How to Achieve Work-Life Balance as a Business Owner

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The old adage is that we should work to live, not live to work. But when you run your own business, that equation can be hard to maintain and the work life balance can tip towards long hours, stress and not much fun.

Being self-employed means it can be difficult to space out your days and find the time so your business, family and personal needs are met. So, how can you find that delicate balance between work and life when self-employed? We have a few work life balance strategies to bring about stability


But first, what is work-life balance?

A work life balance exists when you are able to sew a seam and give your time equally to your family and your business. A good work-life balance will ensure that commitments to family, friends and your work is kept in a healthy equilibrium, so that all thrive and so do you.

For small business owners, this balance can get very tricky to find and to maintain. The large amount of hours needed to start and run a successful business can put pressure on home and personal space.

Achieving work life balance is one of the greatest challenges of modern life. We can all use some work life balance tips.


What is important to you?

The first step is to do a bit of a personal audit. What are your needs and wants? What do you need daily, weekly, monthly in life to stay sane, happy and healthy? What are your central values? Where are your no-go zones?

For instance, some of us prefer to work at night. Some prefer to start early in the morning. Maybe we need exercise every day, or a surf once a week, a massage, or a movie.

Delving deeper, consider what aspects of your life are vital to your happiness. For many of us, a common factor here is family time and/or personal time. That may mean that spending time with your kids, hanging out, reading to them, or playing sport together for instance, is the most important piece of your life.

Or you may feel you need time out, alone, when you can breath a little and get some headspace.

Look at your values and see how they apply to these areas. Would you miss a child's birthday for an important business trip for instance, or drop an anniversary dinner with your partner because you have to work late?


How to Manage Time

One of the most common time management tips is to set boundaries. But without the discipline to maintain them, they're really no more than just nice ideas.

It can be easy to let the adrenalin and perceived importance of your business become all-consuming. Family and personal life can be taken for granted. But the truth is it won't always be there. Your kids will grow up and leave home, your friends may stop keeping in touch because you never have time to talk, your partner might give up on you and stress over your relationship.

These are real issues and all are in need of disciplined decision making to keep your home life in a healthy state.

The bottom line is, if your business will fall apart if you're not there for an hour or two every now and then, to be with friends or family, then you have to ask; how sustainable is your business in the long term?


Flexible discipline

Here's the tricky bit. You want to keep those boundaries secure, for you and your family's well-being, and, frankly, for your business' future prospects. But life doesn't conform to spreadsheet thinking. You can schedule all you want, but life invariably lays minefields to disrupt even the most well-planned ideals.


It all comes down to making good decisions

In the world of small business management, taking the time to structure an approach to a good work-life balance will go a long way in helping you achieve the balance. Building good habits, and knowing exactly where you stand on most things, will enable you to make a good call even as the pressure of either your work and/or home life builds and when stress may threaten to hinder a good choice.

Building a balanced work-life culture starts with, largely, laying the platform for good decisions, and on knowing when to choose home or work. Or both.


Knowing your priorities

Both work and home life often tends to run in cycles. School holidays for the kids might be best spent away from work to open up some quality family time (if it suits your business, that is). Likewise, if you're being audited in your business or doing inventory, it probably isn't the time to take a spin down the coast with your cycling club.

It makes sense to try and work out ways that downtimes at work can be used to maximise home, family, and lifestyle time for you. Getting your priorities right will help ensure you aren't wasting time at work while the family needs you, or that you are spending dead time at home when the business is under the pump.


Think ahead

As noted previously, it pays to plan ahead as much as possible to help you get closer to that elusive work-life balance point.

Mapping out your year with simple things like birthdays, holidays or known social events, like that big footy game you want to catch later in the season for instance, and the big moments in the business year, like tax time, busy sales periods, or staff holiday weeks, will allow you to navigate your work-life balance.

Good planning and foreknowledge can help you plan where your business, family, personal and social aims can mesh together. This will allow you to enjoy more of those areas of your life you hold dearly, including your business.

When things clash on the calendar, the ability to prioritise and to know where your limits are will give you the tools to find a way through it without stressing yourself and/or you family and friends. Good decisions are usually made with full information and with clear intentions on the preferred outcome.


Work-life balance isn’t easy

There's plenty of small business advice out there. It doesn't always cover aspects of balancing home and work priorities. Truth is, it's less about how to run a small business, and more about how to run your life. You won't always get it right. But, if you get the balance right most of the time, you're doing very well.


Make an appointment with a Suncorp Bank business banker to discuss the ways we can help you with your business.