5 Secrets to Finding Work-Life Balance

One of the challenges of running a small business is the all-consuming nature of it. Not only are the day-to-day pressures overwhelming, but technology puts you on call 24/7. It’s not surprising so many entrepreneurs struggle to find a work-life balance.

Like many small-business owners, OPEN Forum community member Bennett Johnson knows all too well the push and pull between work and life, which is why the small-business consultant, entrepreneur coach and founder of Arete Business Methods, recently asked the OPEN Forum community the following question:

“You are the soul of your small business. Without you, the entire effort will likely collapse. You must first attend to your own needs before you can sustain your entrepreneurial dreams and the dreams of those who depend on you. How do you find work-life balance for sustainable success?”

Just Say No

Though she finds doing so challenging, OPEN Forum community member Natascha Thomson, owner and founder of Marketing Xlerator, and author of 42 Rules for B2B Social Marketing, says “no” often. This helps her stay in control, and not become overwhelmed by taking on more work than she can handle. To ensure that those “no’s” don’t affect her bottom line, Thomson doesn’t undersell herself or her services and charges accordingly.

Julie Gray, COC, organizational business coach and founder of Profound Impact Coaching, agrees with Thomson. “It starts with the right mindset,” she says. “You have to realize that you really can’t do it all and that you are going to have to say ‘no’ to some great ideas and people.”

Prioritize and Organize

Deciding when to say yes and no and how much work you can take on requires excellent organization and prioritization skills, Gray explains. “Just like everything else, if you want to make work-life balance happen, it has to be a priority.” She suggests using an organizational system for both work and home life “so that you know you are operating efficiently and can trust that your most important priorities get done.”

Sidney Blank, a partner with MBLM, agrees that an organizational system makes all the difference. “I use my calendar to actively schedule time to get the work done that I’ve committed to,” he says. “Using my calendar is my best defense against the scope creep of my to-do list.” Blank also has a schedule for managing email. He checks it before going to bed and upon getting up, which helps ensure he attends to email in a timely and efficient manner.

Separate Work and Home

Whether you work from home or in an outside office, make your office space all about work. A few family photos are fine, but avoid bringing in too many items that symbolize home. Likewise, avoid the proverbial “bringing work home.” It’s a lot easier to relax in your living room and enjoy the company of family and friends when you don’t have reminders of pending projects staring back at you, just as it’s easier to get work done when your thoughts aren’t drifting home every few minutes.

Work “Regular” Hours

Nicole Beckett, president of Premier Content Source, finds that her best defense against being off-balance with work and life is to stick to a Monday through Friday schedule. “Yes, there’s the occasional Saturday that I catch up on stuff, but the vast majority of my weeks are Monday to Friday,” she says, though she admits sticking to a five-day-a-week schedule took awhile to learn.

“When I first started my business, I worked constantly,” she says. “I even had my smartphone ‘ding’ with every email notification. With clients all over the world, that ‘ding’ pops up constantly.” Beckett found she could only deal with that hectic pace for a couple of months.

“While it was important to work hard to get the business going, that’s not a pace anyone can keep up forever,” she says. “Once you learn that the world won’t stop spinning on its axis if you shut the computer off for the night or over the weekend, you’re much happier.”

Take Baby Steps

If your work-life balance is anything but balanced, start by making small changes to introduce more personal time into your schedule. Try going home an hour earlier or coming in an hour later once a week and spending the free time however you wish.

Even when your schedule is particularly hectic, it’s good for you to take 30 minutes to do something you like, such as take a walk, read a book or watch a favorite TV program. (And, yes, you can find the time.)

Finding a work-life balance might seem challenging at first, but once you get the hang of carving out some “me” time, you’re likely to be more relaxed and as a result increase your entrepreneurial productivity, creativity and profits.

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