Do you remember those happy days when you first started your business? Everything was new and exciting. There was tons to do, but that didn’t matter. It was so much fun! You happily spent 30 hours a day getting your business up and running.
Fast forward a few months or years. Does it still feel like you’re spending 30 hours a day on work? Hopefully, your job is just as exciting and rewarding as in the beginning, but it’s hard to work non-stop and still maintain your sanity.
Work-life balance is possible. It may not always be easy, and it may change depending on the needs of your business. But there are certain steps you can take to have a healthy business and a healthy life.
So Here’s How to Improve Your Work/Life Balance as a Small Business Owner
Plan, Plan, Plan
Some people are natural planners. Others are not. But with determination and effort, even the planning-challenged can become scheduled and well-organized.
Schedule everything. How often have you planned to spend 30 minutes on a project and then realized 4 hours later that you still weren’t finished? Perhaps the project was harder than you anticipated. Or perhaps a 30 minute project was interrupted by phone calls, email checks, Twitter posts, and snack time.
The more you schedule your day and stick to that schedule, the more you’ll get done. Look at a typical day. What keeps you from getting work done as fast as you want? If it’s non-stop emails, plan specific times to check them. If meetings always overrun, encourage the other participants to help you stick to the schedule.
Don’t just schedule work life. Put the kids’ soccer game on the schedule. And date night. And your favorite yoga class. If you plan ahead of time, you can find ways to fit in all the work you need to do as well as all the fun you want to have.
Flexibility: Don’t Plan Everything
You know what I just said about planning and schedule everything? Forget it (well, don’t actually forget it, but realize it’s a bit more nuanced). Another key element to having a manageable work life balance is being flexible. Ironically, the best way to do that is to plan.
What if that 30 minute project really does take 4 hours, even without distractions? Plan in advance for your schedule to go awry. Every day look at your to-do list and decide what can be rearranged if one task overruns. Maybe your 10 AM meeting can be rescheduled to 2 PM. Or maybe the taking-too-long project can be broken into 30 minute chunks throughout your day when your schedule is free.
What if the school nurse calls and you have to pick up your sick daughter? What if your spouse or best friend suggests a spur-of-the-moment lunch date? Once again, planning is key here to ensure manageable flexibility. Family issues often require work flexibility. Plan in advance for who will watch unexpectedly ill kids and how you can distract the kids while still getting some work done. When pleasant surprises come up, take a look at your schedule. It’s not always possible to say yes to fun things, but often you can take a little time to enjoy life rather than work.
Planning to be flexible makes work days go more smoothly. You can handle the unexpected better and find time to fit in life’s small joys.
The Joy of Saying “No”
It feels like society tells us that we should always say “Yes.” Yes to work, yes to projects, yes to meetings, yes to clients, yes to employees. For small business owners, the need to say “Yes” feels even greater, because you want to first establish a company and then make it thrive. It seems like the only people you say “No” to are your family.
Of course as a business owner, you really do need to say “Yes” to a lot of things. When good opportunities arise, you want to grab them. When clients need help, you want to keep their business.
As important as it is to say “Yes,” you should remember to sometimes say “No.” This will ultimately help your business as well as your life. Look at what things you absolutely need to do to keep your business running successfully. Additionally, analyze when you’re most and least efficient. How many projects at once can you handle without your work suffering? Also think about your personal life. How do you feel when you’re overscheduled? What do you miss out on?
Triage every request that’s given to you. How important is it to your business? Will it make your business better off, the same, or actually worse? Will it overly stress you to the point that you can’t enjoy non-work activities? Sometimes, you really do need to say “Yes,” and sometimes that requires sacrifices in your personal life. But other times, you can say “No.” You and your business will be better off in the end.
Learn to Delegate
Many small business owners start their company, because they’re tired of the annoyances of typical working life – especially, dealing with co-workers. It’s tempting to handle everything yourself. You know what needs to be done and how to do it best. However, for your time (and sanity), the more you can delegate, the better off you’ll be.
Take a look at your daily activities. What tasks can only you do? What generic tasks could be handled by someone else? Consider hiring someone to take care of things like emails, bookkeeping, and scheduling. If you have some menial tasks that take up your time, you could even hire the teenager down the street or your own child to help out.
Delegating can be particularly useful for activities that challenge you. Do you struggle putting together beautiful websites, because you know nothing about web design or coding? Does Excel make your head spin? You can hire people who specialize in topics that you find difficult. They can complete projects in a fraction of the time it would take you and free you up to do the things you’re best at.
Delegating allows you to focus your attention on what matters. That could be taking on an ambitious project for a huge client. Or it could be having time to sit down with a book at the end of the day. Having help with work helps you to be a happier businessperson and a happier person-person.
Having a successful business is wonderful. Having a successful business and a happy life is priceless. With proper planning, you can achieve a better work-life balance. Of course, there will be times when things go crazy, either with work or family. But if you make balance a priority, you can always land in a good place.