September is Self-Care Awareness Month, which makes now a good time as any to take a look at your health and well-being. For many business owners, one of the most challenging wellness issues is work-life balance. When you juggle all the particulars of a business, working 24/7 can easily become your default.
Calloway Cook knows all about working nearly nonstop.
"Like most company founders, I initially devoted almost all of my waking time to the business," says the founder of the dietary supplement company Illuminate Labs. "I was so driven and mission-focused that I would work the entire day on my computer, neglecting my health and happiness."
Cook eventually decided it was time to make a change, so he started scheduling breaks into his workday and found that doing so increased his productivity and happiness.
Trivinia Barber also used to work long days until she decided to focus on achieving work-life balance.
"Work-life balance can be a struggle," says the founder and CEO of Priority VA, a virtual assistant company. "I'll decide to answer an email and find myself working two more hours. I solved the problem by implementing a stop time at the end of each workday. It says in my calendar: 'Shut down for the day. You've done a good job.' "
I asked 18 more business owners for their tips for maintaining a work-life balance that lets them enjoy life and work.
Blend Work and Leisure
"My entrepreneur friends and I call blending the answer to work-life balance. For example, I'll blend afternoon drinks with friends while we discuss a business project. Blending is all about giving attention to what's important right now and managing your commitments so that everything you want to do gets done, without forcing yourself to conform to 'work time' and 'personal time.' "
—Tamara Loehr, wellness entrepreneur
"The main way I manage my personal life and my career is by being an integrator, as opposed to a segregator. I run my life with very little separation between home and work. This has allowed me to be present for just about everything I think is important in both spheres. Instead of focusing on balance, I focus on what is most important overall and on a given day and make decisions based on that."
—Nicole D. Galli, founder and managing partner, Law Offices of N.D. Galli LLC
"For most people, the goal of work-life balance is to find some sort of inner peace and comfort in a world filled with stress. I believe that one can find that inner peace and comfort by avoiding pre-built ideas about what we should be doing. Letting go of that guilt in the first place is my biggest secret to achieving the right balance for me."
—Hope Horner, founder and CEO, Lemonlight
"Career-life balance has seemed for so long like a somewhat elusive concept, so my approach around it has become one of non-resistance. For years, I'd hold myself accountable for how little I was succeeding in attaining career-life balance until I realized I needed to ignore popular opinion and play by my own rules."
—Marina Mara, owner, MARINA MARA
Delegate to Achieve Work-Life Balance
"Surround yourself with people who have similar motivations, then delegate important tasks to the ones you trust. My family and team all know my goals, which involve living a healthy life. Finding people that carry similar personal and professional motivations makes every aspect of life more efficient and integrated."
—Munjal Shah, CEO, Health IQ
"I hire people who I can trust and rely on. I have a great team standing behind me—both personally and professionally. This allows me the flexibility to be there when and where I'm needed most."
—Tom Bate, owner Bates Roofing, LLC
My top tip for achieving work-life balance is to set strict working hours. You don't necessarily have to work 9 to 5 every day.
—Jessi Beyer, owner, Jessi Beyer International
"When I started my company in 2006, I soon discovered that work-life balance can be challenging. I learned to delegate tasks that I was not good at or that I didn't have the time to handle, so I could spend my time growing the business. The same principles apply to home life. You may find it beneficial to hire someone to clean your home so you can have more quality time with your family."
—Kim Hawkins, owner, EventsWholesale
"Work-life balance is all about setting priorities and boundaries and being mindful of where you're spending your time. For example, I have young children. Being present with my family is a top priority for me. I put down my phone from dinner through bedtime and don't check messages. I know that whatever comes at me from work can wait for a response until the kids are in bed."
—Erica Stritch Schultz, owner and vice president of marketing, RAIN Group
"Work-life balance is a practice that is extremely important to me, especially with a newborn child. I always dedicate my mornings and evenings to spending time with my family away from any work. Doing this gives me a clear mind, which enables me to give my patients and staff the care and attention that they deserve."
—Ashley Paré, founder and dentist, Shoreline Smiles
Calendar in Work-Life Balance
"I use different colors on my calendar to represent the various events and responsibilities I have, and I go over it weekly to ensure that it looks balanced. For instance, green is self-improvement, which includes the gym and meditation class, and purple represents business meetings. Blue is friends and family."
—Paul English, CTO and founder, Lola.com
"I use my penchant for calendaring everything to my advantage. I schedule personal time for exercise, time with family and downtime. This has made a huge difference for me. Workouts go in like meetings and are rarely rescheduled or moved."
—Oren Zaslansky, CEO, Flock Freight
"Pamper yourself. If you don't do it, nobody else will. I get facials every two months, which I love. It's so relaxing, and I look forward to the sessions."
—Ximena Hartsock, co-founder and president, Phone2Action
"Professional and personal success and work-life balance go hand-in-hand with self-care, enabling us to be our best. Effective self-care doesn't always require significant and major changes. Small actions made consistently over time build positive habits."
—Ngan Nguyen, founder and CEO, Cintamani Group
"Find a hobby that you love and schedule time for that. My partner and I love tennis and schedule classes at around 6:00, so we must leave the office to get to class. It's a great way to celebrate the end of the work day."
—Dominic DeStefano, co-founder, City Strings & Piano
Incorporate Meditation and Exercise
"I create a little bit of peace for myself each morning. That includes 30 to 45 minutes of working out, followed by 15 to 20 minutes of prayer or meditation."
—Kat Rosati, owner, Apparel Booster
"Religiously hitting the gym every day is a priority for me. I spend hours each week on the elliptical trainer and double task by catching up on texts, Twitter and sifting through emails. That time alone gives me the opportunity to wrap my head around the priorities ahead of me each day, 600 calories lighter."
—Lori Cheek, founder and CEO, Cheekd
Stick to Set Work Hours
"My top tip for achieving work-life balance is to set strict working hours. You don't necessarily have to work 9 to 5 every day. But it does mean working eight hours a day, rather than 15. When you consistently work long days, it's impossible to have work-life balance, because the non-work part of your life is entirely eaten up by sleeping and eating."
—Jessi Beyer, owner, Jessi Beyer International
"Setting firm business hours for myself was key to work-life balance. I want to be responsive for my clients, and if it's a true emergency, they know how to reach me. They also know that if they send an email at 9 p.m. my time, I'm not answering until the following morning after I drop my kids off at daycare. I also set my phone to do not disturb at 8 o'clock each evening."
—Ruthie Bowles, owner, Defy the Status Quo
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