Many entrepreneurs run on the assumption that they have to burn the proverbial candle at both ends in order to be successful, and often sacrifice sleep, health and/or relationships in the process of starting or running a business. While a certain amount of sacrifice is often required, the most successful entrepreneurs eventually learn to bring in some balance in order to have the longevity and well-being required to sustain a business. Here, entrepreneurs share their tips on how they manage to achieve that mythical work-life balance.
FILL YOUR OWN CUP
A few late nights and a couple of bad meals in pursuit of a work goal probably won’t kill your health mojo, but too much of this eventually wears you down physically, which then extends to mentally.
Stepfanie Romine, an Ace certified health coach and yoga instructor, who has coached numerous entrepreneurs back to balance, says, “There’s a pretty common saying that you can't pour from an empty cup. So if you're giving to your company, to your employees, to your investors and you're trying to use this creativity to fuel your business, how are you going to keep that going if you're not replenishing yourself?”
She urges doing your best to get a little more sleep and healthier food choices, to moderate caffeine and sugar consumption. “Because if you're not healthy and happy, then how are you going to be your best self day in and day out for your business?”
Sleep is arguably the most important, if you haven’t been able to add in exercise or improve your diet to better standards. “Over time chronic sleep shortages have been linked to all kinds of chronic diseases. It's been linked to a shortened life span. It causes systemic inflammation, and your body cannot recover and recuperate and repair itself when you don't sleep,” Romine says.
If your schedule is your nemesis because it’s so full that you believe you don’t have time to add in the healthy behaviors, consider reframing your life and adding your self-care, leisure time and family time to your schedule. It worked for Kirsten Clodfelter, co-founder of Rise Marketing, a full-service marketing agency based in Indiana.
“One of the most helpful things I ever did for time management was to schedule my entire day down to about 15-minute increments. This includes when I check my email, when I eat lunch, and big blocks of time for hanging out with my family or spending time with my kids,” she says.
She used to live in a state of frantic guilt that she was never doing enough, and fell behind on work and family time. “Blocking out time for not only every work task on my to-do list but also for things like making dinner or taking a walk with my kids both helps me have strong deadline accountability and gives me permission to "turn off" work mode when I'm spending time with my family.”
PUT IT ON PAPER
In these digital days we tend to live by our smartphones and computers, but that can exacerbate the feeling of working all the time. Christa Terry, Massachusetts-based founder of Hello Mamas, which helps moms stay social from pregnancy to birth and beyond, goes old school in order to keep some balance. She writes things down where she can see it.
“My to-do lists and calendar are all encompassing, so you'll find not only work deadlines but also reminders to myself like ‘arm day’ and ‘get some fresh air.’ Because I'm so focused on work by necessity, I literally can't take care of myself if I don't make it a priority item on the same level as professional responsibilities.”
What scheduling and writing things down does, over time, is turn self-care and wellness into ingrained habits.
“There's a study that says 37 percent of our behavior repeats daily. So once you start to make things a habit, you won't have to think about them anymore, and that work/life balance will just start to feel a little more effortless,” Romine reassures.
LEARN TO DELEGATE
Many times entrepreneurs need to learn how to let go and not do everything themselves. Romine references a New York Times article. “It said if you want to be happy, order more takeout and hire someone to clean your house.” In general, she urges delegation. “If you can afford to do it, outsource the things you don't want to do, so that you can actually do more. As your company grows, you don't need to have your hands in everything. And you can trust other people to do roles. So you can outsource parts of your life as well.
This is Clodfelter’s second piece of advice, as well. “Be willing to delegate to others as soon as you're able. This is one of the most difficult aspects of business success, especially for small businesses early on. But it's also one of the only ways to see meaningful growth or success before you reach burnout.”
If you manage to achieve a bit more balance, don’t beat yourself up on your off days, Romine encourages.
If she has an off-day she says to herself “you did your best today and you’ll do better tomorrow.”
She encourages entrepreneurs not to get too hung up on “wanting to seem completely infallible.” After all, “we're human and there's just as much emotion and passion as there is drive and work ethic involved.”