Every entrepreneur knows firsthand how difficult it can be to balance the heavy workload that comes with owning a business, and life away from the office.
Related: The Truth About Work-Life Balance
While every entrepreneur would love that mythical healthy work-life balance, few are able to achieve it. Complete balance is an unrealistic goal, as nothing is perfect, but there are steps you can take to improve that balance. Here are five suggestions.
1. Establish your priorities.
Make a list of everything you have going on in your life and rank those tasks and responsibilities, in order, from most to least important. This will include your business, your friends and family, hobbies, etc. -- everything.
It’s important to be 100 percent honest with yourself when ranking your priorities. For example, if you just started seeing someone, that brand new relationship, while important, won't be as high priority as your business.
Ranking your priorities in order from highest to lowest makes it much easier to ensure you are allocating time to the most important things in your business, as well as your personal life.
2. Account for every (waking) minute of your day.
Have you ever jumped online to check social media or watch a YouTube video, only to look at the time and wonder where the past hour went? It happens to everyone -- I’ve done it, and you’ve probably done it at some point, as well. Time flies, and when you don’t account for every minute of your day, it’s easy to waste it.
However, when you account for every minute of your day your productivity will increase, allowing you to get your work tasks completed yet still leave time for personal and family time. I know some entrepreneurs who are in their offices until late evening; but if they improved their productivity by keeping a tight schedule, they would be leaving at a decent hour every day.
3. Don’t be afraid to say 'no.'
Some people have a hard time saying “no,” but trying to please everyone can result in a major time-suck, cutting into your time away from work.
Don’t be afraid to decline last-minute meetings or send an unscheduled call to voicemail. Don’t do things out of guilt; instead, focus your time on your top priorities.
While that may be difficult at first, you will soon feel comfortable saying “no,” especially when you notice how it improves your productivity and has a direct impact on your work-life balance.
4. Understand that there is no 'perfect' scenario.
As an entrepreneur, you may find it difficult to achieve the perfect work-life balance. But, if you go in knowing this, you will find it much easier to focus on making adjustments that improve your work-life balance, not perfect it.
Unexpected meetings will come up, and you may have to cancel plans to attend a social event at the last minute. It happens. Expect it.
Some people like to think the grass is greener on the other side. It’s not. Every time you begin to think that a 9-to-5 job would give you more personal time, there's a nine-to-fiver out there somewhere who is thinking that being an entrepreneur would provide him or her with a better scenario.
So, focus on improving your work-life balance, not perfecting it.
5. Unplug from work when it’s family/personal time.
Two hours of quality family time in the evening that are completely distraction free are better than three hours of family time that include checking your email every 15 minutes and doing other work-related tasks.
When you are away from work, either engaging in an activity you enjoy or spending time with your family, try to completely unplug from work. That's not always possible to do -- and that potential impossibility is something you sign up for when you become an entrepreneur -- but when it is possible, take full advantage.
The quality of time, not necessarily the amount, will play a bigger role than you expect in improving your work-life balance.