The term, work-life balance is thrown around A LOT! It seems like everyone is working to find it, achieve it, and perfect it. We’re presented with a picture of two dueling sides that can never meet. But that isn’t realistic for business owners.
Your work is your passion and an integral part of life as much as family, friends, health, hobbies… you name it. The first step to achieving balance is admitting to yourself that your time with never be evenly split between every area of your life.
Think of all the life activities you want to dedicate time to. Imagine them as buckets and that you have a limited amount of water, or energy, to pour into each one every day. On some days, your work bucket will be 50%, and everything else will have to come from that remaining 50%. On other days, work will be at 5%, and you will have more time and energy to dedicate to everything else.
It’s all part of the same whole, which can never be in perfect balance at any given time. But the point is to be able to look back on your week, month, or year and see that all areas of your life were more or less balanced in the grand scheme of things.
Here are five tips to make a “balanced life” more attainable.
1. You must first define what a balanced life means to you. A 50/50 split isn’t realistic for most people. For example, for some women a successful balance means the time they dedicate to their children outweighs other parts. That means to attain a feeling of equilibrium they should structure their days so that the majority of their work is done when their child is asleep or at school. It might mean bringing their kids along on errands, so they can maximize time spent together. For other people, balance might be working tirelessly an entire week, so they can have the next week off for travel. Figuring out your ideal balance will not only help you organize your time, but it will also motivate you to work productively and efficiently so you have enough energy to dedicate to your other priorities as well.
2. Work and life shouldn’t be in battle with each other. The sooner you accept it all as just “life,” the less you will punish yourself for not perfectly dividing your time each day. Your balance won’t be ideal all the time. Forgive yourself and let go of guilt. Some days, you will have time for family, dinner with friends, and a yoga class and on other days you will be stuck with your laptop until midnight. As long as one area isn’t suffering in the long run, don’t sweat the daily imbalances.
3. Make clear distinctions as to when you are “on the job” and when you are off. Being an entrepreneur means you don’t have to follow a 9-to-5 work schedule, but some days it becomes more of a 24/7 schedule. On the days and weeks your work bucket seems to be overfilling, make sure that it’s not flowing into other areas. When you are working, put 100% of yourself into your tasks. But at the same time, when you step away from your desk, put 100% of yourself into your other activities as well. That means shutting off your laptop and not checking emails. This will help save your energy and motivation. And probably your sanity.
4. Have you ever felt like there needs to be two of you… or even three of you? Some days and even entire weeks can seem like too much for one person to handle. And most of us will put off “me-time” to fit something else into our schedules. At the end of it all, you’re left burned out and barely keeping up. Entrepreneurs often face the issue of being so enveloped in their work that they forget to make time of their other priorities. If this is you, schedule time for yourself like you would any other meeting and don’t allow interruptions. Add “life appointments” to your calendar – workout classes, activities with friends, or anything else that will benefit your well-being. This is especially important for those whose mind races towards what they “should be” doing instead when they are trying to relax. Also make it specific. By writing down the exact activity you will be engaging in, you are more likely to do it. Scheduling helps create a mental barrier and allows you to focus on your downtime and nothing else.
5. Remember how tip #3 said to pour 100% of yourself to whatever is currently in front of you? Well, it doesn’t always work like that, especially when it comes to vacations as an entrepreneur. But hey, taking a working vacation is better than no vacation at all! Whenever you can completely disconnect on vacation, you should! Unfortunately, life doesn’t always give us that pleasure. Work out a plan with your team where you can hand over responsibilities as much as possible to minimize your workload. But even if you don’t have the support of a team while you are away, a little restraint will help you break free from your laptop and enjoy yourself. After all, restraining from work is easier than restraining from fun! Make your out-of-office message super helpful. Indicate how long you will be gone and when you plan on checking in on emails and responding. If you have someone who will be assisting while you are out, include their contact information. Schedule time for work every day and resist the urge to work more than you scheduled time for. Choose times that are convenient for you but also won’t affect time with loved ones. Good work blocks can be while others are sleeping or getting ready for dinner. Keep your tasks small and save the bigger ones for after vacation. Most of the time, reading and responding to emails will be our biggest responsibility during vacation. Protect your energy and R&R by turning off email notifications on your phone and only checking your inbox during your designated time.
Balancing work and life takes a lot of creativity and patience as an entrepreneur and its a never ending task. But the reward of being able to call the shots on where and how you spend your time is worth it!