6 tips to achieve work-life balance as a small business owner
You decided to start your own business so you could have more time. How’s that going for you? We’ve talked to many entrepreneurs and small business owners who are so busy that they forgot why they started their business in the first place.
This article serves as your reminder that YOU DESERVE LIFE BALANCE. Yes, there may be times where you work weekends or evenings to get through a busy period, but that shouldn’t be your new normal. It’s not healthy or productive.
Today, we’re sharing some of our best tips for managing your time to achieve a better work-life balance as an entrepreneur.
#1: Optimize your calendar and tasks
This could be a whole blog post topic in itself. We’ve noticed that our best-organized colleagues are also the ones who “find” time for personal pursuits and downtime outside of their job. It’s likely because they’ve learned how to get more done in less time.
Here are some quick tips for better managing your time as a business owner:
- Use a calendar: Whether it’s a paper planner or a digital calendar, have one place to organize your business schedules, meetings, and commitments. If it’s a digital calendar, it’s easier to share with your team and access from anywhere.
- Use an automated booking system: If you have clients or prospects who need to book meetings or consults with you, stop trying to find the best meeting times over email. Use a booking system like Calendly or Honeybook and people can book meeting times directly into your calendar. These booking calendars also send email or text reminders to you and your contacts.
- Batch tasks: If you have a bunch of calls to make, sit down and do them all one after another. If you have three briefs to write, sit down and write them in one sitting. If you have inventory to assemble and organize, sit down and do a whole week or two weeks worth in one sitting. Find similar tasks and batch them together to increase your efficiency. Then add this time for “emails” or “social media writing” into your calendar.
- Prioritize: Many of our coaching clients like to sit down once a week and look at their tasks and to-do list for the upcoming week. They then prioritize their top 2-3 tasks that must be completed for each day.
- Schedule lunch: When you’re so busy, you may often forget to eat lunch or get up from your desk for hours. Set a timer or alarm that reminds you to stand up and stretch, refresh your glass of water, or reheat your lunch.
“The trick is to narrow down that scope and pick a very small subsection of [that particular] task at a time and focus heavily on it. And by focusing heavily for that short sprint, going full on, as much as you can give it for a short amount of time, you're going to accomplish more in the long run.”
Justin Lam, Tactical Titans, S2 E40
#2: Schedule time for yourself
Sir Richard Branson, the head of Virgin Group, schedules time in his calendar to “dream.” This is when he is free from distractions and can brainstorm, think, and generally spend the time as he sees fit. He’s scheduling downtime, away from the hustle and bustle of his business to exercise his creative mind. He says it helps him to see the bigger picture.
If you find your mind and focus strays on Friday afternoons, schedule time on Fridays at 3 pm for “dreaming” or to spend time reading a book, learning a new skill, or doing a hobby. The whole point is to schedule time doing something you enjoy, away from your business.
#3: Set Boundaries
As a business owner, you owe it to yourself to set boundaries. While it’s great to have an open-door policy in your workplace, it can lead to distractions and loss of productivity with people coming and going all the time.
We’ve talked to many entrepreneurs who only accept meeting invites and appointments on certain days or times. This ensures that they always have time to get work done and aren’t constantly in back-to-back meetings all day.
In the US, a Statistica survey found that 75% of employees admit to checking work emails during the evenings and on weekends. In comparison, most employees in French businesses have the “right to disconnect” outside of business hours. Set boundaries for your time and try not to check emails or accept meeting requests outside of your office hours.
#4: Unplugged vacations
Further to turning off your email and phone outside of working hours, when you go on vacation, actually go on vacation. Turn off your phone and email, so you’re not tempted to check your messages. If you must keep your phone on, turn off notifications and alerts for your email and business apps, so you don’t get tempted.
“Allocate time in your day, for nothing, literally nothing. Allocate the time, though … where you are not there just to catch up on work and stuff. But allocate your time to do whatever you want to do, whatever pleases you [or] closes the stress loop, whether it's like a little bit of physical exertion, time for you to read, think and be creative...”
Justin Lam, Tactical Titans, S2 E40
#5: Get help
If you’re really that busy, maybe it’s time to grow your business by hiring staff or outsourcing admin or marketing tasks to a company or freelancer. There are likely many tasks you don’t need to do personally, and those can be passed to someone else so you can focus on the more critical or bigger picture tasks of running a business.
You may be surprised at how much time you will get back when you hire someone to do your company’s social media and marketing or have someone else handle client onboarding and invoicing. We challenge you to try it in your business and see for yourself.
#6: Reward yourself and celebrate wins
As entrepreneurs, when we have a win (landing a new client, making a big sale, winning an award), we jump for joy, then move on with our day. We often forget the benefits of taking a moment to celebrate those wins, even the smallest ones.
Find a way to celebrate wins like:
- Signing a new customer or client
- Being shortlisted for an award
- Crossing off your complete Monday to-do list on Monday!
- Paying all your bills on time this month
- Having record-breaking sales months
You likely have more things you can celebrate in your business. Be aware of them and celebrate them by rewarding yourself with a drink after work, some extra time to read your favourite book at night, or a team dinner at a local restaurant.
Balance is different for everyone
Balance and time management look different for everyone. Many people are happy working from 7 am to 6 pm five days a week; others need a more strict schedule of 9 am to 3 pm due to family commitments. Others may enjoy working really hard for two weeks, then take it easy for two weeks.
However it looks for you, listen to your instincts and make sure that you make time for all areas of your life that are important to you. Remember that these priorities may shift often – you may be very focused on business one week, family the next, and fitness and exercise the next.
Keep your balance fluid and do what you need to do so you don’t forget why you became an entrepreneur in the first place. Work-life balance is possible as an entrepreneur; you just need to work for it to set yourself up for success.