Welcome to business ownership! You are now a part of an elite group of people who solely rely on themselves for financial survival and security in a world of constant change and inflation. Now, factor in your spouse or significant other, children, extended family, nights out with friends, date nights, little league, ballet, etc. Sounds a bit dramatic, right? Well…maybe just a little. Unfortunately, all entrepreneurs face one dilemma when starting a business…BALANCE.
It is said in business, the first five years are the hardest; however, the first year is the toughest. Why the toughest? Because of a little-big thing called transition. Every decision made in the first year is based on a transitional factor (i.e. mental, emotional, physical, financial, social, etc.); and every transitional factor will affect either your personal life or your work life. So, how do you begin to find balance in the first year that will have a positive and lasting effect as you grow your business and manage your time? As someone who has an extremely active life, both professionally and socially, I would like to offer the following tips:
Schedule your time
I think it is pretty safe to say that all business owners have a smartphone, tablet, and/or a computer. I can also say that all of these devices have one thing in common…a calendar. Live it, breathe it, and manage by it. Basically, NEVER make a decision without it and make sure you have notifications to remind you of appointments and life events. And while it may sound trivial to schedule personal time, in the beginning, it is a must. It is very easy to become so consumed with work that hours go by and you look at a clock and realize you have not eaten, showered, returned calls, and sometimes have neglected family (and yes, I know…you expect them to understand because your work is your “livelihood”). Just remember, your family and friends are as important as your work (if not more). You need them as support systems and to achieve a good balance, so it is just as vital to schedule time in your calendar for them.
The only person that holds you to your calendar or plans your schedule is YOU. As you are scheduling meetings, events, and personal time in your calendar, it is important to be realistic about balancing your personal and professional time. Let’s be honest, business owners are their own worst enemies when it comes to how much time they put into work. With that said, the saying, “No one is ever that busy; people make time for who and what they want”, is a very accurate statement. What is important to you will become a priority, but do not feel as if you have to make everything (or everyone) a priority.
Create boundaries & limitations
In a perfect world, you have the perfect balance and can do all and be all. But this is not a perfect world and you will never be a perfect business person or…person. Why? Because, no matter the level of success, there will be failures. And no matter how family-oriented, you will fall short (to yourself and others). Life happens! And whether you are an entrepreneur or not, the only things you can control are the boundaries you set, your response to things outside of your span of control, and the limitations you place on your time. And while personally, it may sound insulting to say to a family member or friend, “let me check my calendar”, it is something that should be a part of your self-care regimen. Why? Because if you allow constant intrusion on your work life and/or your personal life, you will find yourself overbooked and overwhelmed (which is something you should want to avoid).
Find value in vacations
Do you know what makes television shows great? Hiatuses. Vacations. Breaks. Do you know why the best televisions shows remain creative? Hiatuses. Vacations. Breaks. Do you know what prevents burn-out? Stepping away to breathe, rationalize, and mentally decompress. By no means am I saying to go on an elaborate vacation or travel anywhere. What I am saying is that sometimes it is necessary to make time for you. Have you ever written something and saved it, only to go back to it later and find a lot of mistakes, incorrect working, unnecessary things said, or have more to add to make it better? Stepping away for brief moments (whether a vacation or one day off) provides balance mental clarity, creative energy, and an opportunity to live. It provides an opportunity to connect with family and friends. It provided an opportunity to take care of your mental and physical health (not just working out if that is in your regimen, but allowing your body to physically rest).
Let’s face it, as an entrepreneur, income will always be important (you need that to live), customer service will always be important (this is how business is generated); and yes, your business reputation will always be important (repeat customers and word of mouth referrals create growth). But even in all of that, YOU are the most important asset to YOUR business. Never get into the practice of ignoring the things that matter to you and/or that can affect you mentally, emotionally, or physically.
I deliberately chose not to mention financially, as no matter how much money you make, it will never be a factor for happiness. Comfort, yes…but not happiness. Balance is not solely about managing your time; it is about knowing how to live your best life within your terms, limitations, boundaries, and time management. It takes some time to find a rhythm that will suit your life and take into consideration that it will certainly be different from other entrepreneurs.