I often hear people carry on about creating work-life balance. You probably do as well. Actually I reckon you’ve told yourself a few times that you should create more work-life balance, haven’t you? But work-life-balance is a myth for most people, especially for business owners.
It’s a nice concept. All ideas about life that revolve around balance are attractive and sensible.
Absolutely. Except for one thing:
For small business owners, your business is your life. So how do you go about creating a balance between two things that are largely one and the same?
Work-Life Balance is a Silly Idea for Small Business Owners
Ask any small business owner in the midst of getting his or her business off the ground and to a sustainable state, and they’ll tell you they virtually never switch off, they’re really never not at work. There is always a part of their brain that’s on the go:
- I wonder what would happen if I bought that second vehicle?
- Am I going to get enough money in this month to pay everyone?
- I wonder if changing the headline on my website will have a positive impact on my Google ranking?
- Where am I going to find my next new employee?
- I think there’s an opportunity to offer my products to aged care facilities… How can I best approach that market?
- We’re out of toilet paper in the office… Don’t forget to pick some up tomorrow on the way in.
It never stops… does it?
Conventional Wisdom Is Not Going to Work for You
The conventional idea of work-life balance is actually a nonsense for most small business owners. You can’t close the door behind you at 5.30, go home and switch off. Your office might be at home anyway, or you need to catch up with some admin after the kids have been put to bed.
That’s how it is in small business. Your business is such an important part of you that somehow separating it from your “life” and creating a balance between the two is simply impossible.
But at the same time it has been proven time and time again that everyone needs to switch off, everyone needs to sleep 7 to 8 hrs on average and everyone needs to have social and personal connections with others and that’s before we talk about kids and family, hobbies, sport or health.
How do you manage that as a small business owner so that you don’t burn out, become unhealthy and forget your kid’s names and birthdays (and they yours?)
I believe it starts by acknowledging that life as a small business owner is not the same as life as an employee. It won’t ever be and conventional wisdoms about work-life balance are simply not going to work for you. No point beating yourself up about it, no point telling yourself you “should” go home at 6 and not take the laptop. If you don’t finish that quote tonight you’ll miss the deadline and then the whole thing comes to a screaming halt… Tonight you’ll just have to get back to it as soon as the kids are in bed and if it takes to 2 am to finish the quote…so be it.
Frustrations and Joys
But there are both frustrations as well as great joys to being a business owner, and one of the greatest joys of being the owner is the fact that you can do exactly what you want, when you want and no bastard can tell you different.
I often work on the weekend. As a matter of fact I am writing this article on Saturday evening as we speak (Nigel no friends obviously)… But I don’t mind… On the contrary. I’m going to take off half a day on Monday to do two yoga sessions in the middle of the day and on Thursday I am spending several hours cooking dinner for my daughter and her family and I’ll probably knock off work by lunchtime.
The great joy of being your own boss is that you have the ability to design your work and your life to suit yourself:
- Want to burn the midnight oil tonight? Great, go for it.
- Want to sleep in tomorrow and go for a walk? Nobody’s going to stop you.
- Wake up and the sun is shining, the surf’s up and it’s monday? Grab your board and jump in the car and have a ball.
And if that means you have to catch up tonight and tomorrow night, all good… You’re the boss.
To me, having the flexibility I have is the biggest reason I would never want to work as an employee ever again. It would drive me insane.
Have I sketched an idealised picture of life as a small business owner? Probably.
Do most business owners actually have such a perfect life? Are most business owners actually living the dream?
No most of them don’t for one main reason: Guilt.
Business owners don’t take off and go surfing when the sun is out and the surf is up because of guilt.
Tell me. how many hours a week do you think you have to be at work, working, not to feel guilty? Is it 40 or more?
Truth be told it’s not about the hours, is it? It’s about being seen to be the first one in the door in the morning and the last one out the door at night.
Really? Is that what you started your business for so you could always be the first one in the door and the last one out?
I had a first coaching session with a new client the other day. Talking about the logistics of having regular coaching sessions with me, led to her concerns about her work commitments and how to fit in the hours working with me. She said, can’t we have our sessions in the evening maybe, because today when I left the office I felt I had to make some kind of excuse about why I left the office for the afternoon. I feel guilty leaving the office when they’re all working hard on a Friday afternoon.
I often say that small business owners are the most guilt driven people on the planet (even worse than Catholics, and that’s saying something obviously)
Food for Thought
So think about this… You have created your business. You have given it life and you’ve done so, because you wanted it to provide a certain type of life for yourself and your family and to make you feel proud and challenged and excited and engaged and rewarded; to build on your resourcefulness, to maximise your skills and experience and expand your opportunities in life.
And instead? You feel guilty for wanting to sleep in tomorrow and get to the office at midday.
Do you see my point?
Exactly… You know what to do tomorrow I think!