A lot of people (including some big-name influencers) say that there is no such thing as “work-life balance.”
You know what I say? That’s a bunch of hooey.
I speak from experience. I spent years with my work-life balance off-kilter. Work was all-encompassing, and life took a back seat.
And you know what? I was exhausted all the time, burned out, and my health was suffering.
When I went into business for myself, I did so determined to change that equation.
Work-life balance is a significant challenge for women entrepreneurs, especially those of us who work from home. The temptation to work is always there. We have to be intentional about seeking balance.
What is work-life balance?
Let’s start by clarifying the definition of work-life balance.
The people who say there is no such thing as work-life balance typically use an argument based on time or energy input. As if life were a pie to be divided up evenly.
But life isn’t a pie. And balance doesn’t mean that we invest the same amount of time or energy in each part. It’s not about putting in equal hours.
Nor does balance mean that work and life get the same investment all the time, week in and week out.
I prefer to think of scales.
Sometimes the scales will tip toward life. Sometimes the scales will tip toward work. And that’s okay.
Work-life balance is about finding a rhythm so that the scales tip back and forth without being too heavily weighted in either direction for an extended period.
Work-life balance for entrepreneurs: why is it so important?
As I said above, when you are a small business owner – especially one who works from home – you have to be intentional about creating work-life balance. Because let’s face it, if you don’t make it a priority, nobody will.
Work-life balance is essential for productivity
It may seem counterintuitive, but seeking balance will improve your work productivity. You need to take breaks from work in order to stay at your peak.
If you are overworked, you become tired and stressed out. That is not a recipe for peak productivity.
Work-life balance helps you avoid burnout
Working long hours and pulling all-nighters is okay in the short run.
But you can’t do it forever. You will get burned out. You’ll feel overwhelmed and unable to move forward.
That’s a sign that you need to be more mindful about seeking harmony.
Work-life balance improves creativity
We’ve all heard the old saying, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” right?
Dull is the antithesis of creative.
Think about it this way. How many great ideas have you had in the shower? Or right after you wake up in the morning? Or when you were on the treadmill?
Your brain continues to churn in the background, even when you aren’t “working.” When you get away from the grind, those great ideas can bubble to the surface.
Lack of work-life balance puts your health at risk
I think we all know intuitively that working too much is bad for us. Science backs it up.
A study published in The Lancet found that people who work long hours have a higher risk of stroke than those who work standard hours.
Work-life balance tips for entrepreneurs
Now that you know why work-life balance is so important, what can you do to improve it? Here are 8 tips for how to get work-life balance:
1. Change your mindset
As with so many things, improving the harmony in your life starts with changing your mindset.
Maybe you grew up in a household with a strong work ethic. Maybe you were an overachiever in school. Maybe you came out of a high-pressure corporate environment.
All those things can leave you feeling that work is the most important thing.
Changing your mindset takes time. Start by being aware of how you feel. Journaling is a good way to dig into your thoughts and feelings.
2. Schedule everything
Next, schedule everything. That means adding personal activities and family time to your schedule, just like you do your work tasks.
I use time blocking to schedule out my whole week. Everything goes in. Exercise, meal times, weekly family dinner, etc.
3. Recognize that the scales will tip
I talked above about visualizing work-life balance as a scale.
Recognize (and accept) that the scales will tip back and forth. Sometimes, you have to work long hours. Sometimes your family life or personal life will have more weight.
Just make sure that the scales even out over time.
4. Learn healthy ways to cope with stress
One of the reasons that you may feel overwhelmed and off-kilter is that you’re stressed. And let’s face it, being an entrepreneur can be stressful. You have a lot riding on the success of your business.
Learn some easy coping methods to deal with stress and incorporate them into your day.
I’m a fan of deep breathing, yoga, and walking outside in the fresh air and sunshine.
And, most of all, take regular breaks.
5. Get organized
Being organized will help you get more done during your work time. And it will help you manage all your personal and family responsibilities. That frees up your brain to enjoy both your business and personal life.
Being organized also reduces your stress because you’re not worried about forgetting or losing things.
Learn how to use organizational tools and develop systems to help you keep it all together. Project and task management software (like Asana) can be used for both work and personal tasks. Shared online calendars can keep the whole family or work team in the loop. If you prefer pen and paper, then an old-school day planner or home management binder may be what you need to stay organized.
6. Stop being a perfectionist
This applies to both personal and work issues (and to work-life balance as a whole).
Stop trying to make everything perfect. You don’t have to be the uber-entrepreneur AND super-mom. Figure out what is “good enough” and do that.
7. Set clear boundaries
Setting boundaries is one of the best ways to improve your work-life balance. There are a lot of different kinds of boundaries you can set. Here are a few to consider:
- Set start- and end-times for your workday. If you don’t have established work hours, then your workday may turn into ALL day.
- Set limits for the time you will spend on low-value tasks, like scrolling social media.
- Create a dedicated workspace, even you don’t have an “office.”
- No checking work emails during family time or “me” time.
- Don’t work during your downtime.
8. Don’t skimp on sleep
It can be tempting to cut back on sleep in order to create more “productive” time. Don’t fall into this trap.
Sleep deprivation has an adverse effect on your cognitive abilities. If you are sleep-deprived, you may find it hard to concentrate (I know I do). You’ll end up having to work harder to make up for your lack of productivity. You may even have to redo work.
Make sure to get enough rest so that when you are working, you are at your best.
Create a visual representation of your work-life balance
Grab a copy of this free printable Life Balance Wheel.
Rate how satisfied you are with each area of your life and then color in the spaces. You’ll quickly see how balanced your wheel is and be able to identify areas where you want to improve.
Come back after 3 months and repeat the exercise. Then compare the two wheels. What’s changed?
Achieving work-life balance as a successful entrepreneur is not going to happen overnight. But it can be done. This is one of those areas where progress is definitely better than perfection.
Take baby steps as you implement these work-life balance strategies.
Keep moving toward more harmony. And, at the end of the day, give yourself some grace.
Want to remember this? Save Work-Life Balance for Entrepreneurs to your favorite Pinterest Board.
More content related to work-life balance
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- Refresh Your Focus With a Mid-year Review
- Organized Business Toolbox
- 5 Easy Ways to Boost Your Business Productivity