We live in a fast-paced world and as entrepreneurs, we’re ‘expected’ to be around 24/7. Now while this is great for our customer experience – I mean, who doesn’t want their questions or queries answering instantly via Messenger – it isn’t necessarily great for us.
When I started as an entrepreneur 18 years ago (did I tell you it’s my business birthday this month?!) I was happy to work 90 hours a week. I was young (25) and healthy and passionate about being an entrepreneurial success. But after so long, 90-hour-weeks take their toll. I would find myself getting irritated and grumpy at the slightest thing. I didn’t sleep properly. I kept getting ill. In addition to this, I was underselling and overdelivering, and heading for burnout. Eventually (thankfully) I began to understand how important is was for me to step away from the business and take care of me.
I shared a snippet of some of my work life balance experiences on BBC2’s Victoria Derbyshire show this morning (17th January 2018). (If you’d like to watch the replay, I appear in the 84th minute – here’s the link)
When I ran a successful online retail business about ten years ago, I didn’t really have a work life balance. It was mainly all about work. I had employees, premises, and a healthy bank balance for a while but I hardly had any time to spend with my family. So when I started to experience big issues with supply and problems with shipments from China, the stress really kicked in! (and I made a few costly mistakes) and my business was no more, I began to look at things differently. Although I knew I wanted to continue my self-employed adventure, I also knew I needed a healthy work life balance if I was to succeed (and be the best mum in the world!).
After a few trial and error experiments, I’ve come up with my own blend of a healthy work life balance, and it looks something like this.
A healthy work life balance needs flexibility
I love working but I also love spending time with my girls. That’s why, as a busy mum with a busy business, I need to carve out a flexible routine that works for us as a family. Sometimes that might mean starting work at 5am (and I’m totally happy with that – I’m ultra-productive at that time of day) and sneaking an extra couple of hours into my day, or switching on my laptop when the girls have gone to bed. And that is fine for me
A healthy work life balance is about doing what feels right for you
There will be times when you can’t be any more flexible and you just have to go with whatever life throws at you. So if your children have a poorly day, you have no option but to snuggle under the duvet with them. This might mean you’ll have to burn the midnight oil to play catch-up, or (and this is a much healthier approach) you’ll carve out half an hour when everyone’s had their bedtime story to email your clients and add an extra day to their deadline so you don’t feel pressured or rushed. We’re talking balance here, remember
A healthy work life balance must prioritise you
You are the business and without you there is no business. So you are more than entitled to a day off. Would you expect employees to work as many hours as you do or treat them the same way you treat yourself? You are human. You don’t need to justify taking time out to recharge your batteries. Self-care is crucial if you’re going to be a success. Go grab your diary now and cross out a day or two every two to three weeks and see what a huge difference this can make to you. Yes, we all love our businesses so much that it’s often difficult to stop working, but in the big scheme of things, we need to be conscious of how we’re spending our time. Life is short, and no matter how passionate you are about your business, it still isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. In fact, it’s a proven fact that the more you can step away, the more productive you are!
One of the questions Victoria Derbyshire asked me on her BBC 2 programme was,
“What advice would you give to someone in business who is working 90 hours a week right now?”
“I’d tell them to stop,” I replied.
Burnout really isn’t a good look. Make a conscious effort to improve your work life balance and you’ll soon see how much happier, more productive and more successful you become.
How do you maintain your work life balance? I would love to hear?