Those of us who have tried to run a business know how much it takes a toll on your life. In our previous jobs, if we had them, we had clearly defined hours, and clearly defined projects. Tasks would have a beginning, middle and end, and you would work 9 to 5 to achieve them. But when you are running a business, it feels like there is always something you could do more of.
You could do more fundraising, you could do more promotion, you could do more networking; and why not start a little earlier, at 8am or 7am, to get as much done as possible? You can’t really just stop what you are doing at 5pm, either, so why not work a little longer – just until you’ve really achieved as much as is physically possible in the day? You are just being the best that you can be, right? If you don’t, you might not be a success, right?
Wrong. Your personal life is just as important as your work life, no matter what stage your business is at. Here are just a few reasons that it is just as important to have a personal life as a work life:
- Your Mental Health: being a work-a-holic can burn you out, and make you more prone to anxiety, depression, and all sorts of negative side effects that, while obviously damaging you personally, could also damage you professionally in the long term. If you ignore these problems, they are likely to get worse until the only way to get better is to stop working altogether.
- Similarly, some of your best ideas can happen when you are relaxed. Let your mind rest, and you might dream up a fantastic solution when you least expect it. A rested mind is an active mind.
- At the end of the day, you need to ask yourself ‘what are you doing it all for?’. There is nothing wrong with the answer being ‘for me’, ‘for the excitement’, or even, ‘for the customers who need my service/product/idea’. But most entrepreneurs will agree that they also do it for their loved ones. However, if the cost of earning money as an entrepreneur means you don’t spend any time with them – maybe the cost is too high.
- Finally, your mentality can affect your employees. Even if you decide that you don’t need a personal life, that doesn’t mean your employees aren’t entitled to one. Sometimes, bosses who mean well can accidentally promote a culture of constant overtime, just because they are the ones who set the pace and culture of the office. As well as being a bit mean, this can demotivate your staff and tire them out, making them less able to work efficiently.
Clearly, working that hard isn’t worth it. You are sacrificing yourself, your loved ones and your employees.
It can often feel very unnatural to let go and work less, when it is something you are so passionate about, but, although you may have forgotten it, the biggest and best advantage to running your own business (and more than likely the reason you wanted to do it in the beginning) is that you are your own boss, and you have complete control of your life. This means it is actually quite easy to recapture control of your life, but how can you go about doing it?
- Get used to writing out what work is essential, what work is very helpful, and what work is just a nice idea; or in other words, what you SHOULD do, what you COULD do, and what you WOULD do (if you had more time).
- Concentrate on the first two categories, and, if you can, try to plan doing one aspect of the third as a slow, long-term project. You can’t do everything at once – and you also probably shouldn’t.
- Then find your own equivalent of 9 to 5, which suits you. Maybe ask your loved ones when is best – you could time it to work around dropping your kids off at school, or always being able to make Friday date-night. But the most important thing to do is: stick to it!
- If you are finding that you need more time than that just to do the absolute bare minimum of what is necessary – then you may need some serious restructuring within the company. Delegate parts of your job to employees, or, if you can, create a whole new role to share the load with. If you are still at a ‘work-alone-from-home’ stage, consider cutting back on some of your aims, or pushing back their deadlines, so that you can cope working less hours.
- If you are struggling to let go of the long-term ‘would’ projects – make it your number one goal to build your company until you are able to hire someone to delegate all the ‘should’ tasks to – a Chief Operations Officer. Once you have done that, you can use all your time to work on ‘could’ and ‘would’ projects. This also means you are training someone up who could take on your role, should you ever decide to retire.
However you decide to do it, it is important that you have a work-life balance, even if the weight of the world is on your shoulders. If not for yourself, then for all the people who care about you, worry about you, and depend on you.