Entrepreneurs and business owners wear a ton of hats. It might be providing customer service; it might be hiring employees or motivating staff. Perhaps it is pitching to a new client or simply mopping the floors. It is easy for entrepreneurs to overextend themselves or spend too much time on marketing and advertising when they should be focused on maintaining customers. If life is a balancing act, then business is life to the extreme as the unpredictability of running a venture causes entrepreneurs to sometimes fall off the tightrope.
We asked entrepreneurs how they maintain their balance.
Absolutely work-life balance is achievable if you are a business owner or entrepreneur. The trick is in first identifying your priorities. Once you know your priorities in life and business, you then can make more informed decisions as to what you should say “yes” to. Often, we say yes to everything and as a result, work-life balance seems unachievable. In addition, as a business owner, it is important to step away and take
clarity breaks. At times, business owners may find themselves being sucked into the business and thus seeing things from an ariel perspective can be hard. If we take time for clarity breaks (these can be 15 min breaks to a 2-week vacation) we are finding a way to restore balance and mental clarity into our lives.
Thanks to Dr. Jaime Kulaga, Dr. Jaime, Inc.!
#2- Ensuring employees have personal goals outside
The reality is “work/life balance” is something you MUST talk about at every level of the organization; if your employees don’t have balance in their life (Home and Work) your happiness — as CEO — and your employee retention will suffer. I find it very important to lead by example and stressing the importance of setting not only business and company goals, but making sure employees have personal goals outside of the office. Ways of further ensuring there is work/ life balance at my company were implementing a work at home policy and half-day Fridays. This way employees can jumpstart their weekends as its convenient to them and in return if my employees are happy, I am happy.
Thanks to Philip A. Nardone, PAN Communications!
#3- A number of ways
Finding work-life balance can be challenging at times and difficult to manage, especially if you are a single parent like me. Mastering the balance between my professional and personal life has become a conscious effort. Nothing is ever perfect, but if you surround yourself with reliable people both professionally and personally, not only are you building good solid relationships but you will have a network of people who you can depend on to help you get through your day efficiently. Your friends, family members and employees who are dependable are a key to achieving success in finding balance. Additionally, another way to find balance is don’t be afraid to delegate tasks. Don’t be afraid to dole out tasks to your reliable employees when you are out of the office and have other matters to attend to. By relying on your staff, you ensure that you are using your time wisely. Delegation doesn’t mean just at the office. When it comes to children, teaching them to be independent and responsible to pitch in at home can take a lot of stress out of the day. Lastly, be sure to pencil in off the grid time. Finding the time to take yourself off the grid is vital to keeping balance. I make a conscious effort to put down my phone when I get home. When I’m ready to go on vacation, my staff is instructed to contact me only when something becomes a sense of urgency. As a parent and business professional, it’s best to approach each day in a relaxed manner and know that you are doing the best you can to maintain that balance between your work and personal life.
Thanks to Leslie H. Tayne, Tayne Law Group!
#4- Designing your day and having the right team
You can have both IF you want it, however, that’s the big if. As an entrepreneur, you’re supposed to have more freedom (ha!) However you do design your day, so if you want to schedule time for a workout, your kids play, the friend’s lunch etc., just do it. You also may work better at certain times of the day, so know your biological clock and work around that. Be sure you have the right team in place, even if it’s virtual, and don’t second guess everything. Lastly, keep an open mind so you can accept new ideas and implement better processes.
Thanks to Gayle Carson, Spunky Old Broad LLC!
#5- Being clear and setting boundaries
Balancing my work and family life takes consistent effort. One way I do this is by having a ‘Rule of the Stairs,’ where there is no talking about work or anyone or anything related to work after stepping on the first step of the stairs. I am also very clear about boundaries from the start and have rules about meal times and time off. One myth I would like to debunk is that it is so easy and you can take as much time off with the kids as you like. Let me be clear: when it is your own business, no one else can pick up the pieces if there is a drama. That is your job. It doesn’t matter if your kids have sports day or if they are sick, you have to find a way. There is no time for down days.
Thanks to Grainne Kelly, BubbleBum!
#6-Defining my ideal lifestyle
As an entrepreneur, I believe it is important to define what balance means to you. I start by defining what my ideal lifestyle looks like, and what I want to make space for. For me, this ideal lifestyle represents my definition of balance, and I have it written out and posted up in my office. When I am making decisions around my time (personally and professionally), I revisit my ideal lifestyle and say yes or no accordingly!
Thanks to Ashley Bradley, Purpose & Prosper!
In order to get work/life balance, an entrepreneur has to be clear about all the things that need to be done so they can complete similar activities together. The first step is a Brain Dump where we literally unload on paper or via electronic software, all the activities that are consuming our mental energy. Then categorize them (What I call Group Task) into activities that require something in common, such as Errands (where we have to drive), Computer Work (paying bills, answering emails, creating invitations), Personal (Reading, Working Out, etc.) Our goal should be to complete similar tasks together because it requires less downtime than switching back and forth. In addition, we find places we can Layer activities. Unlike multi-tasking, group tasking takes one or more activities that do not require focused mental effort or attention. For instance, listening to a podcast while getting your exercise or folding laundry while listening to an audiobook. Being proactive about planning will save you time and energy and make sure you fit in what I call the Non-Negotiables into your day and life.
Thanks to Vicki Fitch
#8-Find what it looks like for the individual entrepreneur
Attaining work/life balance is a hotly debated topic. Some entrepreneurs say it’s crucial or you’ll burnout. Some say it’s impossible. The key point about work/life balance is that it’s a highly misunderstood concept. For many entrepreneurs, even those talking about missing work/life balance, it’s not balanced in the usual sense that they seek, it’s freedom and control to live life on their terms. Many entrepreneurs are so passionate about their work that working long hours is fine for them, as long as they get to choose when, where, how, what and who they work with and have time for things that they find most important. For those entrepreneurs who feel a need for a work/life balance, it can be attained, but it will look different than the traditional idea of balance. For those who say it’s impossible, if they really want it, they can be helped to find it. In all cases, the point is finding what work/life balance looks like for the individual entrepreneur and creating their life around it.
Thanks to Dr. Fern Kazlow, Kazlow Global LLC!
#9- It’s about choices and sacrifice
Being an entrepreneur is all about choices, problem-solving and relationships. I chose to start my first company in September 2008. The following month the financial crisis started to create havoc and two months in my second daughter was born. Those two things made life tough, but my team and I weathered the storms because we chose to embrace it all (vs giving up). We were presented with huge challenges which we solved one by one and, more than anything, it was the relationships we cultivated that lifted our hopes when deals were closed and clients told us they were very happy with our work. Is a work/life balance possible for an entrepreneur? Absolutely, it’s a matter of making choices, and some sacrifices, to get there.
Thanks to James Sandoval, MeasureMatch!
#10- Prioritizing family
Too many people build successful companies and fail in their personal lives (their own words), while others have wonderful family lives but waste millions of venture funding struggling with both work and personal relationships. For me, the most successful entrepreneurs are those that have chosen to unbalance their life at different times when working towards certain milestones. I’m a huge believer in intentional rest and downtime, as well as prioritizing family. However, when launching a company or reaching for certain critical growth milestones, there is often a certain amount of effort that is needed. As an example, it takes most founders 250 phone calls/meetings to raise their Seed round of funding. Those meetings could be spread out over nine months, or with a laser focus, the same number of meetings could happen in 45 days. I encourage entrepreneurs to always keep family first in their lives, and sometimes that means having a discussion that says that you’re going to really focus on something for a month or two so that you can have more normal hours as quickly as possible.
Thanks to Kurt Uhlir, Uhlir Ventures!
#11- Giving my staff the freedom and flexibility
Finding the right balance between “work” and “life” tends to get a bit blurry when a big part of your life IS your work – being the Founder and CEO of an international company, and having run that company for fourteen years, sometimes you start to be defined by it (both by yourself and others). Over the last few years, a lot has changed in the life that has caused me to re-evaluate that balance and my priorities. Growth of the company is key to being able to manage all this – having the right team makes all the difference in the world. We’ve been lucky to be able to hire some amazing people who could likely run the company without a hiccup if I disappeared, and having the confidence in them to do just that makes the balance so much easier. The bigger we get, the more delegation is required, so having the confidence in your team to handle it is an absolute must. Work-life balance is a key component of the culture at LyricFind. It’s not just offering flex hours and company outings and sports teams (though we do all those, too) – We recognize that there are things in life more important than work, and they happen all the time. It’s important to give staff the freedom and flexibility to work around those things, and deal with them when they come up. We want people to stick around. It costs way more to constantly hire and train replacements if you burn through staff. And happy, balanced employees are more invested in doing good work and seeing the company succeed.
Thanks to Darryl Ballantyne, LyricFind!
#12- Being organized
While I do work a lot (as the CEO of my own company), I think it’s incredibly important to maintain balance across all facets of lifetime with my husband and sons, time with my parents, time with friends, and exercise. While entrepreneurship has allowed me to become the master of my own destiny and to create a work/life balance that suits me, I also plan extensively each day to keep that balance in check. I believe that through prioritization and organization, you can make it work!
Thanks to Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation.com!
#13- Working a maximum of 50 hours
Unlike many startup founders, I am adamant about keeping my work week to a maximum of 50 hours. Running and working in a startup is extremely demanding, but we all have our limitations. For me, working more than 50 hours a week leads to stress and fatigue which diminishes my capacity to be a good leader for my team and decreases my overall quality of life. I’m not sure that balance is realistic, as time requirements between personal and professional responsibilities are constantly shifting, but keeping my overall hours down allows me a more positive work-life integration. I also think it’s important to set this standard for my team to reduce burnout and job frustration.
Thanks to Chris Padgett, Fusion 3!
#14- Finding what works best
As a mom in business, I believe that work/life balance means figuring out how best to integrate the two. For example, I try to punch out for the day when I pick up my kids, but often I have to finish up a project or take a client call. Or I may let my son tag along to my office if he has a day off from school. Life will inevitably interrupt work—and vice versa—but that’s OK. Juggling business and family means finding what works best for you, asking family members for cooperation and most importantly, having a sense of humor about it.
Thanks to Lidia Varesco Racoma, Lidia Varesco Design!
#15- Top-down approach
Work/life balance in the traditional sense is far from realistic. Everyone has so many multiple roles to play. Everyday I’m a husband, father, consultant, manager and more so in order for me to successfully fulfill all of my roles, I create a structure that governs how I approach each facet of my life. When we do intake for StellarEmails , we take a top-down approach: accounting for the assets and resources necessary before creating a plan to strategically leverage email as a sales tool for e-commerce businesses. Life works the same way for me. It all starts with taking that initial inventory and then creating a plan. Everything has its priorities so it’s less about establishing balance and more so about maintaining order. If I’m working, I’m completely focused on that unless there’s an issue with my wife or son. Then priorities naturally kick in and I’ll reorient my time to complete that task. But barring any interruptions, everything has it’s box and a time allotted to make sure things get done.
Thanks to Thierry Augustin, StellarEmails!
#16- Intertwine the two
I tried for years to achieve work-life balance, but it seemed I could never give my full attention to neither work nor life. Like the Chinese Proverb states, “A man who chases two rabbits catches neither.” I found this to be the case. Both life and work are marathons, and to achieve ultimate bliss in both, both work and life should not be balanced but intertwined with one another. I blend my work with life and vice versa. For example, I’ll find myself building marketing campaigns for clients for three hours, then I’ll go out for lunch and relax with my wife for three more hours. That evening, I may send some emails, plan my projects for the day ahead, communicate with staff, and then wrap things up in time to take a walk and enjoy family time. Whenever there’s balance, you’re actually sacrificing either work or life, so why not have your cake and eat it, too?
Thanks to Shane Simmons, S.S. Consulting Firm!
#17- Three tips
As CEO and Co-founder of Fairygodboss and mom of three, work-life balance is something that is not only important to me but also the women in the Fairygodboss community. As the leading career community for women, we know flexibility is important to women’s overall job satisfaction, and it’s something we as a company offer our employees. It’s a constant juggling game as working mom, but having the flexibility to do work when I need to do it – whether that’s 6 a.m. or 10 p.m. – is key to my success and allows me to focus on my family, too. I do have a few key tips to help me maintain work-life balance though: Share as much parenting and household admin with your partner/spouse as humanly possible so you have more brain space for the work you need to do. Cook large batches of food on weekends or at night that you can freeze and reheat if you don’t want to order takeout for your kids. Do not waste time shopping in person for what you can buy online! Hire the best people at work so you can delegate with confidence.
Thanks to Georgene Huang, Fairygodboss!
#18- Developing genuine care in employee’s lives
I know that a healthy balance between work and life is key to maintaining happiness (and sanity!), and if something major happens in one, it will most likely affect the other. As a leader, I always try to take an interest in my employee’s personal lives—because I genuinely care. And in times of need, I empathize with them and talk through a game plan that will help them stay comfortable and successful in the midst of an absence or emotional situation. Good employees are worth keeping and I’ve found that sometimes you need to be more of a coach or advocate, and less of a “boss” to keep things (and people) on track.
Thanks to David Moncur, Moncur!
#19- Putting the phone away
Put the phone away when you’re not working. It’s the easiest and most important habit I’ve changed. I don’t have a commute, except the walk downstairs from my home office. If that phone is in my hand while I’m cooking dinner or talking with the kids, I will start scrolling through emails or Instagram. And if I’m not present in my downtime, it’s not really down time, and I’m not refreshed when it’s time to get back to work.
Thanks to Rachel Jordan, 929 Marketing!
#20- Carving out
The DSM Group is a high-paced environment that I founded and have been in charge of for the last 11 years. As a marketing firm, the demands on me are constant and it took me a few years to find a rhythm and balance that worked for me. The key for me is to carve out the same time every night to be with my wife and 3 kids. No matter what (unless I have a client event that I absolutely cannot miss), I make sure I am home at 6PM every evening for dinner and earmark that time (6-8PM) as family time. During that time, there is no computer and my cellphone goes on the charger and is silent. This part of my evening is very important and also serves to give me a bit of a breather…because most nights I have to sit back down at my computer to catch up from the day.
Thanks to Darren Magarro, The DSM Group!
#21- Prioritize — It’s Key
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to be pulled in many different directions if you don’t have a clear focus of what needs to be accomplished. The saying, plan your work and work your plan is key. So is scheduling time with family, friends and yourself. Create a Clear Focus: Write down everything. (Include personal and professional.) Cross of those items you know you won’t do! (Be honest!). Then circle the top ten things that must be done. Circle the top three. (No kidding, these must be completed.) Rank order them. Questions to ask: Can these be delegated? If yes, to whom? (Provide the person with a completion date (include time for you to review before submitting to client). Check in at least weekly for a status report to ensure no surprises.) Get #1 done. Then, #2. Then, #3. Once all three are completed, start over again. You will be amazed by how much you get done and have time for other pursuits!
Thanks to Jeannette Seibly, SeibCo, LLC!
#22- Intentionally spending moments
Where to get the time to build into my kids, when you pick them up from school at 5-530pm, and travel/homework/ dinner/bedtime all occurs inside of a 2-hour window? It’s tough. On top of that, how do you build a relationship with your spouse when all of these pressures are there? We find that intentionality is where it’s at. That, plus giving yourself a break. We’ve found that intentionally spending moments with our kids where we are totally present, combined with being in the room while we’re working, really round out the total time we get with them. For our relationship, it’s similar. We both understand what the needs are (we both work high-stress, high-time-consumption jobs), and we make the choice not to let resentment build up. If we’re feeling neglected, we say it and handle it. But we also find time to speak directly into each other’s life, choosing life-building words. We also are intentional about time spent with each other. Whether it’s a date night, a weekend away, or just a walk around the neighborhood, we determine to be present and with each other.
Thanks to Kyle Bailey, Frontburner Marketing!