Ah, the work-life balance: Is it just a myth for small business owners or can you actually have a successful business and an enjoyable life? Well, it is possible if you just accept a couple of things:
Work and life will never be totally separate.
If you want to be able to completely abandon your work the moment the clock hits 5:00PM, owning a small business is not right for you. The reality is, your personal and professional life will always overlap. You may be in the middle of dinner with the family when you get an email or an idea for how to make the company more efficient. You may be in the middle of a job when you remember you still need to get a babysitter for Friday night. Accepting the overlap and learning to manage it and remain in the present is the key to feeling balanced and centered. What do we mean by “managing” the overlap?
Let’s say you did have an idea for how to make the company more efficient mid-dinner, mid-conversation. You could sit there, half-listening, while you mull over your new idea in your head, OR you could say, “I’m sorry but I just had an idea for work. Do you mind if I jot it down really quickly so I can give you my undivided attention?”
Most of the time, your significant other, kids, or whoever you’re having dinner with will appreciate the fact that you want to be completely focused on what they’re saying and will allow you the time to do what you need to do to clear your head. And you don’t need to scramble to find a notepad — you have one in your phone (which we know is always with you: you’re a business owner). Quickly jot down your idea or make a reminder for yourself, and then let go of it so you can focus on the present.
What about when you’re on the job and you remember you need to find a babysitter for this week’s date night? Stop what you’re doing (if possible), and set a reminder on your phone for your lunch break or for the end of the work day. Once you’ve set a reminder, clear your head and get back to business.
You may also want to try the notepad or reminder method when your mind is racing in bed. It’s easy to miss out on much-needed sleep when you’re a business owner, but if you aren’t rested, you can’t bring your best to the business, to your employees, to your customers, or to your friends and family. It seems that bedtime is when all of the ideas and reminders of what you should do, need to do, or needed to do come flooding in. But don’t lie there trying to hammer them all down or spend hours worrying about whether or not you’ll remember them in the morning — jot them down in your phone or in a bedside notebook and let go of them. They’ll be there for you in the morning.
The scales will tip more heavily to one side at different times.
Wait, doesn’t balance imply that the scales are always evenly weighed? Yes, but the realistic business owner will need to be a little more flexible with his or her definition of balance. Some days, the scales may weigh more heavily on the work side of things, while on other days, they may weigh more heavily on the personal life side. The scales will always shift from time to time, but how you prepare for and handle the shift will make all the difference in how balanced your life feels during these changes.
For example, if you know you’re heading into your busy season or something at work requires you to put in several long days of deep focus, let your family and friends know. If you tell your significant other, your kids, and your good friends that you’ll be M.I.A. for a week or two (or a season), they’ll be much more understanding than they would be if they were left in the dark and feeling ignored. Remind them of how important they are to you and how important your time with them is, and make plans to get some quality time in before or after your focus session.
Of course, no one can survive a long period of ALL work and no play. To avoid burnout and feelings of being off-balance, make sure to set aside at least some time in your day and week for family, friends, hobbies, and relaxation. Whether that means a crossword puzzle with your morning coffee, 30 minutes of pleasure reading before bed, a lunch-time phone call with your wife or husband, or a scheduled movie night with the family, make it happen. Sometimes, as little as 15 minutes of unwinding can make the buckled-down days feel a little more balanced.
So yes, in our opinion, a balance can be achieved. Is it a perfect balance? No, not by a long shot. But you can truly have it all if you just set your priorities, communicate with the special people in your life, and remain flexible and realistic about things.
What do you do to maintain a feeling of work-life balance? We’d love to hear from you!