Running your own company can be all-consuming. But if you don’t allow time for a healthy work-life balance both you and your business will suffer, says Graeme Donnelly of Rapid Formations
A healthy work-life balance is the ultimate goal for many of us, but that can be challenging when you’re running your own company. Ultimately, the success of your business lies in your hands, so it’s hard to switch off and dedicate time to anything else. But we must, lest we burn out and miss the valuable life experiences that make it all worthwhile.
It’s a hard lesson, one that some people learn far too late. From my experience as the director of a successful SME, there are four pieces of advice I’d urge new and existing business owners to heed. Some of this was expounded to me when I was just starting out; the rest I learned first-hand through trial and error.
Better work-life balance: learn to let go
As a small business owner, you’ll probably be involved in more than just management. You’ll also be doing work of a technical nature, perhaps creative work such as writing website content, producing marketing material, taking charge of branding, designing packaging etc.
But it’s important to keep this to a minimum because you won’t have time to do it during a normal working day when clients, suppliers and employees are looking to grab a piece of you.
The power of delegation is hugely impactful. If you don’t learn to let go and delegate work to others where feasible, you will end up chained to your business for long hours, seven days a week, with no annual leave.
There’s little joy in that, and it’s no way to find a healthy work-life balance. Do what only you can do and delegate the things you don’t have time for. Finding an accountant is a good place to start to help ease the administrative burden.
Plan and prioritise
It’s great to be busy – it’s usually a sign that business is going well – but no one wants to be a busy fool! It’s impossible to address every task and idea as and when they pop into your head, which is something we tend to learn only through experience. Organisation, clarity of thought, focus and self-discipline are essential if you want to achieve your goals while remaining sane.
Plan, write things down, prioritise, delegate and don’t make time for the tedious jobs you tend to put off. The better you are at organising yourself and your commitments, the more you’ll achieve. And the less likely you are to become overwhelmed.
Consider setting aside some time in the early mornings. Use this time to plan the day ahead, or to tackle the tasks you’re unable to do during working hours.
I prefer early rises, and I also work a Saturday or Sunday morning when the family is asleep. This allows me to work in peace without neglecting anyone, and I get to enjoy family time without worrying about what hasn’t been done.
Appropriate working environment
Working from home is an excellent way to save time and money, but it can have an adverse effect on your work-life balance.
The home office is too handy, so you may struggle to switch off when you should be focused on family time; there’s nowhere to escape to when it’s time to finish for the day; family and friends are inclined to interrupt when you’re ‘at work’ because they associate your presence at home with availability.
If possible, avoid working from home for some of the time, at least. Be sure to establish boundaries, stick to your routine and working schedule, and create a really nice space where you can achieve good levels of concentration and productivity (ie not the sofa).
Take time off
Personally, I find it incredibly challenging to take time off. And I have employees! There’s never a moment when I don’t have something to do, no matter how organised I am and how much I delegate. That’s just part and parcel of running a business and wanting to do it well.
It’s really tough in the early days to find a good time to take a holiday, especially if you don’t have anyone else working with or for you. But you’ve got to find a way. Perhaps training staff to cover the day-to-day aspects of your job, working longer hours for a period of time before your holiday to cover the potential loss of income, or planning in advance to create a gap in your commitments.
You simply cannot work effectively if you never stop to recharge and look after your work-life balance. Your brain will end up frazzled, you’ll become increasingly stressed and you’ll make yourself ill. And that’s not good for you, your family or your business.