Get up. Get dressed. Go to work. Skip lunch. Stay late at work. Pull your hair out as you combat rush hour traffic. Get home to see your partner and kids for about 10 minutes before they go to bed. Work remotely. Check your phone every 3 minutes. Go to bed way too late to possibly get a decent night’s sleep. Get up…. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Does this sound familiar? With today’s societal expectations of constant hustle, this pattern is all too common and it is quietly eating away at your physical and mental health. Many entrepreneurs face the challenge of finding balance when they believe that all the burden of their business sits on their shoulders alone. Even those who do not have families or outside responsibilities need to take a breather every so often.
As humans who have a vested interest in our jobs, whether we are owners, managers or employees, we carry a lot of emotional responsibility along with the physical daily tasks that we perform. Our society thrives on competition in the workplace, and this is nothing new – for eons, people have thrown themselves into their work in order to succeed – but in recent years, companies have become much more attuned to the dangers of over-working their employees and many have implemented a culture of work/life balance with initiatives like flex hours, health and wellness programs and other fabulous ideas.
This is generally wonderful, except that business owners and entrepreneurs often harbour huge amounts of GUILT over taking time away from their business and feel that they are letting themselves, their company and their employees down if they don’t appear to be working constantly.
Here are a few suggestions to help you achieve the balance that you need.
1. Lose the guilt
It’s time to lose the guilt and recognize that if you are not in peak mental and physical health, that is when your business will suffer. If your brain is constantly bombarded with nothing but work and you are not exposing yourself to some rest, relaxation or (gasp!) fun, then there is no room in that noggin for NEW ideas to emerge. So, get over it already!
2. Block personal time
As mentioned above, you need YOU time, and in order to achieve that, you need to sit down and have a serious chat with your very full calendar to block out personal time. If you are not accustomed to being away from work for long periods, then start small – whether it be hitting the gym every few days or simply going to see a movie, be sure that you really relish that time – turn off your phone, crank some tunes and relax. From there, you can try a weekend away with family or friends and then eventually, maybe even a week vacation somewhere quiet and tropical.
It is difficult for busy people to fathom the notion of “making time” and it often seems a daunting or impossible task, but it is 100% necessary if you plan to grow your business and avoid burn-out. Obviously you need to plan any long stretches of time away for your off-season, and if you don’t really have a slow time in your industry, then what you need are people around you that you trust to do as good a job as you do.
You have grown your business from the ground up. You have hired each and every person who works for you through a rigorous screening and interview process and if you are a hands-on boss, you have probably gotten to know these people on a personal level. Now, you need to trust that your employees are able to do their jobs while you are away. Empower and encourage them to really own their roles, and you will end up with a group of employees who take pride in their efforts and the work they produce.
If you are planning an extended vacation, ensure that your staff understand the goals and expectations to be met during your time off so that you can really feel confident that it will be business as usual, and that fires will be extinguished if necessary. If you really need to know what’s happening, perhaps assign one employee as your point person and have them compose a daily email summary complete with any questions or updates that you want to be kept up to speed on.
4. Plan ahead and tune out
You know your business better than anyone so you’ll have a good sense of the ebb and flow of your particular industry. With this in mind, planning ahead should be easy. In order to keep your mental balance intact, you will need to have a long-term plan. You can’t expect that taking a weekend away every 3 years will cut it, so aim to incorporate me-time into your daily life. During slower seasons, make a point of shutting down in the evenings – set your email auto-reply to let your clients know that you will get back to them tomorrow – who really needs an immediate reply at 11pm? Create a new routine for yourself that allows you to enjoy the fruits of your labour while putting your best, well rested foot forward.
Be an active participant in your health and well-being, and maybe that next BIG epiphany will hit you during an early morning jog, in the shower, or as you’re falling asleep (at a decent time)!