As an entrepreneur, starting or growing a business can be challenging, stressful but also rewarding – if done right. According to Business News Daily, the average entrepreneur works more than 40 hours per week, with another study highlighting 39% work over 60 hours a week.
And, according to NodeSource, one of the most significant ongoing challenges that many entrepreneurs face today is finding the right work-life balance.
Juggling or bringing home vast piles of outstanding work could impact your health and wellbeing, and create potential conflict in personal relationships. A poor work-life balance could also cause entrepreneurial burnout – thus affecting work productivity and engagement levels.
So how do you strike the right balance between work and your life outside the office? We asked entrepreneurs like yourself on how to get it right.
1. Get your family onboard
We achieve a good balance by involving our kids and families in some aspects of the business, so they feel it's theirs as well. As small business owners, we wear many hats. Thankfully, as it’s two of us, we can share the workload and make sure time is being spent efficiently.
Isabel Garcia Nevett – Owner and Chocolatier of Garcia Nevett
2. Get the right support
The best way of maintaining a great work-life balance is having a supportive partner and family. These are the people that will help you through the rough times and the good times. They will also let you know if you’re swaying too much to one side or the other. Also, as a boss, you need to be comfortable delegating responsibility to a trained and valued team. You hired them for a reason; to help run your business and free up your time to do the things that really matter.
Jonathan Clarke – Managing Director of Morgan Jones Recruitment & HR Consultants Ltd
2. Create some personal rules
I think it’s important to remember that achieving a work-life balance is an ongoing act. You can slip at any time! The key is to create personal rules that help you stay on track. Here are a few of mine:
- Schedule time to be bored – scheduled boredom allows me to think creatively, get organized and prioritize my work schedule, so I don't get caught up in just doing things.
- No phones after 5:30 PM – put your phone away when you get home and be present. If it's not a genuine work emergency, it can wait.
- Plan remote work – I work from home (or another remote location) every Friday. This lets me spend more time around my family – including more weekend trips.
Matt Secrist - COO and Co-Founder of BKA Content
3. Get serious about ‘balance’
Take the "balance" part of work-life balance seriously. Catching up on emails on a Saturday? Fine. Maybe you can leave early on Tuesday for a baseball game with friends. Use a calendar to keep an eye on how you're spending your time throughout the week.
Remove distracting social media apps and breaking news from your devices. Entrepreneurs need to be responsive to customers, employees, partners — not to pointless updates and distressing news.
John Zeratsky – Author and creator at Make Time
4. Check your email once a day
As an entrepreneur, I can’t predict how the day or the week is going to pan out. While I am prepared for a roller-coaster week, I don't let sudden requests for meetings, unnecessary interruptions, and unplanned teleconferences take over. For example, my personal rule is that I only check my email once a day. I do it in the morning. It helps me maintain a work-life balance. My productivity isn't measured by the amount of time I am busy, but by the actions that I accomplish. Juggling crucial tasks and responsibilities every day requires laser-sharp focus, so I have to create a rule for myself that eliminates distractions and unnecessary noise.
Charlene Consolacion - Founder and CEO of Biig.
5. Create your own chunks of time
Block off times on your calendar that you don’t give up for (almost) any reason. The key is the latter part of that sentence. Many people block off times on their calendar, but then when push comes to shove, they relinquish those slots for a last-minute meeting. Don’t do it. The vast majority of things in life really aren’t THAT urgent. Start by blocking off 3 chunks of 2 hours each in your calendar for the next two weeks. Those are your focus times to pay attention to whatever you need to. See how that feels and tweak if needed. I bet you’ll feel better about your work-life balance.
David LaVine – Marketing Consultant and Founder of RocLogic Marketing, LLC
6. Set yourself limits
I set "artificial" limits on how much time I work and how late I work. When I hit the hard stop, then I put away my work laptop and pick it up again the next day.
Dexter Zhuang – Career Coach at Dexter Zhaung Consulting LLC
7. Create some hard boundaries
"It's a challenge for me to achieve a work-life balance because so much of my job is done online. I try to disconnect from work when I'm out of the office by creating hard boundaries for myself. That means no checking my work email or answering any customer messages. I also make it a habit to get outside and do some form of physical activity each day. Exercise rejuvenates me and makes me feel refreshed when it comes time to get back to work."
Jacob Edwards-Bytom – Founder of Made4Fighters
8. Monitor your energy levels
Figure out when your energy is highest and do your creative work during that time. When your energy starts to dip, take a break, ideally to hit the gym and bring your energy back up. I've found this gives me two full "creative bursts" throughout the day and makes me extremely efficient.
Mitchell Harper – Co-Founder of Insane Growth
9. It’s all about self-care
After a more than a decade building organizations, I've learned that work-life balance is critical; otherwise, the 60-70 hour weeks chew you up!
The trick to achieving work-life balance while running a startup lies in accepting that your role in the organization is infinitely large. There will always be plenty to do, and your organization will consume any hours you make available to it. Growing businesses are hungry beasts! This means it’s up to you to draw and enforce boundaries around your personal time.
This gets easier when you realize personal time isn’t just about recreation, it’s about self-care. If you don’t take care of your needs physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially then you’re guaranteeing your energy levels, performance, and mood will decline over time. This means work-life balance is critical not just to enjoying life, but also to succeed in business. If you want both, you have to put yourself first.
Dave Labowitz – Four-time small business executive turned business coach
10. Create a flexible work schedule
To improve my work-life balance and that of my employees, I encourage a flexible work schedule.
That way, employees can work when they’re the most productive, no matter the time or schedule. As long they’re performing and producing results, giving employees the freedom to choose their hours empowers them.
Flexible scheduling, including remote work, is a great way to earn the trust of your workforce and to give them a better work-life balance. It also shows that your company is forward-thinking and considerate of the emerging trends in the millennial job market.
Tony Arevalo - co-founder of Carsurance.net
11. Be disciplined
The solution to a proper work-life balance is simple: discipline. Be disciplined about delegation of tasks. If the task is too complicated to delegate, simplify it. Be disciplined about how you spend your time. A few considerable time savers include;
- Unless your business requires social media at its core, stay off social platforms.
- Use technology to your advantage. If you're in an Uber or at the airport, answer emails or make calls.
- Learn through audiobooks and podcasts. They’re portable media and contain critical information needed for success.
- Be disciplined about your diet. What you put in your mouth fuels your body, and most importantly, your brain. Personally, the keto diet is very effective at avoiding the 2pm crash.
Paul Anderson – Co-Founder of Oxford Steels
12. Consider how you manage your time
Time management is key. It can’t all be about work at the expense of your personal life, health, partner and family. The older you get, you more you realize the importance of balance and managing your time wisely. You must include downtime in your schedule and make time for exercise and hobbies. One is vital for physical health, the other for mental health. Schedule time off in advance and stick to it. The best ideas come when you disconnect and come back to work with a fresh perspective.
Take time the night before to schedule your day. Give each task a priority and believe it's ok if you don't get it all done. If you can complete something immediately, don't procrastinate, just get it done.
Kenneth A. Baboun – Managing Partner at BGI Capital
13. Prioritize your work schedule
It’s beneficial to always have the right perspective and place tasks by order of importance. I’m the Founder and CEO of two organizations, as the primary contact for my businesses, I realize my day can become complicated very quickly if I don’t adhere to a proper schedule. I’ve found that the day progresses much smoother when I’ve accomplished the most urgent task on my daily agenda and leave the least important tasks for later. Prioritization allows me to have clarity and peace in my personal life because I’m better prepared for the day.
Shamikia Gottlieb – Founder and CEO – Influent Presence International Ministry
14. Automate and delegate where possible
I achieve work-life balance as the CEO and founder of a company by automating and delegating as much as I can. I tend to work just a few hours per week because each aspect of my business has someone else doing the work. I have marketers, developers and customer support reps that have their daily tasks, and once they’re done, they report back to me. So far, it gives immense freedom to me and my whole team since they don’t work fixed hours either.
Adam Hempenstall – Founder and CEO of Better Proposals
15. Limit how much you work
One great tip to achieve a better work-life balance as an entrepreneur is to simply limit the amount of time you work. You can restrict how long you spend on your business by allocating a specific time(s) for work during the day, e.g. 9 am to 4 pm. Or consider setting a maximum number of hours that shouldn't be exceeded on any day.
Hassan Alnassir - Founder and owner of the kid’s toy business, Premium Joy
16. Think long term
You need to recognize how difficult striking a work-life balance is. Most entrepreneurs do what they do because they love it, so work can become their hobby and evening activity. But it never works well long term. The mind-shift that helped me achieve a better work-life balance was to start thinking longer term. I'd rather achieve 25% less this year, but be stronger and healthier to keep going year after year, growing at a slower, more sustainable rate for the sake of mine and my family’s wellbeing.
Marcus Clarke - Founder of Searchant.co
17. Make a conscious choice
Some would say "find a boring and safe job".
Absolutely not! It's an illusion. A boring job will only give you boredom, not balance. Sure, you can check out at 4 pm, and you don't have to think about work until the next morning, but it's not an enriching way to live. It's not work-life balance if you don't have both: an exciting job that you love AND time and profits to have other priorities in life as well.
For entrepreneurs, getting the right balance in life can be difficult. However, it’s absolutely possible. It requires you to make a conscious choice and learn some good strategies; the most important being that you forgive yourself and get back on track when it all goes wrong once in a while.
Nicki – Co-Founder, COO and CMO at patentrenewal.com
18. Don’t feel guilty
The most important thing entrepreneurs need to do to master work-life balance is to shake off feeling guilty for taking time away. It's easy for business and personal time to blend into one, and this often translates to thoroughly enjoying the work, but there's a dark side too: often you can find yourself going for several months with no proper time off. Sometimes you simply have to set up the "out of office" response and shut down completely. It's often during these periods of true downtime when you get the best ideas!
Ben Taylor – Serial entrepreneur and founder of HomeWorkingClub.com
19. Put your oxygen mask on before helping others!
If you’re not at your best, then it's hard to do an excellent job for either your family or your company. I would get up an extra 30 mins early in the morning to have a cup of coffee and plan my day/week while listening to quiet music and enjoying the peaceful morning before the kids got up. That went a long way to helping me feel more "in control" of my life.
Julie Doig McPeek – Partner at Provisor Marketing
20. Never eat in front of your computer
Back in my corporate days, I would often give in to the 'sad desk lunch' reality of quickly eating a salad while trying to reach inbox zero. Now, as an entrepreneur, I know that work will always be there. Trying to be super-efficient constantly can lead to burnout; your mind needs a break, and there's no better time to take a moment away from your screen than when you're eating.
When I have breakfast or lunch during the workday, I try to find a spot away from my laptop to eat more consciously. Even better, I try to schedule meetings during mealtimes so that I can connect with potential clients and partners in person over food. If I'm trying to solve a complex problem or brainstorm a creative idea, changing my environment has helped me gain inspiration and think differently. I can't tell you the number of times I've had a lightbulb moment go off while prepping lunch in my kitchen or eating a sandwich outside. Eating away from my desk has given me a chance to connect the dots from earlier and lead to some valuable insights.
Cynthia Samanian - Founder and CEO of Hidden Rhythm
21. Just be present
As a woman who’s launched many entrepreneurial ventures, I know without a doubt there’s no such thing as work-life balance. I think most of us view the idea of work-life balance through the wrong lens. Being fulfilled in your personal and professional life is about intention — it's about understanding your priorities and being present in whatever you are doing at the time. This enables you to make good choices about the type of work you do and who you're willing to do it for — and it also keeps work in perspective. The entrepreneur's to-do list never ends, but my family and personal relationships have always taken the front seat, and that has not stopped me from being successful at what I do.
Gretchen Halpin – Co-Founder of Beyond AUM
22. Hire the right professionals
The way I achieve work-life balance is by hiring experts. I used to stress over marketing, for example, and I’d spend hours every week thinking of how to promote my product. As a startup founder, it can get really stressful. That’s why I hired a professional for marketing, another one for design, another one for copywriting, etc. By hiring people who are great at their jobs, I freed up time for myself because I was horrible at them. Now I have more time for myself and when I do the math, it actually makes more sense financially as well.
Carsten Schaefer – Founder and CEO at crowdy.ai
23. Determine your priorities
The key to a work-life balance is first to define what that term means to you personally. I've learned to live by my processes for myself, family and business. They are the three buckets I drop items into and prioritize based on those silos. If they don't meet a high enough priority, they get cut.
For myself, things like my health, wellness and personal growth are essential. I also have a spouse and seven-year-old daughter and time with my family is a priority over anything else. When it comes to running my business, having the right people in the right seats allows me to stay focused on the core aspects of the organization, so my time is laser-focused on strategy and growth.
Frank B. Mengert – Founder at ebm
24. Remind yourself why you wanted to be an entrepreneur
I achieve work-life balance by reminding myself every day why I wanted to be an entrepreneur. For me, it's for the freedom to build an independent life that completes me — being independent means I can have a life that's not beholden to any one thing. In the truest sense, work-life balance, as an entrepreneur, doesn’t exist. The lifestyle of an entrepreneur is that of a practical creative that wants the freedom to pursue ideas, not at the expense of a life but to enhance it. That enhancement comes from the realization that in order to be an entrepreneur, one must experience life in all its glory and messiness.
Jarie Bolander – COO of Lab Sensor Solutions
25. Focus on internal balance
The term “work-life balance” implies that an equal amount of time is spent on each of those. Let’s focus instead on internal balance.
Most entrepreneurs start their company because they want to have more freedom: more time with family or more flexibility to travel.
My tip is straightforward and yet so few entrepreneurs choose to use it:
- Write a list of your non-negotiables. What is truly meaningful and important in your life?
- Create very clear boundaries for yourself (e.g. 2 hours with family every day, 1 month away every year)
- Stick to those boundaries. NO. MATTER. WHAT.
The question is not whether we can create internal balance; the question is whether we are willing to change the way we function to do so.
Dominique Mas – Professional coach for high performers