Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is difficult for anyone, particularly when our smartphones buzz with each new email, no matter whether we’re on the way to the gym, in the grocery store, or relaxing at home. But the challenge can be exponentially harder for today’s entrepreneur. Starting a business requires a little insanity, to be sure, but you don’t want the lifestyle to send you over the edge.
So how do successful entrepreneurs stay sane while they prosper at work and at home? For me, finding balance boils down to taking it one day at a time, one step at a time, and always staying present in the moment while running and growing my business. Here are a few tips I like to incorporate into my daily routine:
1. Get a grip on time management.
I’m not talking about downloading the latest calendar or organization app. For most entrepreneurs, effective time management isn’t an issue with organization, but with prioritization. If you want work-life balance, you’ll need to think about everything that competes for your time, then decide what to keep and what to discard. You’ll also need to communicate clear expectations for yourself and others. In some cases, this means saying “No.” For some, saying no doesn’t come naturally, but you’ll be happier and healthier if you manage your time on your own terms.
2. Exercise, exercise, exercise.
No matter how hectic your schedule, make time for exercise. I work out every day by taking Richard Giorla’s Cardio Barre® classes. A good workout helps you release stress, maintain a routine, and think without interruption (exercise can be a form of meditation). Physical activity helps your body pump out more of those feel-good neurotransmitters, known as endorphins, to keep your mood up even in when days get a little tough (check out what The Mayo Clinic has to say on the subject). Even President Obama faithfully hits the gym, The Economist has reported, relying on exercise as his life intensifies.
Facebook and YouTube aren’t the only digital distractions we face. For most entrepreneurs, the never-ending onslaught of emails and IMs from clients, vendors and colleagues ends up being the day’s biggest time sink. If you’re drowning in your inbox, dedicate chunks of the day when you unplug from the phone and email to get work done. Then log back on and power through the necessary responses.
And when “office hours” are over, close your laptop and put aside your mobile phone…even if just for an hour or two. For most entrepreneurs, this task will take enormous discipline, but you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes, in terms of both your mind-set and your productivity.
4. Live outside your job.
As an entrepreneur, you’re passionate about your business and you’re ready to put everything you have into making it thrive. You may feel you need to work on your business all the time (just for the first year…or for the first two years…), but eventually this lifestyle will catch up with you and result in burnout, damaged relationships, stress and health issues. Yes, there will always be more emails to send or more prospects to contact. But you’ve got to be able to walk away and spend time on the other activities you love, whether that’s reading, kayaking, movies, cooking, gardening or just spending time with family or friends. As much as possible, try to be 100 percent present during your free time activities, since bringing your BlackBerry on a hike isn’t much of an escape.
5. Don’t fear failure.
Sven-Goran Eriksson said, “The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.” And when it comes to running your business, truer words have never been spoken. As an entrepreneur, your path is uncharted and oftentimes bumpy. And when things don’t go as planned, it’s all too easy to find yourself frustrated, stressed or downright panicked. Realize that you cannot control everything, no matter how hard you try. This simple change in mind-set will actually give you better control over your environment and help you better respond to whatever comes your way. For me, I know that I am not done failing …I will fail again. I am not done succeeding …I will succeed again. And most importantly, I am not done trying!
6. Get help.
When you’re just starting out or times are tough, it’s natural to want to tighten the purse strings. And in many cases, this is the only realistic option. However, you should consider what you could gain by handing over certain tasks to contractors, employees, even interns or volunteers. By relinquishing control of administrative tasks or keeping up with the company’s daily blog, you’ll be able to better focus on what’s going to keep you in business. And that’s revenue.
The key to work-life balance is different for everyone; the key is knowing what works for you. How are you faring in the entrepreneurial balancing act? Have you found unique ways to stay sane and avoid burnout?