Real World Work-Life Balance: How to Find Your Entrepreneurial Zen

Real World Work-Life Balance: How to Find Your Entrepreneurial Zen
Image credit: Photography by Randy Harris
Keep calm and carry on: Julie Fredrickson of playAPI.

Julie Fredrickson jokes that she's running her startup wrong. By not compulsively working every waking hour, the 29-year-old knows she's defying some sort of macho entrepreneurial code. "But I just haven't found that to be the path to success," says the co-founder and CEO of playAPI, an enterprise software company in New York.

Instead, Fredrickson accomplishes what she needs to in 10 hours or less each day and rarely works weekends. She eats well, runs triathlons, powerlifts and sleeps at least nine hours a night. She regularly spends time with friends and frequently travels to visit her parents in Colorado and brother in Georgia. "I am strongly in favor of a balanced life," Fredrickson says. "I think I am a better entrepreneur for this decision."

She's also a successful one. Since its launch in March 2012, playAPI has reeled in more than $1 million in revenue. Clients include big brands such as Gap, American Express and Kate Spade.

Julie Fredrickson of playAPI
Julie Fredrickson of playAPI

Fredrickson hasn't always taken such a Zen approach to work. Growing up in an entrepreneurial household, she was exposed to "that always-on way of working" at an early age and figured it was the only way. While running her first company--Coutorture, a fashion and lifestyle ad network she started at age 22 and sold two years later--a typical day involved 12 hours at the office, followed by a night of schmoozing at industry events and a scant four hours of sleep.

"I don't think I got anything more done than I do with playAPI," Fredrickson says of her "insane" Coutorture schedule. "You hit a point of diminishing returns."

Despite the abundance of startup founders who take pride in the fact that they haven't had a day off since the Bush administration, it's not hard to find successful 'treps who hold their downtime dear. Here's what they do to stay present and focused in their professional and personal lives--and how, with a mindset shift and some work tweaks, you can, too.

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Michelle Goodman is a Seattle-based freelance journalist and author of The Anti 9-to-5 Guide.

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This article was originally published in the September 2013 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Entrepreneurial Zen.

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