As the owner of nine businesses and also a husband, father, and grandfather, let me offer some advice to entrepreneurs early in their journeys: Never let your work overwhelm your life.
When you’re an ambitious person building a business through hard work and persistence, it’s easy to let the opportunities and obstacles in front of you dominate your focus. Young entrepreneurs feel like they need to take a shotgun approach, tackling everything at once. And while that might seem helpful — even essential — it doesn’t leave much for your life away from work.
I fell into this trap myself. Early on, I was primarily motivated by fear that my business would fail and that I would, in turn, fail my family. That attitude consumed me to the point where I was succeeding in business but still failing my family. I forgot what mattered for awhile. After some soul-searching, I found a balance between work and family, but I wish things had never fallen out of balance in the first place.
Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes and avoid repeating them.
The Importance of Work-Life Balance for the Entrepreneur
There’s a reason we call people entrepreneurs — because their work is their life. It’s fundamental to their identity, so we forget that these men and women have spouses, children, and full family lives.
For the entrepreneurs themselves, the tension between work and life creates a lot of confusion and guilt. According to NodeSource, 45% of entrepreneurs identify finding a work-life balance as their biggest ongoing challenge, and it’s more than just a scheduling conflict. Depression costs the United States economy $210 billion per year, and burnout subtracts another $125 billion to $190 billion — meaning that overworked entrepreneurs aren’t doing the bottom line any favors.
At the start of my entrepreneurial adventure, I thought I could deal with stress by simply blowing off some steam. But I quickly learned the occasional vacation wasn’t enough. I returned temporarily recharged, but I didn’t address the real source of stress in my life: all the time I was spending away from family. Once I learned to spend less time on business and more time on family, both began to thrive.
How to Excel on Every Front
Serving the needs of your business and your family at the same timeisn’t easy — trust me. I discovered it takes a careful, ongoing effort:
1. Make the most of your mornings.
If you can start your day early, you can end your day early — meaning more time for your family. I wake up long before sunrise and start answering emails and texts. It’s the best time of day to get things done because you’re free from distractions when everyone else is asleep.
Once I’m caught up, I make a list of my daily priorities — whatever I need or want to get done before the day is done. I leave the office once everything is crossed off that list, which I’ve found helps keep my mind off work once I get home. The extra morning productivity also lets me take off at least one afternoon a week to pick up my grandkids from school.
2. Prioritize your day.
Everyone has the same 24 hours to work with; it’s how you use them that counts. Because time is so important, I schedule mine carefully. I rank my priorities from most important to least important. During certain times, the business is the top priority. At other times, my wife or a grandchild becomes my main focus.
By keeping my time and tasks carefully organized, I keep myself focused on what matters and prevent myself from wasting time on what doesn’t. Whether you prefer a calendar, a day planner, or a tablet, give yourself the tools to prioritize your tasks so you can accomplish what you need to do.
3. Find your own balance.
What works for me won’t necessarily work for you. Maybe you’d be better off staying up late than getting up early, for example. Instead of trying to replicate my methods, use the same principles to explore what works with your own work-life balance.
Every business is different, as is every family. It takes time to figure out how to give all you’ve got to your two proudest creations. Don’t expect to be immediately successful, and don’t assume that what works now will always work. Instead, be willing to adapt in whatever way works for all involved.
As a lifelong entrepreneur, I can confirm that successful businesses and happy families aren’t mutually exclusive. They’re not even oppositional. The more my business endeavors grew, the more prosperity my family enjoyed. And because I took the time to enjoy it with them, my businesses continued to flourish as well. In the best cases, the work-life balance evolves into a self-perpetuating cycle where each side enriches the other.