Clearly, work life balance harmony is not considered one of the defining characteristics of the life of an entrepreneur, but perhaps it should be.
No doubt, 24/7 work requirements and a passion (that may sometimes border on obsession) can be difficult to balance against the focus and presence required to maintain a healthy relationship.
Work life balance myth
A few problems with the concept of balancing work and life:
- It implies that there is a difference between work and life, which, for entrepreneurs, is rarely true.
- It only measures output. (Which is exhausting.)
- It implies that your energy can be divided like a pie.
Let’s face it: The phrase “work-life balance” loses all meaning once you become an entrepreneur.
For small business owners, there is a constant need to find equilibrium between a demanding career and a vital personal life. Assuming you can put the two on an even scale, though, is deceiving. Whether you’re a solopreneur or employ 25 workers, the pull of business demands is ever-present. To be successful in both arenas doesn’t mean you have equal hours at home and in the office, it means you have found a rhythm that fulfills both sides.
Here are a few things to ensure your life is in harmony:
- Blend the parts together. If you segment life into separate compartments, it’s really hard to blend them together and have harmony. Instead, you should view the important pieces of your puzzle as one unit, with several parts. For example, I share the ups and the downs and ask my kids to cheer me on. Conversely, at work, I’ll share the latest kid story to provide a solid belly laugh for my co-workers. When (not if) the two parts collide, each part is aware of and supportive of the other, which makes it much easier to find harmony.
- Be authentic. Be “you” in every situation. You’ll have less stress, more peace, and more harmony in your whole life—instead of just parts of it.
- Give and take. Sometimes you HAVE to work long days and give more than average hours to your work, but in those times you have to readjust expectations and to give that much more to your family.
- Communicate clearly. I’ve been in situations where the company culture was come in early, leave very late and work hard all the time to accomplish sales goals. For many small businesses, that demand is placed on you to ensure your business thrives. Since you are the one running the ship, you have to communicate clearly with your partners, employees, family and even yourself. Provide vocal and written insight into how you expect to achieve harmony in your life and communicate these goals and needs clearly so that expectations are set and you’re held accountable for what you said you’d achieve.
- Commit to harmony. Jim Collins, in his extensive study of top companies, found that there are two types of CEOs (or executives) in great companies. Type one executives, make work their life. Type two executives have other passions and interests outside of the office demands. If you want to be the latter, you must commit to enabling harmony.
For a deeper look at how real small business owners are dealing with these very real challenges, we went straight to the source. We asked for tips, challenges and lessons learned.
Work life balance tips
Focus on Equilibrium
Instead of balance, small business owners report more success when they aim for a healthy equilibrium.
“Don’t focus on having an equal 50/50 balance of personal & business life every day. Personal life will come up sometimes during business hours, and sometimes work calls when you just put in a movie with the kids. Each day will skew in a different direction, but in the end, everything naturally balances out. Don’t worry about making it perfect.”— Nellie Akalp | CorpNet
Sometimes the very thing that can bring stress to your personal relationships can also come with lessons that can bring harmony and success to home relationships as well.
“Running my own business has made me more tolerant of failure. To do anything well takes practice. I want to be a great leader, a great wife, a great mom, and a great friend. Sometimes, I feel like a failure in all of those roles! When I fail, I evaluate what went wrong and pivot in a different direction. As long as I’m failing, I’m growing.”— Chantel Adams | Forever We, Inc.
Learn from your mistakes
It’s inevitable that you’ll make some mistakes. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs report that these mistakes cost a great deal in terms of personal relationships and health. However, the most important thing is to learn and grow from these mistakes, so that you can change what needs to be changed to help you, and your relationships, thrive in the future.
“Knowing absolutely nothing about online business, I spent 16–18 hour work days for the first two years frantically studying and experimenting. I eventually built a passive income model that freed up my time. However, some of my friends had moved on because of my absence and my family had grown bitter towards my business. My ridiculously long work days no longer became the focal point of my stress and I invested time in rebuilding the relationships I had neglected over the years.”— Sam Oh | Money Journal
Don’t try to do it all alone
While you may be the best at most things, you can’t do it all. One quality of a good entrepreneur that will also help your relationships is to stay focused on your zone of genius, the things that nobody else can do, and then put your energies into hiring our outsourcing the rest.