As a small business owner, you’ll no doubt have a burning desire for your business to succeed, be passionate about what you do and work extremely hard to realise your dream. Yet sometimes this can mean your personal life is compromised and your work-life balance becomes difficult to achieve.
According to a report last year by Simply Business, almost half of the 2,000 small business owners surveyed cancel social plans at least once a week because of work commitments, nearly a third take under 10 days’ annual leave, and 25% have fallen ill due to being overworked and stressed.
Of course, running your own business - especially in the first few years - places huge demands on your time, but working yourself into the ground can take its toll on your mental and physical health, as well as your personal relationships.
If you feel like your home life is suffering as a result of your work life, it’s worth making small tweaks to the way you do things to deliver big life rewards. Here are a few suggestions to help you on your way.
Change your mentality
Some small business owners feel that if they take their foot off the pedal even slightly, then their business will fail. Yet this isn’t necessarily the right way to think about it, because you could end up developing a ‘fear’ mentality that urges you to work every minute you possibly can, while preventing you from making time for your personal life.
“Being available – or feeling like you need to be available – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is the biggest challenge to running your own business and still finding enough time for your personal or family life,” comments Narelle Morrison, COO and co-founder of communications agency Babel. “The sooner you get out of that mentality – the obligation of always being switched on, work-ready – the sooner you will reap the benefits.”
Turn off that smartphone
As a busy entrepreneur, it can be difficult to spend time away from your smartphone, but you’ll be surprised how much more you can fit into your home life if you turn it off every once in a while.
“I only use my smartphone during the week,” says Richard Walton, founder and CEO of virtual PA service AVirtual. “At the weekends or when I'm on holiday, I use an old Nokia phone. It may seem like a fairly small adjustment, but having a really basic phone actually ends up saving me time because I'm not constantly distracted by emails and calendars, so I have space to think and focus on enjoying time with my family.”
Schedule your life as well as your work
You may be used to sticking to a schedule at work, but have you thought about scheduling time at the beginning or end of your day, to enjoy your activities or hobbies?
“The diary – whether virtual or physical – really is your best friend,” comments Morrison. “Use your diary to plan everything from exercise to sleep. It sounds strange, but people often don’t realise how much extra time they might have on their hands until they sit down and manage the hours they have available.
“I personally have a shared family calendar on my iPhone where I can schedule important family events and personal commitments; it’s automated, constantly updated and synchs with other family members.”
Delegate, delegate, delegate
Time management coach Clare Evans believes it is important to delegate or outsource as much as you can. “The less you need to do, the more time you have for yourself and to spend with your family. You can focus on the important stuff while delegating the admin, accounts etc. to someone else.”
Walton agrees. “It’s very important to learn the art of delegation at an early stage. Say you value your time at £50 an hour and other people could do the same work at £10 an hour - the savings are obvious. I'd recommend that all small business owners spend a week writing down all the things they do daily and I guarantee that 40-50% of those tasks could be delegated to a PA or another expert.”
Don’t work crazy hours
Evans recommends having a set start and end time to your working day. “The temptation when it’s your own business is to keep working, to start early and finish late and work at weekends,” she remarks.
Morrison recalls a time, a few years ago, when she found herself constantly working until midnight every day to get things done. “The ironic thing was that, despite working the longer hours, I didn’t feel more productive and the workload never really decreased. My work life was suffering and so was my personal life.”
She eventually decided enough was enough. “When you realise that the world won’t stop turning if you leave the office on time to pursue your passions, or spend time with loved ones, it completely changes your outlook on how to run a business effectively and happily.”
Focus on a healthy you
Your business needs an owner who is fit, healthy and alert. That means ensuring you eat well, sleep well and exercise.
“Running a business is seriously hard work and I would often find myself running out of steam towards the end of the day, so I addressed this by getting up even earlier,” says Martin Campbell, MD of fintech startup Ormsby Street. “I rise at 5:30am and will either hop on the mountain bike or head out for a 5k run. I’m then back to my garage for some Tai Chi at around 6:40am.
“I find that if I don’t start the day by exercising, my energy levels drain rapidly and I don’t sleep so well. Overall I’ve found it has made a major difference to both my work-life balance and my general energy levels. Getting up that bit earlier provides some ‘me time’, improves the quality of time with my family and gives me more energy for work, so it’s an all-round winner.”
Schedule in personal time when travelling for business
Travelling for work is often unavoidable for a small business owner, so it’s important to ensure it has minimal impact on your personal life.
“When away from home, make sure you schedule some check-in time with loved ones via phone, email, text or FaceTime,” advises Morrison. “Not only is this important in order to maintain relationships with family members and friends, but it can also help you detach from work and relax, if just for a moment.
“If you have particular hobbies you enjoy when you’re at home, try and continue these when you are away,” she adds. “Keeping up with your hobbies and normal routine will help you remain focused, energised and motivated.”
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