It’s not uncommon for committed entrepreneurs to pour everything into their business. And by everything, I mean everything -- because running a business becomes an obsession. Entrepreneurial fervor can dominate your daily thoughts, conversation, time and financial stability. And it can adversely affect your relationships.
It’s not that entrepreneurs don’t want to spend more time with loved ones, it’s that there aren't enough hours in the day -- and taking a break from your business can feel like a step backward.
I began to experience this problem myself in 2014 when I launched my copywriting and content marketing business -- as I hyper-focused on my work ethic, many close friends became distant. My dating life suffered, too.
That's why I asked other entrepreneurs for their best advice to overcome this challenge. Following is a collection of tips and quotes from eight successful founders, CEOs,and solopreneurs about how to improve your personal relationships while remaining productive and dedicated to your entrepreneurial efforts.
1. Assess your priorities.
Almost every entrepreneur surveyed mentioned prioritizing goals as one of the most effective tactics for making time for and maintaining personal relationships. Social Media Examiner founder Mike Stelzner explained it best when he said, “You can’t start something new without stopping something else.”
So, when you tackle new challenges, such as starting a business, you need to drop other activities from your day-to-day routine. To better maintain your work-life balance, assess your daily tasks by setting those priorities you must accomplish for both your mental sanity and business success.
Prioritizing can help you hone-in on what is really important and reduce unnecessary stress when other tasks compete for your attention. This process also helps identify whether any of your basic needs are out of whack -- for example, when you skip meals, slack on physical fitness or miss time with your loved ones. If any of these are true in your life, you may need to make a change and reassess how your business is affecting your life.
2. Create boundaries to align business goals and personal relationships.
To keep a balanced approach to your priorities as they relate to both your personal and business needs, you should set clear limits differentiating the two. For example, social media keynote speaker Neal Schaffer suggests entrepreneurs maintain a consistent schedule and boundaries to keep up with their personal commitments and avoid overworking.
“Create boundaries for your business that exist in a 9-to-5 corporate world," Schaffer says "such as deciding the hours you will work each day and sticking to it. Additionally, I make sure that I meet a friend or someone in my network for lunch on a weekly basis.”
If you struggle to cram your work into eight hours, you can add “no work” blocks into your calendar. For example, every few hours, go for a 15-minute walk -- or follow Schaffer's advice and take a two-hour lunch twice a week to connect with friends or a spouse. Those blocks can help you recharge, avoid burnout and improve your personal relationships while ensuring that you still allocate enough time for your other priorities.
Schedule a minimum of 90 minutes per day, with larger blocks (or even full days) cut out every five to 10 days. Experiment with different types of breaks to see what works best for you.
3. Separate work life from home life.
One of the benefits of being your own boss can be the freedom to work from home. If you decide that your living room also doubles as your office, you should be aware that the lines between work and home life can become blurred. So, again, differentiating the two is an important step, particularly when your family or roommates are home with you.
This was one of the more difficult challenges for freelance writer Kristi Hines to overcome. “I had a hard time 'leaving' work on a daily basis," she says. "I ended up renting an office outside of my home, which has helped me separate myself at the end of the work day, so I can focus on spending time with the family without thinking about emails, blog posts and so forth.”
If you don’t have the luxury of renting your own office space, you can still create separation by setting ground rules for yourself and other housemates.
- Develop an at home work routine. Get properly showered and dressed at an appropriate hour for work, even if you’re just moving from your bed to your living room.
- Create an office environment. Make a space that is designed solely for work; avoid your bed and the couch.
While there are many other ways to work from home, these tips can help you and your housemates better distinguish when it’s time for work and when it’s time for rest or family. These can help you avoid conflict later.
4. Host your own parties.
For entrepreneurs who maintain a large network of friends and professionals, on top of their business and personal relationships, finding balance can be even more challenging.
Convince and Convert founder Jay Baer says he finds that it can be difficult to keep up with larger networks, particularly when he is on the road, traveling. He suggests that entrepreneurs manage their personal connections and networks by hosting events.
“The most efficient way to keep your relationships up is to have a lot of your friends in the same room," Baer says.. "So, even if it’s not in your nature, learn to throw great parties, and do it at least three or four times each year. Invite everyone you know, and you get to catch up with a lot of folks in one day.”
If you’re frequently on the road, plan for a family get-together or a night out with a group of your friends when you return. Your events don’t need to be extravagant or even scheduled on a weekly basis, but making a concerted effort to spend more time with your network can help alleviate the distance friends may be feeling when you are particularly busy.
Baer also mentions that managing relationships can be accomplished to some degree through online channels, such as Skype, Blab or Facetime. Face-to-face interaction, albeit digital, can be a powerful way to build stronger relationships with your connections -- particularly when compared to a text message, email or phone call.
5. Prioritize mutually beneficial relationships.
One of the most rewarding feelings while networking for your business is creating a win-win situation for all parties involved. This same principle can be applied while developing your personal relationships as well.
Brian Honigman, content marketing consultant and CEO of Honigman Media, adds: “Like everyone else, my time is limited and valuable. Being an entrepreneur has helped me reflect on relationships in my life to better understand if they are mutually beneficial and make both people happy. I've done my best, which is far from perfect, to make time for the people in my life that really matter and let some relationships fall to the wayside, as they didn't mean much to either of us.
"I've become more selective and more focused on the important friendships in my life, and you should too.”
Nearly all respondents mentioned letting go of past connections as a recurring challenge, but also a necessary step in their process to building stronger personal relationships.
So, start by thinking about the people closest to you. Are you open with them about the needs of your business? Are you devoting an appropriate amount of your energy toward those individuals? Are some of these people connected to your business in any manner?
Identifying who makes the cut can be a gut-wrenching operation; however, it can help you better determine which people really need your full-time support and alleviate any anxiety you may have built when paying less attention to the others.
For example, you should worry less about grabbing a beer with an old high school friend and focus more on giving your aging grandmother a hug and attention. Finding your key relationships can help your develop your own support group -- an “inner circle” if you will.
6. Focus on your support group -- cut negativity.
Founder of Social Selling Labs Koka Sexton offers a similar perspective to that of Honigman and advises that entrepreneurs focus on people who really support their ambitious efforts.
“For the people who do support you, you need to make time for them," Sexton says. "I believe that the people who are there for you as an entrepreneur are going to be more understanding when you can't go out as often or do the activities they are used to having you around for.”
Sexton goes on to mention that entrepreneurs should remove any negative people from their life, which can be difficult: “It’s not easy to let go of friendships, but if you want to be successful, you cannot allow yourself to be around these negative people.”
Start by identifying your support group. This could include your spouse, your mother, your best friend. Make sure that you establish boundaries in your work schedule to incorporate the needs of these people.
Next, assess the individuals who bring negativity into your life, and determine whether they are worth your limited time and energy.
Finally, ask yourself whether you should continue to allow those people to bring their negativity -- or if they are serving as a motivating factor and pushing you forward.
This process can help you clear your conscience when you begin letting relationships become distant, and also help you really appreciate the people that have always been there for you.
7. Recognize that quality outweighs quantity.
Entrepreneurs are often reminded that there are only 24 hours in a day -- and while you can’t cram more hours into your day, you can focus on improving the efficiency, productivity and quality of our relationship and business efforts.
Fellow Entrepreneur contributor and co-founder of ContentMarketer.io Sujan Patel adds, “While there has been an overall reduction in the amount of time I spend with my friends and family, the quality has drastically improved, which has resulted in much stronger relationships with a handful of people I truly care about.”
Focus on creating quality relationships with the individuals you are closest with. Turn off your cell phone at the dinner table, remove yourself from work banter, engage in quality conversation, ask thoughtful questions, listen more and enjoy every moment that you get with them.
Offering a quick lesson in efficiency, Patel mentions that he has developed several personal relationships with his professional peers. This “blending of relationships,” he says, has helped him become really good friends with the people he works with.
8. Allow others to pick up your slack.
Tailored Ink founder Han-Gwon Lung adds a final lesson that managers, leaders and entrepreneurs can really get behind: Delegate tasks to keep your sanity and your closest relationships. “The only way I achieve work-life balance while running my own company (and scaling it) is by finding people more talented than myself in some areas and having them do the work for me," he says. "Then, I get the hell out of their way.”
You may have to trust me on this one, but it’s okay to not be perfect at everything -- and you shouldn’t have to bear the load of your entire business on your own -- at least not forever. Start by assessing your core weaknesses and rank them in order of priority for your business. Remember that prioritization is a recurring theme.
For example, your list could look like this: 1) web coding; 2) graphic design; 3) administrative tasks; 4) email marketing.
It’s important to recognize that even tasks that you can accomplish on your own may not fit your optimal skill set. So, put them on your list if they cause frustration or angst, or take too long to accomplish effectively. From there you can better determine how much time to spend on each task and whether you should get outside help to improve your efficiency.
Finding new ways to manage your weaknesses can free up additional time for you to spend with your closest personal relationships while simultaneously growing your empire.
How do you manage your own personal relationships? Have you had any conflict with your spouse, family member or close friend because of your entrepreneurial spirit? What solutions have helped you improve your relationships? Write about your experiences below.