One of the many reasons people choose to start on their own in business is a better work-life balance. In a recent survey by Mastercard, 58% of women stated that they were motivated by a better balance with their home life and were 19% more likely than male entrepreneurs to state this.
Being able to “set your own schedule” is one of the many benefits of being your boss, and no longer being beholden to someone else’s clock means that opportunities are there to go on holiday when you wish or be there when your kids are sick.
However, in reality, this isn’t always the case. According to a survey of 301 UK business owners by Bizdaq, entrepreneurs worked around 50.5 hours a week compared to the average employee who did 37 hours.
So, how do you get the balance right when you're an entrepreneur?
What is Work-Life Balance?
In essence, work-life balance is working to live and not living to work. While you can have passion for your company or enterprise and even enjoy elements of it personally, you shouldn’t be working every minute of every day.
There are many reasons why this balance is tough, and it’s certainly not exclusive to those who run their own business.
The “hustle culture” that has risen in recent years, which has monetised many people’s hobbies, is partly responsible. While this is a fantastic gear shift from the traditional model of going to work for someone else, it does mean that for many entrepreneurs, their passions and hobbies are fully entangled in their work. Where they may have taken time off to undertake a hobby, they no longer have that as a refuge when things are tough. There is also the risk that something that once gave you pleasure is now becomes a daily work drudge.
Equally, for many that are so grateful to be able to be their own boss, the fear of losing it keeps them working harder than perhaps they should be. Answering that one client request during dinner often turns into four extra hours of work when the kids have gone to bed. While this may get things done in the short-term, it leads to developing some issues with boundaries and what is appropriate and sensible use of time.
The Challenge of Relinquishing Control
For many entrepreneurs, the business is not just a venture but a personal vision – their “baby”. This often leads to an urge to micromanage every aspect, from major decisions to minute details. While attention to detail is admirable, there's a delicate balance between guiding and smothering a business.
Knowing when to relinquish control, be it to someone else or just “leaving it alone” for the day, is tough to master. Not every situation needs to be addressed immediately; even actioning some elements adds new things to the “to-do” list and can get in the way of creativity of doing things differently.
Constantly being in control mode can strain anybody’s well-being. It also perpetuates a myth that everything rests on their shoulders, increasing stress and undermining the very essence of entrepreneurship: innovation, adaptability, and resilience. By occasionally stepping back, entrepreneurs give themselves and their businesses room to breathe, evolve, and thrive.
The Consequences of Imbalance
Ultimately, the consequence of imbalance is simple. You started a business to have more control of your life, time and happiness, which becomes a bit of a memory. There are also some potentially severe consequences from burning both ends of the candle too much as a business owner.
Burnout and Mental Health
Burnout is one of the most significant consequences of an imbalanced work-life scenario. When entrepreneurs continuously stretch themselves thin, they risk experiencing burnout — a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion. It's not just about being tired; it's about feeling empty, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. Prolonged exposure to stressful working conditions without adequate rest or recreation can be detrimental to one's mental health.
Physical Health Decline
Equally, the continuous strain on the body without adequate rest or relaxation can result in a decline in physical health. Chronic fatigue, sleep disorders, and even heart conditions can stem from prolonged periods of stress. The saying, "Health is Wealth," rings true here. If entrepreneurs don't maintain their health, it will become difficult to maintain their business in the long run.
Not balancing work with life correctly affects not only the entrepreneur but also those around them. Spending too much time on work and not enough with loved ones can strain relationships – ultimately putting pressure on the area of life that becoming an entrepreneur was meant to improve.
Breathing Room for Business
On the business front, working constantly without breaks might lead to a sort of 'tunnel vision.' Taking time off or outsourcing smaller, less critical tasks can allow entrepreneurs to step back, view the bigger picture, and return with innovative ideas. It's not just about personal health; it's also about ensuring the business gets fresh perspectives and doesn't stagnate.
5 Actions To Help With Your Work-Life Balance
Thankfully, achieving a better work-life balance is an ongoing process of making small tweaks and being self-aware. With a few different strategies and keeping a personal check on yourself, you can make sure that you ring-fence family and leisure time to allow for a break. Here are five ways that you can begin to protect your time.
Set Clear Boundaries
Whilst flexibility is a benefit of entrepreneurship, it's crucial to establish firm boundaries. Allocate specific hours for work and stick to them. By creating a structured workday, you ensure you have dedicated time for relaxation and personal activities. This means not checking emails after a certain hour and ensuring weekends or specific days are reserved for personal activities. Don’t feel guilty for not replying to an email. Remember that while you want to keep your clients happy, you do a much better job if you are rested. Also, when you let them contact you in your personal time, you give them permission to continue doing so.
At the end of the day, they are people as well and should be empathetic to everybody needing a break.
Time Management and Prioritisation
Utilise tools and techniques like the Eisenhower Matrix or the Pomodoro Technique to manage your tasks efficiently. By prioritising tasks, you can concentrate on what truly matters, ensuring you're not spending unnecessary time on less vital tasks. Get into a habit of regularly assessing tasks and even work projects to ensure they align with your big-picture goals. It’s easy to chase the money and wind up doing things that don’t actually get you to where you want to be!
Schedule Regular Breaks
Much like working in an office, it can be tempting to work through lunch. Also, if you run your business from your home, it can be easy to check your work emails at any time of the day. Studies have shown that taking time for breaks can vastly improve your productivity. Ensure you take short breaks throughout the day. Even a 5-minute break to stretch or take a short walk can be hugely beneficial. Also, make sure to take time for proper holidays where you fully disconnect from work. Not only will you have a chance to relax, it will give you the space and time to problem-solve and be more creative when you return.
Hire a Virtual Assistant
Hiring a Virtual Assistant can be completely transformative. From having someone to manage emails, arrange appointments, handle basic administrative tasks, or even oversee your social media, you can free up time, energy and headspace for a small cost. By delegating these tasks, you can focus on more critical aspects of your business and take some much-needed personal time.
Practice Self-care and Mindfulness
Incorporate activities like meditation, yoga, or even a hobby into your daily or weekly routine. These activities help to destress and maintain mental clarity. Moreover, they offer a necessary diversion from the continuous thought processes related to business, giving your mind a chance to reset. Even just finding a 5-minute meditation video on YouTube while at your desk can help calm the brain and allow you to refocus and continue with the next task.
The entrepreneurial dream of the ideal work-life balance isn't just a pipedream—it's achievable with a few tweaks here and there. By taking the time to have a break, you’ll benefit from having the space to see your business from a fresh perspective and find yourself recharged and creatively ready to go.
Thinking about getting some help? Book a free consultation with us, and we’ll show you how a Virtual Assistant can help you get closer to achieving that ideal work-life balance.