To an entrepreneur, finding a healthy work/life balance can a mythical concept -- on par with locating the eternal fountain of youth or discovering the Loch Ness Monster. While it might seem farfetched and unrealistic, finding a life outside of work is imperative to your success.
There is no question that being an entrepreneur is tough and intense, especially if you are trying to get your company off the ground. It can become almost impossible to think about anything else. However, from my experience, I can tell you that if you don’t make time for the activities and people you love, you will burn out very quickly.
As entrepreneurs we have this mentality that if we aren’t eating, sleeping and breathing our businesses, we aren’t working hard enough to succeed. The irony is if you work all the time, and don’t prioritize your happiness and mental healthy, you will probably never reach the success you envisioned.
Kelly Holt, founder and editor in chief of The Austin Phoenix, gives an accurate analogy: “Hiking a mountain is strikingly similar to building a business, in that it becomes more challenging the closer you get to achieving your goal or reaching the summit. If you wait until you’re exhausted to realize the importance of finding a balance, it can cripple your progress.”
Here are some ways to make work/life balance not just a mythical concept, but a reality in your life:
Take a vacation. Pretend you work for someone else -- would you feel bad taking advantage of your allotted vacation time? No, probably not. So don’t feel bad about allowing yourself the same luxury as an entrepreneur. Your business will not go under if you go to the beach for a few days, put up an out-of-office message and leave the laptop at home.
Getting away can actually be beneficial to your company. Crosby Noricks, a fashion marketing strategist and founder of PR Couture says that, “Maybe it's because I'm a California girl, as New York friends like to tell me, but I think time off actually fuels my creativity and gives my brain space to come up with better ideas, solutions to problems and efficiencies that I can't always access if I am operating at a furious pace.”
Don’t talk about work all the time. You know how it is really annoying when people talk about their children 24/7? The same applies to an entrepreneur, when they can only hold a conversation about their business. While your friends and family are supportive, they don’t want to hear about it all the time.
Only work late two nights a week. I implemented a few new rules for myself last year: I can only work late two nights a week and one day a weekend. Your to do list will never be completed, so most of the time it is okay if you leave tasks for another day.
Plus, if you work when you are tired or unmotivated, quality will decline, and your clients really will be mad. If you just wait until tomorrow, chances are you will make fewer mistakes, and be able to come up with better ideas.
Schedule in hobbies. Most entrepreneurs like to plan ahead. By Sunday night, I have my whole week scheduled. I put my personal and professional life in the same calendar because they are both of equal importance to me.
Fellow female entrepreneur Carol Han, of CA Creative, admits, “Making a hard commitment to carve out definitive time for hobbies and personal interests is essential.” She continues, “I love yoga and rely on the practice for everything from fitness to finding a bit of peace of mind in my day, so I make it an absolute priority to go five times a week. I put the classes in my calendar and come hell or high water, I show up. I treat them as though they were client meetings, because if I didn't, they would constantly get moved to the back burner.”
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Rebekah Epstein is the founder of fifteen media, an agency that works exclusively with PR firms to get more media placements for their clients. She specialized in lifestyle, technology, healthcare and business. She also blogs about the ups and downs of gen-y entrepreneurship at NeonNotebook.