Finding balance in life can be quite a challenge when you’re running a business, don’t you think?
Being exhausted, overwhelmed, and stretched too thin are things that I’ve personally experienced and have also seen in many of my friends and colleagues.
Ultimately, balance isn’t about achieving a perfect division between your work and your life, but rather about being conscious about your priorities and aligning them into your life, rather than neglecting them while you work a 12-hour day.
Taking Steps Toward Better Wellbeing
Work-life balance is really about wellbeing and taking care of yourself. These tips might help:
- Decide what you want. If you don’t mind working all the time, if you don’t mind putting relationships on hold, if you don’t mind not taking care of yourself physically, if you don’t mind putting off your own leisure activities and hobbies, then you can choose to continue what you’ve been doing. If, however, you’re feeling overwhelmed, feel that you aren’t cultivating meaningful relationships, and wish that you had time for other things besides work, then you need to decide that you’re ready to make changes in your life.
- Decide what to sacrifice and what not to sacrifice. I love Steven Covey’s “big rocks” story and have tried to consciously apply it to my own life in recent years. The idea is that we need to identify our “big rocks” – the things that are most important to us in our lives – and build our schedules around them. This includes time for relationships, pursuit of personal interests, and things that energize and inspire us. Some things we may be willing to sacrifice, but our big rocks are the priorities that we may not, or should not, sacrifice.
- Rethink time. One of the traps that I’ve fallen into (maybe you have, too?) is in thinking that “there’s just not enough time.” Really our use of time is simply a reflection of our priorities. If we don’t have the time to do certain things, we are in effect saying that those things are not a priority for us – and that’s okay. Not everything needs to be or can be a priority. We just need to be sure that the things we don’t have time for are really not priorities (like checking Facebook) and not the things that should be a priority (such as relationships and personal fulfillment).
- Develop habits that support you. We have limited amounts of willpower and largely fall back on habits to get through our day. By consciously changing these habitual behaviors, we can develop daily practices that support us in incorporating our priorities into our every day lives. Focusing your energy on developing good habits can help you the most in the long run.
- Meditate. I can’t think of any other practice that will help you find balance, happiness, and fulfillment in your life more than meditation. It helps to bring you into the present moment, become more aware of your actions throughout the day, and reduce stress, to name just a few of the benefits. Starting a daily meditation practice is one of the best habits you can develop.
- Develop boundaries. Don’t let other activities spill over into the time for your “big rocks,” your true priorities. For example, Sundays are often days when I visit with family, head out to the park with the dogs, or engage in other leisure activities, such as reading a good book or watching a Giants game. That means that I don’t work on Sundays. Period.
- Limit use of technology. Just because we can be connected 24-7 doesn’t mean that we have to be. No, you don’t have to check email before breakfast and before going to bed. No, you don’t have to check Facebook for the latest updates. Once you’re clear about what you’re going to sacrifice and what you’re not going to sacrifice, you’ll find that spending any more time than necessary on things like email or Facebook will quickly fall by the wayside.
- Use technology to your advantage. This may seem contrary to the item above, but using technology in the right ways can be a huge timesaver. With tools like Feedly and Buffer, I can easily keep up with trends in my industry without having email newsletters clog up my inbox. By moving things online, I have to spend less time dealing with paperwork and clutter. Uses of technology like these help me to be more productive when I’m working so that I can work with fewer distractions and get more done.
- Don’t try to do it all. Most of the overachievers I know, myself included, struggle with this one. Why can’t we throw ourselves into meaningful work, serve on boards, have meaningful relationships, pursue personal development and spiritual growth, eat healthy and exercise, all while keeping up with necessary daily tasks like paying bills and buying groceries? Unfortunately, we just can’t do it all, which makes learning to say no to some things and just letting go of others all the more important.
- Get help. Although I’ve often used subcontractors to help with projects, I held off on getting a Virtual Assistant (VA) for years. Now I don’t know what I would do without her! As I write this, I have two presentations coming up in the next three weeks. Rather than spending my time working on the Powerpoints, I’ve delegated that to her. I’ll do some final tweaks, but it will take me far less time than if I were to sit down and do all of the work on my own. If you don’t already have a VA, I highly recommend it!
Bonus tip: Do something every day that makes you happy. Life is too short for us to wait for the perfect time in the future when we can do all the things that we want to do. Making time for things we enjoy every day helps us to find happiness and balance today, rather than hoping for it in the future.
If you’re feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, choose one of the tips from the list above and commit to it. For #1-3, you might find it helpful to take a few minutes and write about it. For #4-10 (and the bonus tip!), decide how you want to implement it and just do it!
There are, of course, many other ways to reduce your own stress as an entrepreneur. What tips would you add to this list?