January is the month when our best intentions are on display. We go to the gym three times a week, eat salads for lunch and meditate each morning. If you’re like me, you count yourself lucky if one of those practices lasts until February.
If you’re really lucky, the previous few months were filled with lots of quality time spent with family and friends and perhaps it’s reminded you of the importance of incorporating more of that time into your life year round. Maybe the mental and physical break rejuvenated your fervor for entrepreneurship. Or the time with loved ones reminded you who and what you work so hard for. Either way, it most likely proved that time away from your work can do your work good.
But as an entrepreneur who has dedicated 150% of their life to their business, who took the plunge into the unknown because of a passion that needed exploring, it can be difficult to know where the line between work and play lies. In the 2012 U.S. Bank Small Business Annual Survey, small business owners reported that “more owners in 2012 said their business is their life and their life is their business – up from 34 percent in 2011 to 45 percent in 2012.”
I recently read this article on Forbes.com asserting that the best way to accomplish your business and personal goals was to tackle them both simultaneously. This might take the form of scheduling business calls during vacation time, doing personal tasks during business hours or checking work emails at home.
At first glance, this seems like the best of both worlds – everything gets accomplished and no one is ignored. But what about the productivity costs of multitasking? Though we all thought multitasking was the wave of the future, numerous studies have now shown that a lack of focus on a single task significantly decreases your overall productivity. In this scenario, it wouldn’t be just business related tasks we’d be juggling, but personal ones too – even bigger leaps we’re asking our brain to constantly make. This makes work-life balance vs. work-life blend truly a conundrum that I can only answer with Do what works for you, your business and your family. Only you know your own best work habits and the needs of your loved ones.
As with many things, the most important means to achieving work-life balance is simply being aware of it. Know what your work and personal goals are and repeatedly take stock of where they stand and what needs to change.
It’s helpful to think of your life as a business, too. Its profits may not be measured in any currency and its benchmarks may not be defined by tangible assets but it too has goals to achieve and plans to help you get there. Just like a business, to sustain yourself and your personal life over a long period of time, it needs to be analyzed, planned and dedicated time. Only once this business is made sustainable and profitable can it properly bolster your “other” business.
As an entrepreneur who has laser-focused vision on the ultimate bottom line, it can be easy to slip into the role of the boss who demands that same 150% dedication from their employees as well. If you do need employees to fill in while you are out of the office, make sure they have adequate time during the rest of the year to take their own leave and address their own personal goals and needs. The Golden Rule certainly applies: Treat your employees how you wish your boss had treated you.
And there may be unexpected benefits to handing over the reins! A business owner named Deb Pierson commented on the Wall Street Journal article, “How to Take a Vacation,” saying “My team was able to handle all issues and really showed how capable they are. The best advantage – when I returned they continued to handle things that used to float to my desk.”
Take the beginning of this new year as an opportunity to make a plan for your small business, your personal life and how you will balance the two throughout the next 12 months. Don’t beat yourself up if you happen to show up late for dinner or miss that deadline in lieu of a soccer game. If you haven’t already learned this in your small business endeavors you certainly will:
“When you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target.” – George Fisher