to be ruthless.
Learn to identify items in your life that aren’t contributing to your overall goal. Is the time you’re wasting on social media or surfing the internet conducive to success? Those minutes can add up to a significant block of time.
I recommend tracking your time for an entire week. Either write down in a journal or use a time tracking app like Toggl. This will give you a good idea of how much time you’re wasting on nonsense. Also, if you’re an iPhone user, take advantage of the app that tracks your screen time. It can provide some fascinating insights into how all those minutes add up over time. To learn more about the value of down tasking, take a look at: 10 Easy Steps to Free Up Time On Your Calendar.
- Be Purposeful With Your Use of Technology
Technology is supposed to make your life easier, not control it.
Realize that although technology may be a good servant, it is indeed a bad master. Smartphones exist to make your life easier, not rule it. So how can you reel in the use of tech both at home and in the office? It’s all about prioritizing –and resolving to use tech to benefit you, rather than as a distraction. Instead of checking your email repeatedly; try signing out while you’re trying to get key projects done. Instead of mindlessly browsing the net, use a ‘read it later’ app like Pocket to bookmark things that catch your interest, and then only look at them on your breaks.
You may even want to set up specific times both at home and in at work where you’re tech-free. Set up these rules and adhere to them. This will help you to be more in control of how you work. Be a role model for your staff and colleagues.
If you want to take this up a notch, outline specific times in your schedule when you’ll respond to emails and voicemails. You don’t necessarily have to react immediately to every message that hits your inbox. Just because someone else deems something a priority doesn’t mean you must as well.
Likewise, you’ll want to do what you can to minimize interruptions from programs –even productivity tools. While tools like Slack and Trello can be great communication tools, they can also become a distraction. Make sure you set the appropriate notification settings so that you are not getting pinged with every little notice.
- Make Your Time Your Number One Priority
No doubt you have an immense list of to-dos. Everyone does. But just because something is on the top of the list doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a top priority.
Consider prioritizing your list into four distinct categories.
- Urgent and important
- Important but not urgent
- Urgent but not important
- Neither urgent nor important
The best way to prioritize your time is to sit down at the end of the day. Assess your daily activities and make a list. What did you do with your time? Which parts of the day were productive and what were areas where you need improvement? Can you think of activities in your day that don’t seem to add anything? If so, cut them out.
Value your time. Don’t squander it on meaningless activities. Once you have put thought in your day, compile a list of activities that need to be accomplished the next day. Work them into the above categories. When you start the day, you’ll know exactly what you need to focus on, and will have your priorities in front of you.
It’s understandable that we all have competing demands in life. The busier and more hectic our schedules get, the easier it is to fall into an unbalanced dynamic. Thankfully though, it’s not difficult to hit the reset button and establish a happy medium once again. You can slow the negative momentum; it’s up to you to make that decision.
Take some time every day to make some adjustments to your routine. Schedule time for yourself, put a limit on the number of hours you are working every week, and think about tasks you can outsource to a virtual assistant. You’ll find that you’re going to be much happier and more productive too.
Take the bull by the horns, follow these simple steps, and you’ll be at your ideal equilibrium again in no time.
What helps you to find a work-life balance?