Find your balance between work and play

Ask any entrepreneur or small business owner why they started their company. Go ahead. Call them up.

What did they say? I bet it was something along the lines of “Because I am passionate about x” or “I wanted to take control of my life”. Being an entrepreneur will definitely give you the freedom to choose what you work on and how you do it. It gives you a chance to get something moving that can push you to personally grow and could possibly change our world; however, there is always two sides to every coin.

Most entrepreneurs don’t enjoy normal working hours or offices. In fact, there is a huge emphasis on crazy things like 18-hour days when you undertake a startup. Entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial-minded individuals like to attempt to hack their current productivity level. If you are this way, maybe you can relate. Studies in work behavior, though, have shown that after a certain point, productivity can drop off. Productivity expert and Entrepreneur, Laura Stolk is quoted saying,

“You see employee output start to fall after 55 hours of work a week – in fact someone working 70 hours a week has the same productivity as someone working 55 hours over a longer period of time.”

Research shows that working extra hours reduces performance of an employee by 20-28% on an average. Major decline was faced by Financial Markets experts, who are not supposed to work more than 6 hours a day. All the financial markets roughly operate for 6-7 hours a day only because of employee productivity.

So how do you balance it? It’s tricky to find the sweet harmony between a little R&R and the work that must get done. The sweet spot is completely different for everyone. One common theme of successful entrepreneurs is their ability to set goals in both their career and personal lives and because everyone has different goals, no two balanced lives are the same. Setting goals helps you to be very clear on what you want, so you can say “yes” or “no” to the appropriate projects and tasks.

FINDING TIME FOR FAMILY

A key to balancing is being on the same page as those around you so they know what to expect from you! Talking with your family members, boss, and employees to set clear parameters around your career goals and metrics is important. When you know what you want in your home life versus your career, you’ll be able to avoid distractions.

Another key is to delegate the tasks that take a significant amount of time. Can someone else do it more effectively? If so, hire or delegate! This could include data entry, administrative support, bookkeeping and accounting, marketing, etc. In order to avoid overloading yourself, you have to defeat the “DIY disorder”.

Founder of YouMail, an intelligent call management software, Alex Quilici, suggests focusing on being totally present during any blocks of time you get to spend with your family, such as driving your kids to school, or enjoying the conversation around the holiday dinner table. “Turn off your cell phone and be engaged in the moment” he says. “Don’t be thinking about the next thing for work either. High quality time with family is what really matters.” Involve your family in the work you are doing if they feel up to it. If your business has a t-shirt, give them one! Give them a chance with your product. This will help them understand what you are doing. They may also provide valuable feedback.

We all need a vacation once and awhile but sometimes we can’t get out of answering phone calls, emails, and dealing with the daily needs of our business while “relaxing” on the beach. It may not be the best option to step away from your responsibilities completely but attempt to find the right mixture of work and play for you. John Saddington, an independent app developer that works for Apple has an interesting perspective on this issue.

“Down time shouldn’t be some reward for the work that you have done but, I think, it should in reverse. Your work should be the reward for taking the time required to get your mind, body, and spirit right with the rest of your own individual world”

FALLING IN THE WORK TRAP

CEO and Founder of a company called IWearYourShirt, Jason Zook, felt the burnout plague after 700+ days of working without a day for himself. The company creates creative videos for different companies on a daily basis which required nonstop creative thought. He managed the impressive feat of working for over two years before deciding to take Saturdays off. Even then, that wasn’t enough.

“I couldn’t recharge my batteries completely on one day per week, especially after 730+ days without a break. Plus, those Saturdays became an attempt to try to get ahead of the game, so I ended up working anyway.”

In 2013, the company closed for good, and Jason found the time he needed to recover. After weeks of sleeping troubles, creative blocks, and missing out on opportunities because he lacked energy to follow through, Jason gained a new perspective on the precious commodity of time and energy. There’s nothing enjoyable about burning yourself out, and it takes a lot of time and energy to bounce back from. If you can find the time to rest and recover now, you’ll be better off for it in the long run.

Abraham Lincoln once said “If I had six hours to cut down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the saw.” This elegantly puts this concept in perspective. The idea is this: If you are cutting down a tree with sharpened saw, you’ll get the job done faster. Taking the time to sharpen the saw (i.e. break from your work in order to recover) brings less work in the end than if you had continued sawing with a dull blade (i.e. working without rest).

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • Turn off your phone and be present. Lock it in a drawer. Leave it in the car if you have to!

  •  Involve your family in your work.

  • Learn to delegate! Give away some of those hats.

  • Don’t sacrifice your relationships to spend all your time on work. No one on their deathbed ever wished they spent more time working.

  • Make the time to rest.

  • Build your business in a way that allows you to take time off.

Finding work/life balance for yourself will take some experimentation, but learn from the mistakes of others: don’t work every day without a break, don’t ignore your health or your relationships while you build your business, and try to separate your business’s success from your own self-confidence.

When you look back 20 years from now what do you want to remember?

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