Striking a balance between work and life seems to be ‘the’ goal we should be striving for. However, is it all a myth? Can we really find a balance as business entrepreneurs or are we, as architects of fortune, bound to find happiness in work. And does it matter anyway?
There are countless articles that will tell you that striking a balance is important for your health, your relationships and your productivity. But what if they are all myths?
1. It’s about balance.
Balance doesn’t exist. As an entrepreneur, you’re always thinking about work in some capacity. Trying to put a schedule in place is an unrealistic expectation. You might leave the office at 6pm but have a critical call at 8pm and be required to jump online for a meeting at 10pm.
The suggestion is that you integrate your life. ‘While at your child’s soccer game, take a work call’ was one such ‘integration’ suggestion. Humm. No. While it is okay to trade off with your partner and explain that sometimes you just have to work, some things need to be kept sacred.
Kids sports events, as boring as they may be, mean everything to kids – so get off your phone and pay attention. However, while you are watching Nemo for the 50th time, replying to emails should be fine. Your spouse or partner should also be respected the same way – if you have a ‘no phones for 30 minutes while we have dinner’ you should respect that rule and move any calls or meetings.
2. Compartmentalise your life.
An even 50-50 split where we spend half of our time at work and the other at home, or dividing our days into 8-8-8 hour blocks, is not possible for most people. Some days you put in 10 hours of work while others you only work for a couple of hours, if you are lucky.
Rather than trying to live in boxes of time every day, try instead to focus your time on completing a project. When you take a vacation, try and focus on enjoying your time away from work. If you are just starting in business, accept that for the first 2 – 5 years, your life will be your work and those close to you will need to make sacrifices to support you.
3. You can have it all.
Don’t fall for the trap that you can have it all or doing everything that you want. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to achieve your goals. If you can accept this, then you will stop punishing yourself for missing that exercise class, being late home from work or wanting to sleep all day on a Sunday.
4. Time management is the answer.
The idea that you can disconnect is a lovely unicorn that people who work hard for other people try to catch. For serious entrepreneurs, 24/7 connectivity is a reality. Time management techniques were mostly written and developed before our modern era of global exchange that never sleeps.
So how do you manage when your work demands all your time? You delegate. Working with a partner or team remotely can help you manage business affairs in different time zones, and give you the three hours sleep you need to recharge before developing your empire again the next day.
5. Technology will give you more free time.
Automation has definitely changed our lives, but it does not add hours to the day. While automating customer responses, scheduling meetings and even placing regular office order, you need to put hours into monitoring, using and updating the technologies, so while they might seem like time savers, some technology can cost you time too.
6. It’s what employees care about most.
Reportedly, most employees want meaningful work, recognition and empathetic work culture. Flexibility is a little further down the priority list.
Employees actually want to know how they fit into your plans for the future, how their work contributes to the team and how they can create job security.
7. The early bird catches the worm.
You will read often that success and early risers go hand-in-hand. While many people who get up early, do exercise and then prepare for the day do have clarity of mind and energy, it might not be right for someone who has their most creative impulses at night.
Listen to your own body. Set a sleep routine that works for you and stop comparing your life and choices with those created by biographers for Richard Branson and Elon Musk.
8. You never have to work during off-hours.
Perhaps the leading argument for work-life balance is that you never have to work during ‘off-hours.’ Entrepreneurs don’t have that luxury. Duty calls even while on vacation or having downtime with the family. And then there are those who are so passionate about what they are creating that they don’t want to log off.
9. The less you work, the happier you’ll be.
It’s about loving what you do. If you love your work, a 12-hour day could fly past in what feels like 2 hours. If you find your work tedious, putting in 2 hours might feel like a never-ending week.
By that logic, working less does not equal happiness; doing what you love does. If you are fulfilled by writing a script that filled 70 hours a week for a year, then working less might actually make you resentful, stifled or anxious.
10. Everything has to be scheduled.
Spontaneity needs room to take hold. While you do need to book meetings and make plans for travel, having room to breathe and follow a lead could bring about a new deal.
Overall, reading about all the keys to a successful career is about as useful as wishing you looked like George Clooney or Mischa Barton. You are a successful entrepreneur when you understand that there are no rules, that finding success does not have a formula and your dreams don’t need to be defined by rules.