The magic of being an entrepreneur is that you’re building something from the ground up. It’s what makes this job so thrilling. But like everything in life, there’s a downside. And in the entrepreneurial world, it’s the long hours.
Sure, working long hours is part of the excitement and challenge of balancing the risk-reward equation. Unfortunately, many business owners come to a point at which work life has turned into their whole life.
I’ve seen this happen to friends, clients and colleagues alike -- always to the eventual detriment of their health, personal lives and professional success. To maximize your effectiveness at work, all the domains of your life (work, family, community and even personal well-being) must unite to create value.
Watch for signs that work has taken over.
The demands of entrepreneurial life require you to be proactive in prioritizing your time. Do you know where to draw the line between putting in the hours needed to make the business successful and letting it take precedence over everything in your life? Answering the following five questions might shine some light on the issue:
1. Do you honor time commitments to yourself? If you keep saying you’re going to cut back your hours and leave the office earlier (like before 10 p.m.) but never do, take a hard look at what’s holding you back.
2. When was the last time your family or friends asked for more time? There’s a serious problem if your family, friends, spouse and kids have completely given up asking when they will see you again or if you will be home early for once.
3. When was the last time you did something fun? Your personal interests -- sports, hobbies, traveling -- shouldn’t be a distant memory.
4. How is your health and what is your energy level? If you’re not taking care of yourself by eating properly, exercising and getting enough rest, you aren’t functioning at a sustainable level to support the effort needed at work.
5. Are you becoming resentful about your work and your co-workers? If you feel a pang of jealousy when co-workers go home or you’re starting to resent doing your work, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your schedule.
Know what to do when work is all you do.
If the questions above hit close to home, it’s time for a change. It’s vital to understand and appreciate the complete person and establish a more sustainable model for success across all areas of life. Here are a few tips to get you started on the right path:
Match your commitments to your convictions. Stop to really think about what’s most important to you. Make sure you’re spending your time, energy and financial resources on things that make you happy.
Shift your thinking. Don’t let work define you. View it as an enabler for you to realize other areas of your life -- something that makes it possible for you to have a family, a home and outside interests.
Assess how your choices affect your health. It’s no secret that a healthy diet and exercise increase physical energy, stamina, endurance, mental sharpness and personal self-efficacy, all critical for dealing with a demanding work schedule.
Experiment with personal multitasking. Try to find ways of accomplishing multiple goals across different domains of your life. I had a client who took his sons to music lessons but always waited in the car so he could check his emails. Eventually he realized that he had always wanted to learn to play the guitar, so now he attends lessons with his kids. He gets to spend more time with them, is developing a new skill and feels more energized when it’s time to get work done.
Being an entrepreneur is demanding. You often feel like you have a limited window of opportunity to build your business and there’s always work to do. But never forget that you can only be effective in your work life if you balance it with your personal life. We all make sacrifices, but your personal well-being cannot be one of them.