February 28, 2017
You want to know the trouble with workaholics? If you give them the ability to work 24/7, they will.
Despite what social media will tell you, being an entrepreneur is often anything from glamorous. Forget about infinity pools and private jets; the most common entrepreneurial extra-curricular activity is refreshing your email over and over. And with more than 90% of startups failing, the cards are stacked against them.
It’s not exactly surprising that the average entrepreneur has poor work-life balance. Truth be told, their jobs predispose them to it. Of course, having a healthy work-life balance is about more than just some abstract ideology. With an unusually high-stress level and a culture that celebrates ‘hustling’ and ‘making it happen’, entrepreneurship can end up taking a massive toll of just about anyone.
Make no mistake: ruining your personal life won’t make running a business any easier. So, instead of running yourself into the ground, here are some key work-life balance principles to keep you happy, healthy and sane.
As disappointing as it may be, it’s time to admit that you can’t be in 2 places at once. When you’re building a business, your time and energy should be considered your most precious resources.
While there may have been a time when you had to do everything yourself, it’s worth considering that an extra set of hands could lighten the load significantly. Could you be creating content for your blog/social media networks? Sure, but that would mean postponing a meeting, a sale or any of the other million things you need to get done before lunch today.
The reality of successful entrepreneurs is that having the ability to do everything themselves is not a defining characteristic. What makes most of them successful is their ability to properly manage their team and ensure that everything gets done when it’s supposed to.
Keep in mind that delegation goes beyond the office. There’s nothing quite as disheartening as finishing another 12 hour work day only to come home to an empty fridge and dirty laundry. As minor as it might sound, having a spouse help you out or even hiring a TaskRabbit can do wonders for your mental state.
Scheduling is hardly something that’s new to anyone involved in the world of startups. These days, it seems like everyone is using Google Calendar or Calendly to ensure that their meetings don’t conflict. Which is great! There’s nothing wrong with organization, especially in an industry where things can get hectic any given day. The only problem is that most of these schedules are only filled in with work.
Even the most intense entrepreneurs recognize that working every waking minute just isn’t sustainable. But instead of being as proactive with their personal lives as they are with their professional ones, quite a few entrepreneurs simply look at that time as ‘breathing room’. Whether you’re watching Netflix or going to try out a new restaurant, being disciplined with your personal life ensures that you’ll do everything you want to do. Speaking of discipline...
This might seem like a simple concept to some of you, hardly even worth mentioning on this list. Some of you are probably saying: “Of course I need to set boundaries! Nothing gets in the way of my work.”
While that’s certainly a crucial skill, the boundaries you probably need to focus on are your personal ones. When you first start as an entrepreneur, it makes sense to cancel a dinner or movie to handle something business related. Hustling means avoiding time off, right?
The issue here is that this becomes a slippery slope. Without clear personal boundaries, you’re training yourself to overwork and setting yourself up to be mentally exhausted.
This is something that a surprising amount of entrepreneurs struggle with. There’s no denying it: sticking to your schedule can be a challenge. Every day, someone will test your boundaries and try to convince you to take another meeting, get some more work done... don’t succumb to temptation.
Saying ‘no’ is your first line of defense against anything that might waste your time. More importantly, saying ‘no’ helps you maintain those boundaries of yours and preserve the integrity of your work-life balance.
Entrepreneurs, especially the ones in creativity-focused industries, are known to be perfectionists. When the business is yours, there’s an instinct to personally identify with the product. Not do only some entrepreneurs view it as a reflection of their talent, but typically, their fear of disappointing the market makes them nitpick their creation.
This seemingly harmless nitpicking can wreck any hopes you might have had for a life beyond your business. Focusing is one thing, but obsessing over every minor detail usually does more harm than good. Having a product you’re proud of is certainly important, but you can’t pretend that it’ll be perfect upon release, no matter how much effort you put into your product. Your best bet is to rely on the feedback you get after release, to make sure you’re addressing the issues that people want addressed. Don’t try to outmaneuver the criticism because frankly, it can’t be done.
Seriously. Get some rest.
For whatever reason, sleep deprivation has become the unofficial badge-of-honor among the startup and entrepreneurial communities. Let me preface this by saying there’s nothing inherently wrong with ‘hustling’ or ‘making it happen’ or whatever people are calling it these days. In fact, most startups are built on this ideology and you could even argue that trying to succeed without an intense amount of drive and focus would be unlikely.
And yet, there is such a thing as overdoing it. Sleep deprivation doesn’t hurt you in some vague, undefined way either. Here are just a few of the issues with not getting enough sleep:
That’s right: hallucinations and impaired brain activity. If that doesn’t convince you to get enough sleep every night, nothing will.
So at this point, maybe you’re starting to realize that working yourself to death may not be the best way to spend your 30s, 40s and beyond. But let’s assume that you’ve already developed some poor habits when it comes to overworking. If your work-life balance is already in shambles, you’ll need some tools to combat your current situation.
While there are plenty of ways you could go about this, one of the easiest ways to get started is to periodically reward yourself. When you delay gratification indefinitely, you don’t give your mind and body a chance to reset. And considering how draining and demanding entrepreneurial life can be, the more time you take for yourself, the better.
The rewards don’t have to be anything major (although they can be, especially if you haven’t rewarded yourself in a long time). What’s important is that you get away from your desk, turn off your phone and do something exclusively for yourself.
This one is far from easy, but once you’ve mastered it, it’s arguably the most useful tool at your disposal.
The concept of being self-aware runs counter to what most people believe about entrepreneurship in 2017. Most entrepreneurs today are taught to shut off that part of your brain that wants to quit. To ignore the desire for sleep, relaxation or anything that isn’t work.
It may not be popular to say, but being honest with how you’re feeling (excited, nervous, fatigued) is crucial to your longevity in this industry. There’s no getting around the fact that regardless of the size of your business, it’ll be hard to enjoy the success if you’re living with chronic fatigue. Develop the sensitivity that lets you know when it’s time to call it a night and when it’s time to keep pushing forward.
Study after study tried to warn us. Secretly, I’m sure we knew that multitasking wasn’t nearly as effective as we thought it was. But there’s no way to deny it anymore: multitasking is not an efficient way to get work done. Task-switching, as it’s referred to, ensures that you never achieve a level of deep focus with whatever activity you’re engaged in. Essentially, you’re wasting productivity, all while spending more energy overall. If we’re going to celebrate anything, let’s celebrate ‘getting in the zone’ and focusing on the singular task at hand.
When it comes to life as an entrepreneur, there’s no getting around the fact that having a healthy work-life balance is an uphill battle. But if you’re willing to fight to protect your time, reward yourself for a job well done and take breaks when you need them, you might just make it out of the startup world in one piece.