Maintaining a balance between work and the rest of your life might seem like a mythological feat reserved only for the elite. Surely, only a chosen few have a natural knack for achieving the elusive work-life balance. Right?
You’re Skywalker, and a work/life balance is the Force. All it takes is a little training and you can harness it to save the world or grow your business. Knowing you, it’ll probably be both.
I’m about to go all Obi Wan on you about work life balance – but instead of relying on my own mystical powers, I’ve found real examples of business owners who know the difficulty of achieving and maintaining a this balance all too well.
Make Balance a Top Priority
“If you are struggling to juggle your home life with your career commitments, both can suffer. Part of the solution may be to treat time with your family as a priority. When you’re facing an avalanche of appointments, book time to spend with your family — put it in your work diary.”
– Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Airways
Balancing work with the rest of you must become a priority in your life. If it’s not, you’ll face many obstacles and problems along the way.
Begin by accepting responsibility for creating your own work/life balance. A common fallacy among employees is that the lack of work/life balance is their employer’s fault.
It’s time to take responsibility.
The struggle that most people find is giving enough time to their family and friends. As Branson suggests, formally schedule time with the important people in your life.
Next time you’re overwhelmed with assignments and flooded with emails, close your laptop and color with your kids. Or go visit your grandma. It’s all about priorities.
Here’s a great exercise to start establishing and understanding where your present priorities lay:
- Create a list of all of your priorities in your life. Include the aspects of your life that would crush you if they were suddenly absent from your life.
- Order them. Go back over your list and determine your top three priorities. Only three!
- Focus in. Now, out of those three, what is your number one priority? Write out exactly why the item is your greatest priority. Dedicate yourself to making changes to improve and protect your top priority in life.
You may need to make some scheduling changes, or start using a schedule in the first place. Managing a daily schedule will help ensure your top priorities receive the lion’s share of your time.
Regularly Examine the Roles You Play
“Each week, I examine the categories of my life — father, husband, CEO, self — and identify the specific actions that help me feel successful and fulfilled in these capacities. This weekly ritual helps me feel like I’m doing everything in my power to address my needs and the needs of those around me. This is important because I can’t lose sight of the business agenda, and we’ve all seen or read about what it looks like when you lose sight of your family’s needs.”
– Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics
As a co-founder of Qualtrics, Ryan Smith knows all about analysis and the importance of a work life balance. Smith advises that people calculate how much time is spent carrying out each task.
This practice will help you be realistic about what you undertake in life. Regularly reviewing the different roles that you play in life along with the amount of time you have will help you balance your roles.
Connect With Other Business Owners
“The best advice I ever got is: You’re the average of the five people you associate with the most. I use it always, whether it’s choosing startups to invest in, choosing investors, sports teams to join, or people to have dinner with. Constantly, I think about this.”
– Tim Ferriss, Entrepreneur and Best-Selling Author
Social networks have made it substantially easier to find other business owners. Connecting with fellow entrepreneurs will help you benefit from their experience on the quest to achieve work life balance.
You may be Luke Skywalker, but other entrepreneurs are also the Chosen One of their own story. Discover what they’ve learned and see if they can guide you.
Beyond social networks, find local networking opportunities in your area.
Connecting face to face with other business owners is the best way to compare notes about what works and what doesn’t. In fact, spending time with other business owners itself will help you balance work and a social life.
Don’t Be Afraid to Disconnect
“Staff may only contact me about things that are absolutely urgent and that only I can handle. My iPhone is my weather, my news, my GPS, my music, my phone, and my email so it of course travels with me, but I am not tied to it.”
– Paul Schmitz, Former CEO of Public Allies
The previous generation of employees struggled with work life balance due to putting in too much time at the office. While that struggle is still very real, smartphones, tablets and laptops have allowed us to work 24/7 wherever we are.
We value being connected, and being disconnected will surely be bad for your business, right?
As Schmitz suggested, have rules for who may contact you and for what reasons. Back this up by adjusting notification settings for all business related apps. Take this a step further by encouraging your employees to pursue their own work-life balance, thus decreasing the chances that they’ll need to contact you.
Also, stop sleeping with your phone. You aren’t accomplishing that much by checking emails right before bed and right when you wake up.
Gain Personal Time Through Exercise
“If you’re an entrepreneur, your business relies heavily on your sleep and sanity. Make sure that you are putting yourself first by eating right, sleeping well and exercising (at a minimum). Remind yourself that those things are critical to thinking, creating and performing at your best, and make sure you stand firm to your commitments to all three.”
– Jenny Blake, Co-Founder of Lucent
Exercise addresses a few core elements of your work life balance: you gain personal time, you clear your mind and you improve your health.
A healthy body and clear mind are the business owner’s best tools for carrying out their daily tasks with focus and clarity. Plus, any business owner with a family knows how rare personal time can be – go get you some.
Now You Have Your Lightsaber
Remember how Luke felt when he first turned on his father’s lightsaber? I hope that’s how you feel right about now. You’re armed with all the tools you need to finally achieve and maintain the elusive work-life balance. It’s time to use them.
What practices have you found help achieve your work life balance? Are there any hurdles that are preventing you from reaching it right now?