With 2011 quickly drawing to a close, that dreaded time for New Year’s resolutions is upon us. We know, we know. You already promised you’d join a gym or try to be “greener” next year, but those aren’t the kind of resolutions we’re talking about. We’re talking resolutions for the overworked entrepreneur.
We teamed with Santa Fe, N.M.-based work-life expert Stephanie Marston to assemble a list of life changes to help you balance your business and personal worlds. Marston is the creator of 30 Days To Sanity, an online stress-management course, and she just might help to make 2012 your most relaxed year yet.
Every entrepreneur knows it takes seemingly endless hard work to make a new business profitable. But you’re not the Energizer bunny; your batteries need to be recharged. “Set a strict turn-off time,” says Marston. “A specific time every evening when you refuse to even think about work.” Who are we kidding? You’re going to think about it, but don’t act on those urges. Instead, chill with the family or grab a bite with friends. Then wake up the next morning ready to hit the ground twice as hard.
One of the biggest threats to work-life balance is technology. There you are enjoying a nice relaxing evening at home when your iPhone calls out to you. It isn’t even ringing, but you think you probably should give it a quick check. Stop right there. New rule for 2012: One email glance before bed and that’s it.
We see you sitting at your desk eating that cheese sandwich you threw together at the last minute in the company kitchenette. This is no lunch, my friend. “Take a true lunch,” Marston says. Stepping away from your desk can get your abstract thinking juices running wild. That unsolvable problem just might figure itself out over a delicious chicken salad on sourdough.
Sadly, there’s no permanent ink app on your Droid. You pencil in time for yourself, but then an interview comes up or a new order comes in. So you delete that well deserved R&R from your electronic calendar. “You must truly commit to your personal time,” Marston says. “Do not cancel on yourself.” So no more penciling yourself in. In 2012, fun will be scheduled with a pen.
Everybody has tried the “I’m going to eat healthier next year” resolution at least once, but for small-business owners, it’s of the utmost importance. We all know you will only get from your company what you put into it. The same is true for your body. Your mind works better when properly fueled with three squares a day of food high in protein and B vitamins. As much as it may hurt to say it, 2012 is going to be a fast food-free year.
If you’re going to be a more balanced entrepreneur in 2012, you have to learn to unwind. A Thai massage or a day at the spa is a great way to relax, but we all know splurges can be tough right now. So keep it simple. "Curl up with your favorite novel or film," Marston advises. "Clear a block in your schedule for a workout." All the hard work in the world won’t mean much if you don’t leave a little time for pampering.
One of the biggest reasons a business owner overworks is guilt -- The Big G. You feel guilty because you’ve left your work at the office. You believe the extra diligence of taking work home will translate into higher profits. Now we’re not saying hard work doesn’t lead to success, but it has to be hard work within reason. So from now on, no more guilt about leaving your work at work. You’re not a machine.
You’re probably asking yourself, “How will I ever get my work done if I’m saying no to it?” Well, you don’t have to comply with everything and everyone. Take a good long look at your business priorities and if a potential course of action doesn’t fit with them, simply say “no” to it. Practice this regularly, and you’ll find 2012 brimming with personal time.
Finally and maybe most important, enjoy your business. Find the members of your team that you most connect with and schedule a weekly lunch or happy hour. Not only will this make you feel as though you’re working with your friends, but it also will show your employees that you value and respect them on a personal level. That tiny feat will lead to a massive increase in productivity.