Even if you're well-versed in time-management and goal-setting techniques, achieving balance is especially difficult for start-up entrepreneurs. You're putting in horribly long hours. You're the CEO, marketing director, receptionist, tech-support person and janitor all rolled into one. And the hours you're away from your business, you're worrying about it, which can leave you feeling fatigued and irritable-with little patience or energy for anything or anyone else.
But if you don't strike a balance between work, family and play-even when you're launching a new company-you put a lot at risk:
You risk burning out and sabotaging all that you have sacrificed for.
You risk damaging relationships that are important to you and your business.
You risk missing out on new money-making opportunities and ideas because you have tunnel vision.
Balance, on the other hand, means committing to having your life revolve around more than just your venture. It means family and personal relationships are im-portant and fulfilling to you. It means you work hard and play hard, and you feel energetic and pumped up about life. So how can you realistically achieve balance while launching your company? Here are six strategies:
1. Define your priorities. This is the starting point. Unless you determine what's most important to you and live out those priorities, you'll find yourself constantly busy-and less and less happy. By identifying what matters most to you (in order of priority, be it your business, family, friendships, recreation, spirituality or anything else), you gain a framework from which to structure your time.
The following books are excellent resources in helping you set your own priorities:
Maximum Achievement:Strategies and Skills That Will Unlock Your Hidden Powers to Succeed (Fireside) by Brian Tracy
First Things First:to Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy (Fireside) by Stephen R. Covey
2. Set realistic expectations of your time. Make peace with the fact that, as a start-up entrepreneur, you won't have time to do all the activities you did as a salaried employee. "Forget your golf game," quips Von Fassnacht, 33, a former investment banker who, in March 2000, launched AngelWarehouse.com, an Atlanta-based dotcom that links early-stage companies with potential angel investors.
Realize that for a "season," whether it's for six months or six years, you'll need to streamline your activity to focus on your most important tasks until your new venture is at least out of the survival stage. And that may mean cutting back on some things. This way, you'll keep yourself from feeling frustrated with your schedule.
3. Relax! "When you do find a lull in your schedule, take advantage of it," advises Fassnacht. "Often, I find I work so hard that when business slows down, I wonder what I should be doing next. The answer is to seize the moment and spend it away from work."
4. Build relationships with other balanced people. Look for mentors who can help hold you accountable to follow through on your priorities. If you don't know anyone off the top of your head, where do you start to find these people? Join trade associations, networking groups or any organization that puts you in contact with other entrepreneurs.
5. Learn to say no. Other people will dictate your schedule if you don't learn to say no. And the resentment you'll feel toward these people will not help your business. Make time for what's important to you, and do it without apology. Realize that you control when and how you accomplish your objectives. Don't let other people's expectations steer you off course.
6. Devote one day a week to family or other high-priority activity. "The greatest challenge is to force yourself to push work aside and devote time to family," says Fassnacht. "If you take one day and set it aside, it will do wonders for your sanity."
Sean M. Lyden is co-founder and CEO of PRessCafe.com Inc., an Atlanta-based B2B portal that connects small businesses to the right journalists-for free. The site is expected to launch imminently.