How to Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance as an Entrepreneur
by Jill A. Chafin | Published on May 18, 2022
There are many advantages to the entrepreneurial lifestyle, such as having the freedom to work from anywhere and the flexibility to create your own schedule. However, without the constraints of a 9-to-5 job, it’s hard to maintain clear boundaries between your work and personal life. This can lead to unhealthy habits, such as working long hours or eventually burning out.
We get that running a business is tough. But, just like everything in life, there’s a delicate balance -- one that’s absolutely necessary yet takes some effort to achieve.
Let’s take a look at how balancing work and carving out time for personal pursuits can strengthen your business’ overall success and increase your level of health and happiness.
Overview: What is work-life balance?
We hear this term thrown around frequently, but what does it really mean? Well, a healthy work-life balance is where you devote quality time to both your paid work and your personal life and/or hobbies. You know you’ve achieved it if you feel vibrant, productive, and content a majority of the time (or at least some of the time).
The exact hours spent in each domain can vary. However, if one area takes over the majority of your life, that’s when things often go awry.
Here are some signs that your work-life balance may be out of whack:
- Working long hours
- Feeling tense, stressed, or overwhelmed by your job
- Missing quality time with your family or friends
- Skimping on proper nutrition or exercise
- Feeling tired or unmotivated
- Falling behind on important work tasks
- Sleeping poorly
There are many benefits to achieving a better work-life balance, such as lowering stress levels, improving focus, and boosting motivation. If your current mindset is to keep plugging ahead at all costs, it’s time to take a step back and reassess your approach.
What to consider when reflecting on your current work-life balance
Depending on the type of entrepreneur you are, your business may demand more or less than the typical job. Because of this, it’s important to address your unique needs and how you can structure your life to optimize productivity, leaving more time for personal interests.
Start by creating some lists. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
1. How many hours do you actually need to work?
Being your own boss is liberating and fun. However, the list of to-do tasks is never-ending, making it feel impossible to step away. Plus, if you’re inspired to earn a high rate, it’s tempting to devote every spare minute to work, even if it means pulling an all-nighter.
We suggest tracking how you spend your time over a couple of weeks. See how many hours you really need to devote to keep your business afloat. Sometimes working fewer hours means you’re actually more focused when you do “clock” in.
2. What are your personal needs?
As previously noted, every entrepreneur’s needs vary greatly. If you have young children or a lot of personal commitments, you’ll need to take those factors into consideration when planning your weekly schedule.
Even if you don’t have children, it’s still important to balance work and life by carving out quality time for yourself, a partner, friends, or extended family. Perhaps you have goals of working out, growing your own veggies, or painting that empty canvas. It’s important to step away from work in order to feel refreshed and inspired.
3. How does work affect your health?
One quality of the entrepreneurial mindset is being relentless -- striving to learn, expand, and grow. However, another key quality of successful entrepreneurs is learning to listen to your body. You may aspire to be a superhuman, but it’s humbling to remember you’re still a human being with basic needs.
Remember, the more you ignore those basic needs, the more they have the tendency to sneak up and catch you by surprise. It’s better to address your health now, keeping your mind and body in tip-top shape in order to tackle all the ambitious dreams that await you.
6 methods for improving your work-life balance
You’ll know you’ve reached an adequate work-life balance when your job doesn’t feel like a chore and you have sufficient time to enjoy your personal life. Getting there might feel downright impossible, especially if you’re in the habit of ignoring your personal needs. But putting in the time and effort is worth it -- both for your own peace of mind and for the success of your business.
1. Work at a job you love
Work is necessary; there’s no way to avoid that. But slaving away at a job you absolutely despise? That’s a guaranteed path to misery.
You’re an entrepreneur, or perhaps looking to become an entrepreneur (also known as a wantrepreneur). Either way, if you don’t love your current business or job, find a way to revamp, redesign, or leave it behind. You're the master of your life!
The bottom line is that life’s too short to be unhappy. That’s not to say there aren’t boring and tedious aspects to every business (like bookkeeping, for example). But it’s important to feel at least a little spark for your current career choice.
2. Create a schedule
One of the common challenges faced by entrepreneurs is managing time. It’s easy to let yourself get tossed from task to task, with no structure in place.
With self-employment or entrepreneurship, it’s crucial to establish a routine -- one that allows you to clearly define the boundaries between work and personal affairs. Also, try to find ways to sprinkle self-care throughout your day as opposed to saving it for the end of the day or on weekends.
Here are a few work-life balance tips to help structure your day:
- Morning: Start the day with a non-work-related activity to inspire you. Perhaps an early morning jog, a quick mediation, a few yoga stretches, or even some journaling.
- Midday: Take a solid break from all work tasks to rejuvenate. Enjoy your lunch outside, go for a brief walk, or connect with a friend over the phone or via video chat.
- Afternoon: We all feel that afternoon slump. Take a moment to do a few jumping jacks, indulge in a healthy snack, or step outside. Fresh air will do wonders for resetting your motivation.
- Evening: When you run your own business, it’s true that the workday is never officially “over.” However, it’s important to pretend it exists. We suggest having a home office space that’s separate from your personal life so you can literally shut the door at 5 p.m. “Out of sight, out of mind,” should be your motto.
Another way to enforce a concrete schedule is to use scheduling software, such as When I Work. This will give you, as well as any employees you may have, the semblance of a regular workday, thus keeping work from creeping into every aspect of your life.
3. Make sure to unplug every day
Turning off all devices? It sounds insane, right?
But here’s the truth: There’s no end to the stimulating data out there. Between answering work-related emails, engaging in social media, or searching for the perfect rug for your living room floor, your brain never gets a proper break.
Information overload is a real thing. Plus, every time you flick over to social media, your mind requires approximately 23 minutes to refocus. That’s a lot of wasted time!
Having a period of “unplugging” every day is not only incredibly beneficial for your nervous system, but it will also most likely lead to inspiration. We often stumble across ingenious ideas during times of boredom (just ask those smart guys like Einstein). Use a website blocking app like Freedom.to in order to maximize your time and get stuff done.
And, most importantly, make sure to turn off your phone at bedtime. Inadequate sleep can definitely contribute to stress and poor work performance. If you can treat yourself to one thing, let it be a peaceful night without any beeps or notifications interfering with your restorative sleep.
4. Give back to the community
Not only does volunteer and pro bono work help strengthen your business’ name and reputation, but it also makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about your overall work ethic.
Plus, helping to improve the lives of others reminds us of the bigger picture: That there’s more to life than storming our way to fame and fortune. It’s about establishing positive connections, sparking meaningful change, and enjoying the moment.
Immersing yourself in the community can add a layer of joy to your life that simply can’t be bought.
5. Pursue a hobby
Perhaps you’re a workaholic, and your business’ priorities take center stage. That’s OK. Honestly, that’s how many entrepreneurs get ahead -- by pursuing business ideas with vigor and nonstop commitment.
However, if your life is all work and no play, you might be heading straight toward burnout. Having a hobby can offer a change of pace -- something to get your brain and body working and moving in a new way.
It might be as simple as joining an online book club, taking a painting class, or learning to bake sourdough bread. Whatever it is, if it brings you happiness, then it’s worth squeezing into your daily routine. And, hey, you never know when a new hobby will eventually turn into a lucrative business idea!
In the end, the stuff that feeds your soul will make you a more dynamic, inspiring, and balanced entrepreneur. In turn, your business will thrive and flourish.
6. Prioritize your health
You wouldn’t dare miss your car’s scheduled oil change or put the wrong batteries into an important machine. Your body is like an essential machine that keeps the business chugging along. Therefore, it needs proper care and attention.
If you feel like you don’t have time to exercise or prepare a healthy meal, think again. Keep examining that schedule and see what you can cut out in order to include more “me” time. It’s not selfish or indulgent; it’s necessary for your well-being and the success of your business.
Take care of yourself, and your business will thrive
Stepping away from business-related tasks might feel wrong, especially if you’re the glue holding everything together. But going full-steam ahead when you’re drained, exhausted, or just plain overwhelmed means you’re working at weakened capacity, which is never a good plan.
Carving out time to enjoy your personal life will only strengthen your productivity. When you return from your break or vacation, you’ll feel revitalized and ready to tackle that to-do list.
So, next time your eyes start to glaze over and the hours are crawling by, take a break. Find some balance by incorporating fun and joy into your day. Go on vacation (the kind where you don’t check your email)! Then take that spark, feed it back into your business, and watch it soar to new heights.
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