Wednesday, October 6, 2010

10 Ways Entrepreneurs and Startups Can Improve Work-Life Balance

A healthy work-life balance is important for every entrepreneur.  There is no point in running a successful new business if you do not have friends and family to share the triumphs with.  Time must be planned to participate in your favorite hobbies or else you can burn out quickly and lose your entrepreneurial drive and determination.  The life-work balance is so important, in fact, that Constangy Brooks & Smith LLP, a law firm located in downtown Kansas City as well as in 21 other offices in the United States, has developed an Excellence in Work-Life Balance Award, which honors employees for their healthy and happy work environments and promotes the work-life balance notion in other workplaces.

Entrepreneurs are non-stop, do-whatever-it-takes go-getters.  And a lot of the time, the 70 hours of work put in a week outweighs the other hours devoted to sleep, family, friends, hobbies, relaxation, and exercise.  So what’s the best way to achieve a work-life balance?  I have developed 10 ways to help you balance out everything—from the multi-million dollar negotiation conferences to those important parent-teacher conferences:
        1.  Write down what’s important to you
        The first step to achieving a work-life balance is to know exactly what your priorities are.  Personal coach Laura Berman Fortang, author of Now What?  90 Days to a New Life Direction, says that you must face your priorities head-on, and write down what they truly are, not what you think they should be.  Ask 
    yourself the following questions:  If my life could focus on one thing, what would it be?  If I could add a second thing, what would it be?  A third?  A fourth?  And so on.  Many lists look like this: Children, spouse, satisfying career, community service, religion, health, sports, art, hobbies, adventure and travel.
       2.  Stop stressing out!
        When you find yourself getting overly stressed at work, you are likely going to carry that stress into your life outside of work.  According to Moira Mulhern, a
,       Kansas City-based psychologist and founder of Turning Point, entrepreneurs must use their emotional brain waves and do light brain activity including listening to music, repetition, meditation and visualization in order to calm themselves down and stay away from stress.  This emotional part of the brain impacts stress management.  Even five minutes a day of relaxation during your lunch break can improve your stress management skills.

         3.  Take breaks during the workday to do something for yourself
Entrepreneurs tend to go full-force during the workday (and sometimes into the dark hours of the night) and often do not take the necessary breaks that they need to recharge.  When an entrepreneur allows himself a break every now and then, his brain can recuperate and will improve his creativity and productivity.  As Mulhern says, “it’s not about surviving, it’s about being resilient.” 
        4.  Socialize when you can
Socializing is important to conduct during the business day and in the home.  When the opportunity arises, take employees out to lunch and don’t talk about business, meet up for drinks after work with friends, or grab coffee with a strategic partner just to catch up.  This is a type of “break” away from work that can help entrepreneurs improve their social lives. 
        5.  Carve out “me time”
It is important for entrepreneurs to schedule “me time” everyday—even if it’s for five to ten minutes.  This “me time” can be spent doing something you enjoy, from fishing to meditating to Pilates to cooking.  Stick to your “me time” and try to not think about work.  Do not check e-mails, call employees, or look at your company’s website during “me time.” 

6. Get physically healthy
Exercise is another stress management tool that increases an entrepreneur’s physical and mental health.  If exercise is important to you, give yourself an exercise regimen, even if it’s as simple as a walk around the block three times a week.  Exercise not only clears your mind and improves your health, but it also allows “me time” for the typical entrepreneur. 
        7.  Let things go (don’t sweat the small stuff)
It is important for entrepreneurs to recognize the things that do not have a huge impact on their lives and allow themselves to help them go.  Do not beat yourself up if you can’t complete everything—if the tasks are large, break them down and don’t sweat it if everything does not get checked off your list.  This allows for more time for the things that you want to do, and less time doing busy work. 

8.  Avoid procrastination
Another great stress management tool is to avoid procrastination at all costs.  For many entrepreneurs, stress usually comes from being disorganized.  With an organized schedule, workspace, and business, entrepreneurs will have more time for other non-business related tasks in order to maintain a better work-life balance. 

9.  Plan ahead
Schedule family time, vacations, outings with friends, and get-togethers way ahead of time.  This not only allows you to have something to look forward to during the work day, but when entrepreneurs actually schedule their free time, they will stay away from work and de-stress.
        10.  Celebrate    
If your new business hit it big, celebrate the success!  Take the time to congratulate your team of employees and make sure they know that their efforts provided a well-deserved outcome.  Celebrating successes allows for feelings of accomplishment and self-worth. 

I hope that these 10 work-life balance tips help you entrepreneurs out there maintain your life priorities effectively and in the long run, improve your daily life and new business.  To learn more about how you can improve your work-life balance, check out the Harvard Business Review on Work and Life Balance

Written by Allison Way.  Allison Way is a writer and videographer for Think Big Partners and bizperc, two of Kansas City's newest entrepreneurial resources.  To read more of Allison's articles, visit the Kansas City Entrepreneurship Examiner.

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