It's killing you.
The phrase “Do something you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life,” although poetic and inspiring, isn’t always accurate for entrepreneurs. Studies show that the long days with little downtime ultimately end up taking a toll on your health, relationships, and productivity.
If you work on your own business full time, work-life balance is extremely important. If you work 9-5 and run your own business on the side, work-life balance is critical.
In this post, we'll discuss why finding harmony between work and play is so critical to your success, both in business and in your personal life. You'll also learn ten tips on how to find the elusive work-life balance so you can begin fixing the problem immediately.
Let's break it down.
It’s a Very Real Problem
In a 2013 study on the number of hours per week small business owners work, The Alternative Board found that nearly half of the entrepreneurs worked more than 50 hour per week with nearly 20% working over 60 hours per week.
- 19% work 60+ hours per week
- 30% work 50-59 hours per week
- 33% work 40-49 hours per week
- 14% work 30-39 hours per week
- 5% work less than 30 hours per week
These long weeks, compounded over months and years can have a significant detrimental effect on many aspects of your life and health. In the same study as above, they noted some of the most common stress-related symptoms from overworking:
- Impatience (21%)
- Insomnia (19%)
- Forgetfulness (13%)
- Mood swings (8%)
- Restlessness (7%)
- Boredom (5%)
- Temper outbursts (4%)
If that’s not enough, in another study from Stanford, it was found that productivity decreases significantly when a work week hits 50+ hours/week. In fact, when a work week passes 55 hours, productivity plummets so much that there’s almost no point in working anymore. It’s the law of diminishing returns.
These detrimental effects aren’t just limited to your personal health and productivity, the stress and the symptoms that accompany it can also affect your personal relationships with your spouse, family and kids and co-workers. Furthermore, if you’re not at your best, your business can’t be operating at its optimum and if you work a 9-5 job while you’re building your online business, your performance there can take a hit as well. There's a lot at stake.
Don't Be Fooled
As an entrepreneur, and especially a passionate entrepreneur, it's easy to blur the lines of work and life. Many times work may be enjoyable or have enjoyable aspects to it that each hour melts into the next.
The saying “Do something you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life,” although poetic and inspiring, isn’t always accurate for entrepreneurs. Many times, and more often then we would like to believe, work is work. It's hard, complicated and many times; it's lonely. That’s not to say that some aspects of work can’t be thoroughly enjoyable, but again, work is work and need to be treated as such.
So how can you find balance amongst your obligation to stay happy, healthy and productive?
10 Secrets to Achieving a Harmonious Work-Life Balance
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance really comes down to recognizing how much is too much and establishing parameters on work and setting goals for life. Below, we have listed several recommended tactics and actions you can implement immediately:
1. Prepare for the upcoming week - One of the best ways to get get more done in the time you have (so you can have more time for life) is to be organized and prepare each week with a list of tasks and activities that need to be done. Take some time at the start of your work week to plan out your upcoming week. Just 15-30 minutes of planning can help provide significant gains in productivity.
2. Take vacations - Vacations neither need to be extravagant or expensive, but taking vacations gives you something to look forward to and act as a great internal reset button.
3. Celebrate all holidays - Don’t just take vacations, but celebrate each and every little holiday. Many entrepreneurs see holidays as extra hours they can use to “get ahead”. However, holidays, beyond what they are supposed to stand for break up and separate your year. Without them, mornings blend into days, blend into nights, blend into weeks, blend into months. Before you know it, you don’t even know what the date is. Your life becomes one long work session. Holidays break up the day-in, day-out grind.
4. Focus on one thing at a time - With the number of hats entrepreneurs must wear to run a business, it's easy to have dozens of tasks that need to be done at any given moment. However, your level of focus is a major contributor to your level of productivity, and it's important to prioritize and focus on completing the most important tasks first before moving on.
5. Develop a morning ritual - We discussed morning rituals in a past post the importance of morning rituals. It’s a definite read for any entrepreneur. Developing a strong morning ritual helps you craft a better, more productive day while also alleviating stress.
6. Disconnect - In today's hyper-connected world we're almost always tethered to technology. You see it everywhere. At a park, restaurant, or special event, heads down in a glowing screen, flicking the reload. Resist the urge. Your personal time should be yours. It shouldn't belong to a social network or your email inbox. Walking the dog? Leave your phone at home. At a restaurant with your significant other? They're the only person you need to be connected with at that time, turn off your phone.
7. Remove apps - For many people, their smartphone is no longer a tool. It’s just a focus-sucking bad habit with the ability to download more bad habits for it. Be honest with yourself and ask yourself which apps provide you with true value and which apps are solely sucking your time and causing you stress. Many apps are designed with notification loops that keep you checking, reloading and replying.
8. Designate work hours - It’s difficult in today’s world with the constant dings of email and social network notifications to not reply when someone comes it. However, setting boundaries when it comes to the hours you work can be critical to your sanity and success. Consider setting work boundaries for each work day and if possible, select one day of the week that you do absolutely no work.
9. Think output, not input - The Pareto Principle, also known as 80/20 rule can be applied to so many situations and applying it to help you find work-life balance is no different. Look at all your activities for your business and focus one the one that give you the most significant results while removing the ones that have proved to have little effect on moving the needle.
For example, is your business on multiple social networks and you spend a significant amount of time Instagramming and Pinning, Vining and Periscoping? Scale back. Choose just one or two channels that are sending you the most customers and ignore the rest.
10. Automate as much as possible - You have the same amount of hours in a day as the world's biggest and most successful entrepreneurs. The difference is many of them have mastered automation and systems to get more done. There are many tools that can help you automate various tasks related to your business. Learn them.
Remember, The 4-Hour Work Week was less a book about building online businesses and more about business system automation. Re-read it.
In entrepreneurship, there's always more to do, and there's never enough time. That's entrepreneurship. Most entrepreneurs will at some point work too much, too long and too hard, burning themselves out. While the hustle is important, especially in the early stages of a new business, what's important is to recognize when productivity, health and relationships with those around you begin to dip and do a course correction.
Using some of the simple methods outlined in this post, you can achieve a better work-life balance to stay productive, happy and healthy so you can keep building your business and not burnout.
About The Author
Richard Lazazzera is an ecommerce entrepreneur and Content Strategist at Shopify. Get more from Richard on his ecommerce blog.