When you are starting a new business, work-life balance feels like working non-stop and then trying to squeeze the ‘life’ bit in as an afterthought.
Which doesn’t tend to go down well with friends and loved ones.
“But I’m trying to build a business” you explain. “You have to HUSTLE. Anyway, I’ll scale the hours down once I’m successful.”
What does that even mean though? You’ll put life on hold while you try to build your business? Friends and family need to sit on the sidelines while you burn yourself into the ground?
What if you could strike a balance where you feel satisfied with both your business AND your personal life, without sacrificing either?
“You don’t have to make yourself miserable to be successful. – Andrew Wilkinson
10 Essential Work-life Balance Tips for New Entrepreneurs
I imagine you know the feeling. You are overwhelmed with your new business. You don’t know what you are supposed to be doing when.
Or, how many hours you should be putting in. Or what your schedule should look like.
You prioritise your business over everything else in your life because that’s what you think you are supposed to do to be successful.
You feel guilty when you aren’t spending time with family and guilty when you aren’t spending time on your business.
Nothing about it feels balanced!!!! Aaaargh!
What is work-life balance?
If we ask good old Wikipedia, it says it’s a…….
“…….term used to describe the balance that an individual needs between time allocated for work and other aspects of life.”
The ‘other aspects of life’ part is interesting.
I think the problem with the term ‘work-life’ balance is that it assumes that ‘life’ is just one thing. So when we think about planning our week, we grossly underestimate how much ‘life’ stuff we need to include.
If we broke ‘life’ down further, it might make it easier to see the importance of time allotted for it.
What if it were ‘work-children-partner-family-friends-health-relaxation-personal admin‘ balance instead?
Suddenly, we need to attach a lot more important to the term ‘life’ and make sure we give it the time it deserves.
The importance of work-life balance
So why is it so important?
Your family and friends probably want to feel like you actually want to spend time with them!
People who love you will always want to support you (hopefully) but even the most patient and understanding partner will start to feel neglected at some point.
Nurturing relationships is really important. It can be easy to take loved ones for granted while your focus is on your business, but relationships are too important to neglect.
You will be much more productive if you have time away from your business
Ever noticed how you come up with great ideas in the shower? Or how things seem much clearer after you’ve been for a walk or done something else for a while?
Constantly forcing your brain to work doesn’t leave a lot of room for creativity or problem-solving. Brains need rest!
There is an interesting article from Inc.com here about the link between breaks and creativity if you want to read it.
You’ll avoid stress-related health problems
Burnout is a bitch. I’ve been there and it isn’t fun.
What’s the point of building a successful business if you drop dead from a stress-related heart attack?
Sleep and rest are so incredibly important for our health. It is not worth trying to ‘cheat the system’ by depriving yourself of sleep in order to work. It just won’t work out in the long run.
Consistent work is better than constant work
When you are starting a business, it’s really tempting to try to throw everything at it to get a quick jumpstart.
When starting out you don’t have any measure of success, so you try and make money quickly or get loads of social media followers as fast as possible, just to prove to yourself that you are making progress.
But trying to jumpstart your success can lead you to make the wrong decisions. Like people who paid for social media followers!
If you put in consistent work, even if for only a few hours a day, the snowball effect will eventually produce the rewards.
You need to have some fun in your life!
Although you may love your business and believe in it wholeheartedly, you still need time for fun.
Going to the cinema, indoor rock climbing, watching a silly film, laughing with friends. Whatever it is, it is still a valuable part of your week. Not everything needs to have a tangible result!
Why is it so hard to achieve work-life balance?
I partly blame the rise of the ‘hustle’. Although I think Gary Vaynerchuk has some interesting points on building a business. I fundamentally disagree with his work ethic.
“Wake up before everybody else and work into the night. Hustle” -Gary Vaynerchuk
It feels like work-life balance isn’t cool for those who ‘hustle’.
Gary says that he doesn’t feel like taking vacations and it doesn’t feel like work because he loves it. But I just can’t see how working 20 hours a day, every day is healthy.
Okay, so maybe I’ll never have my own private jet or have enough money to buy a small country, but you know what? I’m good with that.
If it means I can wake up naturally at 8am and finish work at 6pm, spend time with family and friends and go on fun holidays and still make enough money to support myself. I’m good.
Social media hides the truth
The thing about social media is that you never know the real story behind the photos or the posts.
Instagram makes it look like hugely successful people are either always working or never working. It’s very hard to see whether these people have a good work-life balance or not.
The Internet means we never have to switch off
Constant notifications pinging on our smartphones makes it very difficult to switch off from our business.
Even when we are meant to be resting, it’s too tempting to see whether someone commented on our Instagram image or whether we have got any new email subscribers.
Whereas back in the day, we would have had proper breaks from the computer, now we just carry it around with us in our pocket.
How to Achieve a Healthy Work-Life Balance
First of all, make a list of what you really need to balance:
- Your business
- Relationship with partner
- Life admin
- Healthy eating
- Other commitments
1. Set realistic expectations for yourself
Make quarterly goals for each of these things. Break them down into monthly goals and then plan them into your weekly calendar.
You will quickly see whether you have enough time for all of these commitments.
If you don’t, then reduce what you are trying to achieve, or eliminate things that can aren’t super important.
2. Plan in days off
Take at least one day off a week.
I used to be (and possibly still am!) terrible at this. I felt so incredibly guilty if I didn’t do something for my business every day.
For some reason, I view ‘not doing’ as not being a valuable use of my time. Which is very silly. I’ve had to learn to do nothing and see it as an integral part of rest and relaxation.
3. Work smarter not harder
Constantly reassess whether the work you are doing has a big enough ROI.
You can’t do it all so you need to choose what to focus on. I am sure you have heard of the 80/20 rule of Pareto principle so just make sure you are paying attention to the tasks that bring you the biggest results.
My key focus for this website is traffic at the moment. I started posted photos on Instragram but it wasn’t driving anyone to the blog. So I stopped.
I’ll go back to it again at some point when I have built the systems and processes for other parts of the business that drive traffic and profitability.
Then I can focus on brand building.
4. Be flexible
With the greatest will in the world, everything won’t always go to schedule. Even though you can plan your quarters, months and weeks for your business, life throws a spanner in the works sometimes.
Just accept it for what it is, re-adjust your schedule, and move on.
5. Be present
The best way to have a healthy work-life balance is to actually show up at each part of your life.
If you have a date night planned with your significant other, constantly checking your phone for Facebook likes, this is not a proper separation of work and life.
Make sure you are present in whatever you are doing in that moment.
My partner and I have a whole weekend planned together coming up. I have agreed to lock my laptop in the filing cabinet and to have a completely work-free weekend.
It’s freaking me out a bit, to be honest, but I think it will do me the world of good!
6. Make time to unplug
Even if you feel like you will get separation anxiety from not having your smartphone surgically attached to your hand, it is good to completely unplug now and again.
I have started to leave my phone in the living room when I go to bed to keep it out of the bedroom. I don’t go as far as Arianna Huffington though who tucks her up in a little phone bed!
Switching off the phone for a few hours, leaving it at home while you go for a walk *gasp* or even having some phone-free days will help you to relax and unwind.
7. Make ‘you’ a priority
When you are scheduling everything in like a mad woman, it’s very easy to overlook, well, yourself.
We all need time to ourselves, whether it’s having a hobby, watching our favourite programme with a wine or putting on a face mask.
Make sure you don’t overlook ‘me-time’ when you are trying to achieve work-life balance.
8. Ask for help
Be realistic with your time, if you can’t fit everything in, there is nothing wrong with asking for help. Could your partner pick the kids up from school or go to the supermarket?
Could a friend help you out with some stuff so free up some time? You can always repay the favour later down the line.
9. Make a dedicated workspace
It can be really hard to keep the boundaries between work and life when you work from home.
It’s not always possible to work in a cafe and shared workspaces can be too expensive when you are just starting out.
One of the things that has really helped me separate work and life is to have a set workspace.
I used to just work at the table in the lounge, but when my partner came in I would be so engrossed in what I was doing, he felt I was ignoring him.
By moving my ‘office’ to the spare room, when I move from my laptop to other parts of the flat, I am making a mental and physical break between ‘work’ and ‘life’.
10. Outsource if you can
Although you may not have the spare cash when you first start out, outsourcing tasks is a great way to free up time for other, more important things.
We have a cleaner, which I am not ashamed to admit! 3 hours cleaning the house each week is not a good use of my time when I could be working on a business.
Once I hit a decent level of income from IWMLBproject each month, I’ll be outsourcing social media to someone else. I hate scheduling pins in Pinterest, it’s so time-consuming!
Nobody has a perfect balance despite what social media might have you believe.
Everyone is juggling balls and trying to make it work. Just stay flexible and listen to your body. If you need to rest, then rest. If you feel inspired, then work!
Just know that consistent effort is what will build your business. Not working on it 24/7 to the exclusion of all else!!
Other posts that you might like!
- Tired of Being Told to Hustle? How to Be Successful Without Burning Out
- Tough Life Lessons from Starting a Business (and What I Learned About Myself)
- How to start a business while working full-time
- What does starting a business really look like?
- 22 ways to simplify your life to make time for your business
- Why most self-care tips are missing the point
- 10 Tips To Cure Burnout and Enjoy Life Again