Get a life. Seriously. There is a Latin phrase I refer to often, Mens sana in corpore sano, which means "a healthy mind in a healthy body". Too many CEOs and entrepreneurs are completely out of balance. Not only is it affecting their health, it’s also affecting their business and employees too.
Just today, a would-be entrepreneur told me he was working constantly and struggled to read books for fun. I threw down the gauntlet and told him he’d never be a successful entrepreneur until he figured out how to get a life. I told him to read the book Endurance, the true-life account of Ernest Shackleton’s fateful voyage to the Antarctic. And I told him not to contact me until he’d finished it.
I'm a big believer that focus on the "life" part provides a virtuous circle in which improving your quality of life will also improve you professionally. That is to say, the best way to become a more productive worker is to focus more on the things outside of work that invigorate and recharge you. This will positively impact the time you are spending at work.
I’m not an expert in work/life balance, but I’ve crashed twice, and hard. Harder than I’d wish anyone else will. Now I’ve learned how to get and keep a healthy business/life balance. Here are my favorite tips:
1. Work hard, play hard. Sure, we’ve all heard this saying, but rarely do we live it. Nowadays, people do a lot of hard work, but when it comes time to fulfilling the other end of the obligation, we give up, bringing our laptops, cell phones, and other “work” items into our “play time”. And from what I recall as a kid, playing hard didn’t include toting along our homework or in the modern world, our iPhone or BlackBerry. We just played – played until we dropped from laughing so hard. It’s time for us to return to that kind of play, not just for our individual sanity, but for the sake of those who care for you.
2. Build a support network. I’m not sure why it’s so common, but entrepreneurs tend to overwhelm themselves with guilt for not working around the clock. Often our non-business owner friends’ wonder why we work so hard, or why we can’t ever “disconnect.” Start spending time with them. And disconnect when you’re with them too.
3. Don’t say it, do it. Stop saying you want to do things. Stop saying you want to learn things. Stop saying you want to try things. Stop talking about your “bucket list” and start crossing things off of it. I talked today via email with a friend in Boston, David Hauser. He’d just come back from a one-hour bike ride in the dead of winter with a fellow entrepreneur, Kris Kaplan. David and Kris aren’t talking about it. They’re doing it. Make a commitment to stop saying you’re going to do something and go ahead and do it.
4. Schedule family time. Put family time in your calendar first and schedule everything else around it. I’ve always wanted to walk my kids to school. So, I do. Every day I have a standing appointment from 8:45am – 9:15am, when I can walk them to school. I book breakfasts, meetings and calls around that time. Sometimes, I need to use that spot. But, I’ll bet I walk my kids to school more often than you do. And I’ll remember it more than the meeting I could have had.
5. Force people to go home. One of my favorite lines at the office used to be, “great day – take the rest of it off.’ I used to tease people with that and say it at 6 p.m. – I’d also say it to people at 10:30 a.m. and blow them away. Tell people to go home and relax once in a while. We all know that as entrepreneurs we duck out of the office for our little stress breaks. Let your team take some once in a while, too.
Cameron Herold is the founder of BackPocket COO, where he coaches CEOs and entrepreneurs, and the former COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? He is speaker resource for the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and Young Presidents’ Organization, global networks of more than 24,000 business leaders in over 100 countries, and has spoken to entrepreneurs in 17 countries and in groups as large as 2,000 people. His blog can be found at www.BackPocketCOO.com/blog.