35 Successful Entrepreneurs Share What Work-Life Balance Means to Them
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Work-life balance is something that we are all seeking, and sometimes it can feel like how you actually achieve it is one of the biggest mysteries the world has to offer.
There is no perfect formula to figure out how to allocate equal time to your career, your friends and family.
For the 35 entrepreneurs we spoke with, that isn't always the goal -- in fact, some readily admit it's impossible. That's okay.
Launching a company can be all-consuming, but no matter what kind of backgrounds they had or industries that they are in, these successful founders agreed that it is essential to make time in your busy schedule to do the things that you love.
Make sure you feel positive about your commitments.
Name: John Zimmer
Work-life balance philosophy: It's a combination of finding work that you are passionate about so you feel good about committing the time, as well as making the physical and mental time and space to be the with the people most important in your life.
Simply do what you love.
Name: Luis von Ahn
Work-life balance philosophy: I don't understand the meaning of that. I don't burn out, because my work is my hobby. I do this because it's what I love to do. That's not a big issue for me.
Work with people you enjoy spending time with.
Name: Aaron Levie
Work-life balance philosophy: I think in my case work is so exciting that it is life to me; it is what I enjoy doing. Every day I show up to work, I get to work with my best friends. It's not something that I need to counterbalance with anything.
Not about balance, but about fit.
Name: Brit Morin
Company: Brit + Co
Work-life balance philosophy: I think more than work-life balance, it's about work-life fit. To me, that means figuring out the best way to spend time with my husband and children and also run my business without feeling like I'm compromising on either. Sometimes that means catching up on podcasts while I run, and sometimes it means leaving the office at 5 pm, so that I can be there for bath time. The hardest part of this balance -- especially as a working mom of two -- is finding time for friends. That's something I hope to continue focusing on over the next year.
Read more about Morin: This Founder Shares the Secret to How to Make Your Business Last
Be in control of your time and schedule.
Name: Amber Venz
Work-life balance philosophy: It's just living intentionally. It's just feeling I'm in control of my own time. I think it comes down to calendaring things and feeling at the end of the week I was actually in control of what happened and where my time was invested.
Read more about Venz: This Founder Shares the Mindset That Helps Her Stay On Track
Look to the grounding presence in your life.
Name: Bastian Lehmann
Work-life balance philosophy: You can only be at your best if you have something that grounds you. It can be friends, a partner, a hobby, just something else that you do. It's so important that one finds a balance.
Read more about Lehmann: This Founder Shares the One Trait He Looks for in Every Hire
Be present wherever you are.
Name: Carrie Dorr
Company: Pure Barre
Work-life balance philosophy: I don't believe work-life balance exists the way society has been describing it. I'd love to help shift how we describe it, because it puts an unrealistic burden and expectation on women. I want to redefine what it looks like. I believe in quality time, not quantity. So I'm fully present with my kids, with my husband, my friends, and the same when I'm at work. It requires us to accept that there is usually not a day where you get an A-plus in every category. It's looking at it as a whole rather than trying to make your day look so perfectly categorized. Otherwise I think that's a recipe for disaster.
Read more about Dorr: This Founder Shares How to Tailor Your Schedule to Fit Your Brain
Finding joy will make you the most productive.
Name: David Bladow
Work-life balance philosophy: To me it's having enough time outside your daily work to find center and find joy. If it's cooking, spending time with my wife or going skiing on a weekend, it is being able to set aside time that's not work. Being an entrepreneur it's easy to lose track of that, and you are working harder, but you're not being productive. It's addition by subtraction. If you can find that time to relax, you will be more effective with the time you devote to work.
Read more about Bladow: This Founder Has 3 Simple Tips to Achieve Maximum Productivity
Make time to laugh every day.
Name: Gavin Armstrong
Company: Lucky Iron Fish
Work-life balance philosophy: For me, it is an ideal that I'll have one day. I think it's important to make time for yourself, because it is very easy to burn out. I always try my best to make time for my friends, even if we're in different places.They keep me grounded and keep me sane. It can be difficult, but I'm trying to do a better job of staying engaged and making time for them. It's as simple as sending silly photos and jokes back and forth just to laugh. I think it's important to laugh every day.
Read more about Armstrong: This CEO Has Helped Thousands -- and He's Just Getting Started
Focus on the things that you are passionate about.
Name: Josh Reeves
Work-life balance philosophy: Work-life balance implies to me a zero-sum game, and it's not. If work is better, life doesn't suck and if life is better, work doesn't suck. Work can and should be a part of life. Work-life as a part of living is making sure that I spend time on things I want to do, and I'm passionate about. Making sure I'm doing what's important to me and making sure how I spend my time matches what is important to me.
Read more about Reeves: The CEO of Billion-Dollar Startup Gusto Believes Passion Should Come Before Revenue
Time spent outside of work is precious, so bring those elements into the office.
Name: Julia Hartz
Work-life balance philosophy: Finding balance is an ongoing challenge, which requires constant attention and dedication. My life is extremely binary -- my passion is in Eventbrite and my love is in my family. The nature of business today is that the lines of "work" and "life" are a little more blurred. Time spent outside of the office or with family is sacred, so we try our best to bring many things that happen outside into the office.
Every day doesn’t have to be perfectly balanced.
Name: Randi Zuckerberg
Company: Zuckerberg Media
Work-life balance philosophy: To me, it's a long-term goal. A lot of people put pressure on themselves to make it a short-term, everyday goal. I like to give myself permission to be lopsided on a given day.
Read more about Zuckerberg: Why Everyone Can Use Randi Zuckerberg's Number One Focus Tip
Be the best version of yourself.
Name: Chris Wanstrath
Work-life balance philosophy: You are able to be the version of yourself you want to be at both work and home, and you do not let one situation negatively impact the other.
It's harder to quantify, but I think everyone knows that people who are happy and have that balance do better work. If you feel like you one activity is being negatively impacted by another that's a sign of work-life balance not being in check.Read more about Wanstrath: This Founder Believes He Found the Answer for Burnout
Quality, not quantity.
Name: Tim Chen
Work-life balance philosophy: There are two modes of operation: highly analytical and a daydream mode. I think the right balance is a mix of those two. Work is a social purpose, and the two feed off each other well.
Protect your relaxation time through scheduling.
Name: Oliver Kharraz
Work-life balance philosophy: My way of dealing with that is to protect my weekends as much as I can, and get most of my work done during the week.
Have an element of flexibility
Name: Daniella Yacobovsky
Work-life balance philosophy: It comes down to is having an understanding of what it is you need to accomplish, having a timeline and the flexibility to set your path. Work-life balance for us means that if I have an important dinner I want to go to with friends I am leaving a little bit earlier than I normally would, I have the flexibility to do that. I know what needs to get done, I know that I am going to do it, and I can set that pace and tone. I think there is a nice element to that flexibility with startups. I also think it's about figuring out what's important to you and how do you create space in your life.
Read more about Yacobovsky: This Co-Founder of BaubleBar's Secret for Inspiration? Always 'Keep Your Eyes Peeled.'
Don’t build a wall between the two -- it’s impossible to maintain.
Name: Merrill Stubbs
Work-life balance philosophy: It's all about having perspective. It doesn't mean erecting a wall between the two; that's unrealistic. It means trying to stay in the moment and being engaged in whatever it is I'm doing, trying not to let other things creep in and decrease my productivity or my enjoyment of that moment.
Read more about Stubbs: The Life-Changing Book That Helps This Entrepreneur Think Big
Constantly reassess to find the balance that works for you.
Name: Jenny Ripps
Company: Owl's Brew
Organizational tool: It means constantly prioritizing and making choices. Most of those choices should lead to me getting home on time to put my kids to bed. But it also means assessing where I need to be and knowing there are multiple things that I care about, including my family, marriage and work.
Family is what is important in the long run.
Name: Oren Frank
Work-life balance philosophy: I think the concept is mistaken. I think work is work and life is life. and I think that anyone that has a real discussion with themselves whether they should spend more time working or more time with their family or loved ones is making a huge mistake. Hopefully, they will learn to regret and repair.
Read more about Frank: This CEO's Favorite Productivity Tips Are Surprisingly Simple
It’s all about choice and every day is different.
Name: Heidi Zak
Work-life balance philosophy: I don't think there is such a thing. Every day you choose something to prioritize, especially as a working mom. Sometimes I stay late to work or leave early to go to my daughter's preschool. Every once in awhile I squeeze in something for myself. You're always picking and choosing, and hopefully, it's balancing out over the week or month.
Read more about Zak: What This Founder Learned at a Farmstand Helped Her Bra Startup
Reframe it as work-life choice
Name: Angie Hicks
Company: Angie's List
Work-life balance philosophy: I don't believe in work-life balance, I believe in work-life choice, No one is superhuman, you can't do everything. It's about making the right choices for you at the right time. I made a commitment a long time ago, I'm at home for dinner with my family. We may not have good food, we might be having carryout, but it's important that we're together.
Somebody once told me, no matter how much your boss cares about you, no matter who they are, they are never going to ask you if you are at your kid's orchestra concert. You have to remember to make those choices and make sure those things are a priority for you.
Read more about Hicks: This Introvert Founder Swears by This Management Tip
Get your quality time
Name: Kara Goldin
Work-life balance philosophy: Making time for physical activity and exercise as well as quality time with family and friends. Since my husband also works at Hint as COO our work and home life are extremely integrated, which works for us because we love what we do, and it's such a big part of our life.
That said, I'm a mother of four and I value quality time with my kids that doesn't revolve around work. I also love to travel, so one of my favorite ways to make sure our family gets quality time together is with family trips.
Chart your accomplishments
Name: Alex Friedman
Work-life balance philosophy: It means feeling in control of both my personal and professional life, That can be measured by saying what I want to do a week in advance and then accomplishing that. Of course there are times when the balance gets out of whack, and I spend a lot of time on one. Over the course of time, if I can course correct and am able to balance the aspects of my life, I'm good.
Don’t separate the two.
Name: Bruce Poon Tip
Company: G Adventures
Work-life balance philosophy: I don't think it exists. I don't think you can separate between home and work. I think that's a horrible way to live. I think it's really important that everything lives in the same space. I need to be influenced by what I do outside of work to do my best work, and so those things need to blend together.
If you feel that those things can't live in the same place, I think you should change one of them so they can.Read more about Poon Tip: I Was About to Shut Down My Business but I Changed My Mind. Here's Why.
Name: Chieh Huang
Work-life balance philosophy: It means that you're not having regrets on either front. You got to this point where you're not worrying about what you should have done with your job or your family.
I'm not perfect and sometimes I do have regrets, but that is what it means to me overall: getting to that place where you don't have them.
Read more about Huang: The Surprising Reason Why This Founder Says Not to Be Afraid of the Competition
Name: Jeff Chapin
Work-life balance philosophy: I have a good signal for whether or not I'm doing good at this or not. If I go to bed and I'm not thinking about work, then I'm doing OK in the work-life balance. It's about being able to shut off work at certain times.
Set aside time, especially if you work with family.
Name: Vicki Fulop
Work-life balance philosophy: Work-life balance to me means spending time with friends and family -- be it hanging out on the couch, going to an exhibit or flea market or something. Also, cutting off work at a certain time. My husband runs the company with me. We set up a time where we don't work -- we just do our regular couple stuff, like binge watch TV or go for a walk or cook together.
Read more about Fulop: Use This Founder's Simple Email Strategy to Keep Burnout at Bay
Know you’ll never get 50/50.
Name: Nirav Tolia
Work-life balance philosophy: I am a big fan of reframing work-life balance into work-life alignment. I don't believe that there's some magical percentage of 50 percent work and 50 percent life. I think it's a false dichotomy. I think the world doesn't give you an opportunity to make this clean cut between work and life. Sometimes work is going to take all of your time and sometimes the most important thing is things in your life. I think it's all about aligning the two in a way that you feel doesn't ultimately cheat you out of one or the other..
Trust that you and your employees will get it done.
Name: Jennifer Hyman
Company: Rent the Runway
Work-life balance philosophy: I've honestly never struggled with work-life balance. I am completely in love with my job at Rent the Runway. It's my passion and being around my team energizes me. I also love being at home with my husband and daughter. I think about my life with flexibility. We've created a culture at Rent the Runway that trusts our employees and their decisions as to how they spend their time. This means that if I want to take my daughter to a music class in the middle of the day, I do that. If I have a work meeting over brunch on a Sunday, I do that. If I've been travelling for work for a few days and haven't been at home, I'll come in late the following day to work. This strategy involves working at a company that trusts great employees will do a great job no matter where they are.
Read more about Hyman: Rent the Runway's Jennifer Hyman Shares Her Worst Advice Ever: 'Shut Up and Act Sweet'
Make sure your work nourishes you.
Make sure your work nourishes you.
Name: Christene Barberich
Work-life balance philosophy: I don't mind working long hours, especially if I feel the work is feeding me in return. I think what most people crave is having that feeling that their work is adding to their lives, not just taking from them. When a job distances you from these fundamental beliefs you have in life, that's where the imbalance comes from. It's hard for a lot of people to find work that is always creatively or professionally stimulating, but I think you have to be able to find aspects of the work that really do provide that kind of support and satisfaction. If there really isn't anything, it's an unhealthy situation to be in.
Bring people into your process.
Name: Sarah Kauss
Work-life balance philosophy: I've sort of given up on the idea of balance. The balance part is really tipped more for work. For me, it's making sure that those who are most important to me understand that this is just what I'm doing right now. I invite them into the ups and downs and the joys and the struggles that are my days as an entrepreneur.
Make time for your passions
Name: Payal Kadakia
Work-life balance philosophy: I look at work-life balance as the ability to to carve out time for both your passions and your work. Your passions may include your family, but they also may include your love of theater or music or, in my case, dancing. As adults it’s easy to get so caught up in our many day-to-day obligations that we lose sight of those activities that fuel our soul.
Early in my career, I felt that way, too. There was this tension between my love of dance and my desire to have a successful career. I felt like I had to choose one or the other. Seeking that balance -- for myself and others -- motivated me to create ClassPass. In seeking to fuse my passions for dance and entrepreneurship, I created a company that helps others find the time in their busy lives to nurture their passions.
Read more about Kadakia: This Successful Entrepreneur Explains Why You Can't Succeed Unless You Invest in Yourself
Delegate and then enjoy yourself.
Name: Barbara Corcoran
Company: Forefront Venture Partners
Work-life balance philosophy: It doesn't exist. I think the best you can do is delegate your time exclusively to work and delegate your time exclusively to the rest of your life -- your kids, your family life, your friends, your joy.
Read more about Corcoran: Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran Explains Why You Must Make Time in Your Schedule For Fun
Make sure your values are consistent across the board.
Name: Tristan Walker
Company: Walker & Company
Work-life balance philosophy: I don't think about that; I just think about what's important to me. I like to say there are only three things [important to me]: my faith, my family and my work. That's all the time that I have to actually contribute. I think the wonderful thing about all of it is my faith, my family and my work all share the same values. So this idea of work-life balance is somewhat meaningless to me because there's no separation of those three things for me.
Build a strong network.
Name: Melanie Perkins
Work-life balance philosophy: We are what we repeatedly do, and being consistent with perseverance and hardwork have seen me from being a 14-year-old starting my first business of selling handmade scarves, to a 19-year-old starting Fusion Books, to where I am with Canva is today. I feel very lucky to have such a supportive network around me, and I try to dedicate as much time as I can for personal relationships.
Rad more about Perkins: She Was Told 'No' 100 Times. Now This 30-Year-Old Female Founder Runs a $1 Billion Business.