Work-life balance: Taking care of your money and your health

Most small business owners name work-life balance as one of the driving forces behind their entrepreneurial pursuits. According to a recent survey of entrepreneurs, 32% moved away from corporate life specifically to improve work-life balance, while a whopping 92% state that achieving work-life equilibrium is a major goal.

However, these same respondents clock hours that seem to contradict their work-life balance objectives. The survey reports that 91% of entrepreneurs work weekends, 25% work over 40 hours per week, 69% answer emails during free time and 26% never stop thinking about their business. 

This heightened attention on work priorities is hardly surprising considering startup and small business failure rates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 20% of startups fail within the first year, and just 50% and 30% of small businesses survive for five or ten years, respectively. 

Clearly, the effort required to stay afloat tips many business owners’ priorities toward work. Though, of those surveyed, 61% state they’ll never go back to the typical nine-to-five. “That’s because work-life balance is all a matter of perspective,” says Dr. Gail Saltz, the Associate Professor of Psychiatry at N.Y. Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine.

Work-life balance is a moving target for business owners

According to Saltz, the concept of work-life balance doesn’t dictate an even split between work and other pursuits. “It’s all about directing energies toward the things that create contentment and help attain life goals,” says Saltz. “Business owners with a passion for their work naturally focus the majority of their time and effort on their business, even during off-hours.”

“How that affects other aspects of a business owner’s life is the real question,” says Saltz. “If their attention skews too greatly towards work, over time, personal relationships may suffer and health and fitness can decline.”

Hyper-focusing on work over other aspects of life can also lead to burnout, reports the Harvard Business Review. Its research team found that “25% of entrepreneurs felt moderately burned out” and “3% felt strongly burned out,” largely due to overwhelming work demands. 

Business owners can improve work-life balance with these five tips

Luckily, dividing time between work and other pursuits isn’t as hard as it seems, even when business demands and responsibilities seem all-encompassing. 

“Business owners can improve work-life equilibrium in many ways,” says Charlene Walters, head of the Digital Entrepreneurship MBA program at Strayer University. “It all starts with taking stock of your situation, then committing to the tactics that can improve it.”

Here are five ways that busy entrepreneurs can start evening out the scales of work-life balance.

Pause and get an objective opinion

Overwhelmed entrepreneurs tend to hunker down and work harder, which only leads to more imbalance. Instead, experts say, this is the time to pause and address the underlying problems. 

“When a business owner feels stuck in a mire and unable to move ahead, it’s time to step back mentally and emotionally and seek an objective opinion,” says Saltz. “Start with writing down your daily schedule, then share it with a friend, family member or mentor who’s in your corner.” 

“In most cases,” says Saltz, “an objective helper can spot activities that can be let go completely, adjusted to better fit your schedule or delegated out.” 

Define work-life boundaries and stick to them

Nearly all experts agree that adhering to — and fiercely defending — some type of schedule is key to balancing your life. How you apply this, be it a strict calendar, productivity time blocks or flexible daily goals, depends upon your personality and work style. 

“The best way to deal with daily demands is to set proper boundaries for all of the things that are truly important, including work tasks, social and family obligations and healthy activities,” says Walters. “Communication is key here,” she adds. “Let everyone know where they stand on your schedule and be willing to defend your boundaries.”

Productivity hacks like the Pomodoro Technique can help the scheduling-challenged tackle tasks in the time allowed by clearly segmenting work and break sessions throughout the day.

Attend to personal and financial fitness

Financial stress makes many business owners burn the midnight oil to make ends meet. “Lack of sleep, poor diet and limited exercise plague many stressed-out entrepreneurs, especially when their business’s financial health is on the line,” says Saltz. “This takes an immense toll on their health and productivity, and it shatters work-life balance.”

While some financial woes can’t be predicted, making smart financial choices a habit minimizes financial ups-and-downs and helps you focus on healthy productivity.  

Learn to delegate

According to Walters, “business owners, especially new entrepreneurs, often fail to delegate, outsource and get additional help.” She advises entrepreneurs who “don’t like or aren’t skilled at certain tasks to hire someone else to do it, including simple household tasks like lawn care.”

“Give yourself permission to clear your plate and focus on what matters the most — key work tasks, family time and healthy pursuits,” advises Saltz. “That’s far more productive than falling into the do-it-all mentality.” 

Focus on the moment

Disconnecting from distractions lets you make the most of each moment. If you’re focused on a work task, turn off your email. If you’re at a family event, silence your phone. If you’re eating, make time for healthy choices instead of calorie-laden grab-and-go meals.

“Unless you’re an emergency room doctor, it’s highly unlikely that any call, email or text is life-or-death,” says Saltz. “Focusing your attention on the task or activity at hand is far more beneficial mentally, physically and socially than trying to multitask.”

In fact, most experts agree that multitasking is the enemy of productivity and work-life balance. 

“Exercising while listening to an informative podcast is about the only way to multitask productively,” says Saltz, “and a good way for busy entrepreneurs to make time for their health.”

“The temptation to overwork and multitask will always follow business owners who live and breathe their company 24/7,” Walters adds. “When go-getters fully commit to other areas of their lives as well,” she emphasizes, “they’re more productive and, ultimately, more successful.”