Being an entrepreneur at any level requires nothing less than full commitment if you desire to be successful. The amount of ownership attached to being an entrepreneur also fills it with tempting and meaningless time sucks. This makes time management the utmost importance on all fronts. While your desires for perfection may be paired with a “no days off” approach, the two combined may cost you a life outside of work, not to mention unnecessary stress.
One thing entrepreneurs possess completely is control. This alone provides great flexibility on how you’ll approach nearly every aspect of business including day to day life. You control when you say yes or no, when you say start or stop, and so on. As a result, work-life balance is also defined entirely by you.
One thing I’ve noticed consistently with entrepreneurs I’ve interacted with, and ironically myself is being overwhelmed by thoughts and ideas. They never seem to stop presenting themselves, and becoming prisoner to constantly coming up with solutions is relatively easy. That being said, breaking free from this mental prison so you can devote time to living life outside of work is also relatively easy. Here are three major recommendations to help make that possible.
1. Set Boundaries and Manage Expectations
In my opinion, setting boundaries and managing expectations is foundational for work-life balance regardless of position. For entrepreneurs however, it’s especially vital. My personal philosophy is this; Work was here before you were, is here while you are, and will be here long after you’re gone. As a result, work remains perpetually unfinished. For this reason, exercise wisdom and discretion in managing both when and how you work.
Establish a meaningful balance that works for you and stick to it. Again, defining this balance falls entirely in your hands, but ideally the balance would provide time to detach from work completely. Communicate your hours of availability with stakeholders by word and practice. Once everyone else has taken note of these practices, they’re more likely to factor them in when requesting time with you.
How you work is equally important, and should be thoroughly established upfront with all stakeholders, especially clients. Managing expectations in this manner not only helps avoid setting potentially bad precedents, but also leaves ample opportunity to under promise and over deliver. While doing everything in your power to provide the best possible product, service or experience is great practice, efficiently providing those results is even better practice.
2. Become a Time Management Guru
In the entrepreneurial sphere, time is a highly valued commodity especially early on. Creating a healthy work-life balance means ensuring time is spent completing only the most relevant tasks and projects on your plate. Managing a business is stressful enough by itself. The last thing needed is additional stress getting stuck completing activities that don’t build significant value.
Full disclosure up front. I am terrible with day to day time management. Less terrible now than a year ago, but still terrible overall. The resulting fallout has caused lots of unnecessary headache, and it’s sure to be worse for the entrepreneur failing to properly budget their time. Here’s a couple of things I’ve learned along the way, and why they’re so important:
- Minimize distractions at all costs.
- Day to day distractions are small in nature, but happen very frequently. Device notifications of all kinds, quick questions, social media, and ineffective multitasking are all forms of distractions taking away literally hours per day of productivity. A qualifying question I’ve learned to ask is “can I address this later without issue?” If the answer is yes, assign a specific time for those tasks and do them then.
- Assign time to the minute.
- Doing so keeps you organized while avoiding the temptation to linger on activities beyond the time needed to address them. Feel free to check emails, and other small tasks during the time you have assigned for them. Chances are you’ll be able to address most issues within the assigned window, leaving you more time available to handle higher value activities.
- Learn to discern high value vs low value activities.
- In very simple terms, direct your efforts toward activities and tasks that move you closer to specific goals or objectives you’ve mapped out. These activities constitute high value activities, and are easier to determine with careful planning. In contrast, low value activities provide minimal progress towards goals if any at all. They’re also classified as being routine, or unnecessary in nature. As an example providing contrast, closing deals is a much higher value activity than preparing invoices after deals close. One directly impacts the bottom line, while the other can be automated saving time, and energy.
3. Manage Stress
Life as an entrepreneur at time feels all consuming. The highs and lows are constant. Without a doubt you’ll face setbacks. Actual, and perceived pressure to succeed are ever present. Issues with clients, struggles driving growth and revenue, and internal problems are inevitable. All of these represent the tip of a very large iceberg guaranteed to bring significant stress along with them. As such, in addition to establishing work-life balance, part of the entrepreneur’s job description inherently includes stress management.
Finding your happy place managing it all is sort of an art form. Self-awareness, anticipation, and pro-activeness are useful attributes to get ahead of dealing with potential stress. Your choice of routine activities, exercise, and calming mechanisms are also at your disposal. Actually making time to utilize them though is your responsibility.
Another concept worth avoiding long term is the “no days off” mentality. Staying thoroughly on top of business affairs should certainly be prioritized, but working more to do so proves counterproductive more often than acknowledged. Take breaks often, both and small and large. Your mind and body need the rest, plus there’s the additional benefit of fresh perspective upon your return. Those often illusive “Aha!” moments sometimes come to light after stepping away for a while then coming back with a refreshed mind, and set of eyes.
Dealing with stress is mandatory to keep your head in the game. If left unchecked, you may find yourself severely overwhelmed which will ultimately lead to discouragement and self-doubt. While you can overcome these with a little tact, taking a pro-active approach may be easier in the long run.
Being an entrepreneur comes with serious challenges, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance is one of many. Tackling these challenges head on means you’re already ahead of everyone who hasn’t tried. Just remember that maintaining a healthy balance is ultimately a matter of overall health and wellness. Stay encouraged, stay motivated and stay hungry! Each day only has 24 hours, and it’s on you to make them count both on and off the job.
#HARDWORKEASYLIVING – Do HWEL For Yourself