6 Tips for Finding Work-Life Balance as a Small Business Owner
Is your small business taking over your life? Here are expert tips to manage the chaos.
One of the most common questions we get from small business owners on Care.com is how they can achieve the illusive concept of work-life balance. Achieving this balance means something different for everyone. Do you want more time with your family or just to sit and relax?
It requires continual, intentional effort. Small business owners face a particular challenge when it comes to this matter, as they often find themselves taking on more tasks and responsibilities than initially anticipated.
But simple courses of action can help you accomplish much, while still finding time to enjoy life outside of work in meaningful ways. Here are six tips that will help you make work-life balance an everyday reality.
Schedule (All) Of Your Time
In the same way you schedule business activities, it’s important to schedule time to both be with loved ones and to engage in pursuits outside of work, says Jeff Davidson, work-life balance expert and author of "Breathing Space". It’s all too easy to begin bailing on activities and people unrelated to business tasks that can quickly consume your time. But the practical reality is that you’re shortchanging others -- and yourself -- by doing so. Schedule a recurring date night with your spouse, an hour of each day that your kids know you’re available to them (particularly if you work from home) and other commitments that add dimension and depth to your life.
...And Stick to That Schedule
Hold to each part of your schedule as diligently as you would for work commitments. Treat loved ones like clients and extracurricular pursuits like business meetings. Don’t cancel because you think they’ll understand, or because you’re willing to give up pleasure for business. In the short- and long-term, you’ll benefit from setting clear boundaries between designated times.
Focus on one thing at a time -- whatever is right in front of you -- and be fully present in that task, person, or moment of relaxation. In other words: no more multi-tasking.
“Stop the doubling and even tripling up on activities,” suggests Davidson, and “practice the art of doing one thing at a time.” This takes practice. Remove distractions like TVs, computers, smartphones -- anything that will derail your aim. Dive into the here and now, and you’ll reap the rewards of getting much more out of each moment.
Protect Your Time
If you’re not running your day, then your day is running you, says Paul M. White, a work-life balance expert. And the result is burnout and missed opportunities for meaningful engagement. It may be tempting to give your all to the business both professionally and personally, but being less than diligent about protecting your time will cost you.
“Time is more valuable than money,” says White, because while “we can always earn more money, the hands of time once spent are gone forever.”
And Your Energy
On any given day, we all only have a finite amount of energy to devote to a multitude of activities. White recommends replenishing your personal energy with exercise and other healthy habits and routines that work for you.
Learn to Say No
The powerful two-letter word "no" is the most important thing for protecting both your time and energy. This can be a challenge if you work outside of a traditional office setting, which often leads to less clear boundaries about your availability.
Use business reasons for turning down unwelcome requests on your time, advises Laura Stack, a productivity expert. This conveys the message that you take your work seriously, no matter where you do it.
And learn to say no to distractions as well. “One of my greatest distractions in my home office is family and friends,” says Stack. Others may include small tasks (like personal phone calls), errands or your pet.
So if your small business is overtaking all areas of your life, the message here once more is to devote yourself fully to the moment, to be intentional about your time -- all of it -- and in doing so to experience both freedom and fulfillment.
Alexandra Kadlec is a freelance writer. When not writing, doing crossword puzzles or playing competitive games of Scrabble, she is known to get effusive about modern art, Jane Austen and karaoke.