We’ve all heard about the importance of a healthy work-life balance. But all too often, the advice stops there. This can be frustrating. How are entrepreneurs supposed to achieve this mythical balance? It’s not enough just to toss these tired maxims at us, like an old bone to a dog. What we need are practical ideas, new tools in our toolbox to help us improve our businesses and, ultimately, ourselves.
In any event, reaching this balance is surprisingly simple (in word, at least!). It mostly means reconnecting with ideas and habits that we intuitively know are important. But I don’t want to just list these things, I want to equip you with them: Think of the following as six practical tools to help you chisel away at a more elegant work-life balance. If I’ve missed something, great; you just found yourself a seventh.
1. Connect with your loved ones.
A recent study showed that among the biggest regrets of the dying were they had missed "their children’s youth” and “their partner’s companionship,” and they had not given “friendships the time and effort that they deserved.” If this sounds heavy, that’s because it is. Fulfilling relationships are the stuff of life, not late nights every night at the office. Even during busy times, it’s a good idea to schedule commitments with family and friends that you treat as unbreakable, whether family dinners at home every night or a night out with friends once a week.
It seems nuts that I have to say this, but those closest to you deserve at least the same level of commitment as your clients and workplace. And these relationships will be what sustain you when things aren’t great at work.
2. Learn an instrument.
Learning and playing an instrument can make work stress disappear, if only for a little while. Studies also show that it can enhance your executive function skills (i.e., your ability to problem solve, think flexibly, and set goals). Many people feel you are either born with creativity or doomed to live without it, but this just isn’t true. If this seems like a stretch for you, start with a simple instrument like a ukulele and take just 20 minutes every day to practice and play. Again, not only can it take you out of a stressful mindset, it can boost the skills you need to deliver at your job.
3. Take back your sleep cycles.
If you’re an entrepreneur or just a hard worker generally, there are going to be periods where you don’t sleep as much. It’s not ideal, but it’s often a reality. It becomes even more important then that the sleep you do get is high quality. Make sure your mattress is good, upgrade your sheets—do whatever you can to optimize your sleep time.
It might sound fussy, but a good night’s sleep will give you energy to perform at work and enjoy your time off.
4. Spend time in nature.
The benefits of spending time in nature are well documented, and they include stress relief, sharper thinking, and improved creativity. Making time for nature can be tricky, particularly if you live in a city. But you still have options. For example, plan your vacations in nature, even a simple camping trip can help refresh your spirits. Alternatively, you can take your lunches in a nearby park.
5. Serve your community.
This one may be a curve ball for some of you: sometimes all you feel like doing when you get from work is relaxing and charging your batteries. And that’s fine, but don’t forget to make time for service. It can give your personal time a renewed sense of purpose that will energize all aspects of your life.
Investigate the volunteering needs of your community and see whether some of your work skills are needed for an organization or a project. You can further refine them in a context that contributes positively to the lives of others. Bottom line, your community contributes to your personal well-being, so why not try to make it better?
6. Stay active.
If your work involves sitting all day long, you may want to think seriously about adding some exercise to your daily routine: The health outcomes for sitters are no joke. Maybe you don’t have time for the gym every night, but you have other options. Lunch walks, a standing desk, even just getting up for a few minutes every hour can help get that blood flow going and even help increase your focus at work.