Becoming an entrepreneur can be an exciting leap of faith but it can also be terribly challenging (and not to mention, terrifying.) If you’re like the millions of other entrepreneurs, you know that managing a business on your own is overwhelming. What is perhaps the hardest part about being an entrepreneur, though, is trying to have a good work-life balance. As a new business owner, it’s easy to fall into some bad habits but none is worse than becoming the dreaded workaholic. Here are a few tips to help maintain a healthy work-life balance.
- Have an office away from home. When I started my company I worked from home. I didn’t have an office; I just worked in my living sitting on the couch, papers spread all over my coffee table. Admittedly, while my productivity wasn’t terribly high I did discover some pretty sweet shows on Netflix. I didn’t have a lot of work at the time so I wasn’t always sure how to spend my new entrepreneurial freedom. I knew I was creating a bad habit so I decided to convert the smaller bedroom in my home into an office. Although having a separate space within my home for an office did improve my productivity, it was often hard to shut-down and feel that separation of work and play. Because of the close proximity, I could easily find myself working on odds and ends at all hours of the night because it, simply, it was there. About a year after I started what was then F1 Key Solutions (and now Triad Marketing Solutions), I had the opportunity to rent an office for a fairly inexpensive rate and let me tell you, it was the best decision I have ever made. Having an office outside of my home allowed me to better separate my work and home life and helped me to be better focused and more productive. This switch alone has significantly helped me from becoming a workaholic and a better entrepreneur. If you’re struggling to keep work drama outside of your home, a rented office might be your ticket to freedom
- Set specific work hours. Setting specific work hours is an absolute must. Not only will this help you create a stronger work-life balance, it will also draw a realistic boundary between you and your clients. Like many entrepreneurs, you’ve probably gotten a few after-hours calls, emails, and/or texts from clients and, like a good entrepreneur, you probably responded. Stop right there! If you respond to all of your clients’ emails after normal business hours, you’re giving the impression that you are a machine and that you’re always available. You are not a machine, friend. You are not a workaholic! You have a life just like everyone else and you need to protect those precious hours of free-time like it’s your job! Even though you’re an entrepreneur, do yourself a favor and set specific and realistic work hours. Make sure clients know what to expect when communicating with you after hours.
- Set manageable goals. Setting goals may seem tedious and annoying but rest assured, goals are a necessary evil. For one, goals help you stay on track. It’s important to set goals for every level of your business. First you’ll have your big-picture, mission-statement style goals. Next you’ll have your annual and quarterly goals and finally, you’ll have your monthly, weekly and even daily goals. Your goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely)—just like you! By having manageable goals as your home base you are setting yourself up for productivity. Setting goals can help you avoid the temptation to overwork and become and workaholic and will help you be a better entrepreneur overall.
- Have a social life. The U.S. is one of the most overworked countries in the world. Many Americans focus on making money to improve their quality of life and, ironically, end up becoming overworked. When I started my business, I was excited about the possibilities and wanted to put everything I had into making my business a success. Many people who start a business have the same focus, which can often cause their social lives to suffer. As an entrepreneur you need to find a balance. By connecting with people outside your work and having fun it helps give your mind a break from focusing on your business and the needs of your clients. Having a little fun every week will help you hit the ground running when it comes to work. Keep your mind fresh and give yourself a break!
- Take breaks throughout the day. Just like you give yourself a break after work, it’s also important to give your mind a break throughout the day. Even just stepping away from your desk for a few minutes can help reset your brain and supercharge your productivity. If you’re really feeling the pressure at work, go for a walk or take a quick spin through the neighborhood. Do whatever you can to step away, even if only for a few moments. Having these short reprieves throughout the day is like subconsciously telling yourself that you are worth more than your job and it helps you transition from work to home quicker (i.e. not so much to dump when you get home). Though it might be challenging for your entrepreneurial spirit, taking breaks is a must.
- Learn to say no. I have learned over the years that not every client that comes your way is the right client for you. It may sound shocking but, as much as you need the work, sometimes you need to be the one to turn clients away. Sometimes a simple, “In my experience, I’m not the right fit for your needs but I know someone who is…” can really go a long way in protecting your sanity. It can be hard (okay, really hard) to say NO but you truly cannot afford to say yes to everything.
- Unplug. It’s important that when you’re home, you’re home. Do you find it difficult to unplug from your email, phone, or computer when you’ve returned from work? You’re not alone. It can be difficult but even challenging yourself to put your phone down for one hour each night can help you get reacquainted with real life. Do yourself a favor and charge your phone outside of your bedroom at night. If your phone is your alarm, do yourself another favor and invest in a good ol’ fashioned alarm clock. Create a space in your home that is screen-free and force yourself to live like you did back in the day. It can be done!
- Enlist a trusted friend. When all else fails, there’s nothing quite as effective as having someone keep your accountable. If you’re struggling to maintain a reasonable work-life balance, ask a close friend to help keep your eyes on what’s important. Perhaps they could text you at a certain time each evening to ask if you’re home from work yet or you could send a quick photo of you putting your feet up with a good book. Whatever you decide, having an accountability partner can work wonders for your social/home life.
- Budget your Time. As entrepreneurs we’ve learned to budget our finances, budget our tasks, and work on a crazy schedule. Why not take these skills a step further and learn to budget our time? We’re a fan of block scheduling. For example, sit down on a Sunday night with your calendar and create a list of everything you’ll need to do during the week. As you write, estimate how much time each task could take. Once you’ve exhausted your list start filling in your calendar. But, here’s the key: Before you schedule ANYTHING for work, schedule a block of time that’s just for you. It may take some getting used to but once you start regularly incorporating self-time into your week, you’ll realize that you’re more productive and much happier.
- Plan Ahead. Similar to budgeting your time, it’s important to plan ahead. For example, you may find that certain times throughout the year are busier than others. If you have to work crazy hours one week, make it a priority to schedule downtime the following week. It sounds simple but it’s quite effective in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
If you’re struggling to juggle the many hats of an entrepreneurial lifestyle, you’re not alone. Learning to prioritize yourself and make your mental and physical health an important part of your work-week will protect your sanity and preserve your positive attitude. You’re a can-do person and we want you to know you can (and will!) get through this! We’d love to stay in touch and keep up on your entrepreneurial highs and lows. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram and let us know how things are going!