How can I find greater work-life-balance in my business and life?
Work-life-balance is elusive for most business owners
Work-life-balance is a term that’s been bandied about by many business and life coaches, lifestyle gurus and the personal development industry at large. It’s what we’re all supposed to be creating for a long and happy life. It’s the dream. Sadly, work-life-balance is a distant dream for many business owners.
One of the reasons for the unattainability of said dream is that the generally accepted idea of balance between work and life is a myth. Many great philosophers and thinkers, such as the gently spoken Alain de Botton, consider that the way we think about work-life balance is fantasy (Watch Alain de Botton’s TED Talk here).
You know this is true too because if anything is to get done in your business, it’s down to you. If you don’t do it, the whole thing collapses like a house of cards.
You’re the first one through the door in the morning and the last one to leave at night. You have breakfast and lunch on the run, and after the kids have been put to bed at night, you catch up on your admin and quoting.
And by the way, isn’t it funny how with every new staff member you employ to lighten your workload, you seem to get busier?
I believe we need an entirely different picture to model our lives on if we ever want to feel satisfied with our life’s work.
I believe there are a few key principles for creating a better work-life balance as an entrepreneur:
- Balance is a personal thing. What works for you won’t necessarily work for anyone else.
- What feels right, is right. There are no hard and fast rules for balance.
- Balance is a never-ending negotiation. There is no set formula for balance. Priorities change constantly in life and business.
- Sometimes we’ve just got to get it done.
- There’s nothing wrong with working hard, there’s nothing wrong with averting a crisis, but too much is too much.
- Sometimes, not doing something at all, or not doing it perfectly, is fine. Your business and your life will most likely survive, and the world will not come to an end.
- Nobody has ever come to the end of their life and said, “I wish I’d worked harder.”.
There is no rulebook for work-life-balance. There have been times in my life when I’ve worked insane hours while feeling totally balanced, in “flow” and happy. Other times, I’ve worked much less hard yet felt completely overwhelmed and stressed.
Just because I might work fewer hours per day than you, doesn’t mean I have achieved better balance. If you feel that your life is balanced, then it is (and vice versa). Read “Drowning in the 21st Century” for more on this concept.
All-nighters can be fun sometimes, can’t they?
As business owners, sometimes we’ll be confronted with situations that mean we must pull an all-nighter or work on a Sunday. It’s part of the entrepreneurial package.
It can even feel highly rewarding to pull an all-nighter on a project with a deadline looming because at the end of the day, you know you’re the one that made it happen. You pulled a rabbit out of the hat! In fact, I believe it can be one of the most exciting experiences in business.
Memories from the Sydney Olympics
I will always remember the time leading up to the opening of the Sydney Olympics in 2000. My team and I worked every hour that God gave us for two weeks straight to complete the fit-out of the Holland Heineken House in Darling Harbour. It was probably the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life, but I have nothing but fun memories of that period (and about the 14-day long party with 100,000 of my closest friends in the same building afterwards!).
The simple fact is that if you feel good about your life and the mix of things you spend time on, you’re in balance. However, if you walk around feeling bad about the fact that your kids, spouse, choir, health, fitness or peace of mind are missing out, then your life is not in balance.
And what’s more, you must understand that what’s right for you today may not necessarily be right for you tomorrow. It was perfectly alright for me to spend those weeks building the Holland Heineken House and barely seeing my family, for those weeks, at that time. But not forever.
But things change… Don’t they?
Right now, it may be fine for you to catch up on your emails after the kids have gone to bed, but it may also be that at some point in the coming year it will start to bother you, and then it’s not alright anymore.
One thing is for sure: You must take the issue of work-life-balance seriously and check-in with yourself regularly on what is and isn’t right. You must also move towards finding the balance that is right for you because nobody has ever laid on their death bed wishing they’d worked longer and harder. (The top five regrets of the dying)
Work-life-balance comes down to 5 things:
- Clarity about what matters most, to you, in your business (Also watch my short video about The Purpose of business here)
- Learning to say NO (and watch my short video about saying NO here).
- Learning to trust yourself
- The 4 quadrants of time management (and watch my video about managing the most valuable asset of your business here).
- Learning to delegate (one of the 4 D’s, see below)
Work-life-balance follows automatically once you’ve learned:
- What really matters in your life.
- How to say “no” to the stuff that doesn’t matter.
- How to trust that you’ll probably make the right decision (you’ve got this far!).
- How to set time aside for the important stuff you must do and delegate the rest (or apply the “4 Ds” see below).
Once you’ve mastered all of that, you’ll have started to create a beautiful business and life that might not look balanced to an outsider, but it works for you, and that’s all that matters.
The 4 D’s
The 4 Ds is a nice management concept. The idea behind it is somewhat parallel to the 5 things I talked about above. For any task that comes across your desk, consider one of the 4 Ds:
- Do It – If it takes less than two minutes and it needs to be done, just do it now. You could schedule it for later, or delegate it, but it might take you a couple of minutes just to do that. Save yourself the hassle and do it now.
- Diarise It – if it’s going to take more than two minutes, it’s got to be done and you’re the right person for the job, block out some time in your diary in the next week or two to Do It.
- Delegate It – The secret of getting more done and scaling your business is to delegate, delegate, delegate. So, get good at delegating and look for every opportunity to do so.
- Dump It – When you really stop and think about it, and you have a look at the 4 Quadrants of time management, some stuff isn’t actually all that important. A lot of demands on your time are firmly in quadrant 3 (urgent but not important) or maybe even quadrant 4 (neither urgent, nor important). If that’s the case, the world won’t come to an end. What’s the worst that could happen? DELETE.
Have a look at my Big Pain of Small Business survey to see how you compare against other business owners on balancing work and life.
You might also like to complete the very short Richard Branson Questionnaire to see how you compare against the most famous of all the noble knights of business (who also seems to have his work and life sorted better than most of us poor peasants).
Your next steps
I’d love to help you take those 5 steps to achieving greater work-life balance. I have created a “Five Steps to Discovery Process” to help you get moving on building a beautiful business and life.
We start with a free initial chat and then a free 60-minute Discovery Session (via Skype or similar) combined with a short business discovery survey and report. You can book these through any of the contact forms on this page.
In the Discovery Session, we’ll get to know each other, and I’ll gain some insight into what stage you and your business are at. We’ll also discuss your challenges, allowing me to tailor the next steps in the process for you.
- Read about my, mostly free, Five Steps to Discovery Process
- Read about how becoming a grandfather taught me to start to trust myself
- Read more about perfectionism here
- Read more about getting things done here
- Read more about my thoughts on Work-life-balance for small business owners here
- Read about the demands on your time and your brain cells here
- Read about Personal development
- Read about being overwhelmed
- Read about Saying No
- Read about the secrets of Time Management
- Watch the Small Business Masterminds webinar on time management
- Read about laziness
- Read about procrastination
- Read about the 10 Rules for Happiness in Business and in Life
- Learn about the art of managing your people