A healthy work-life balance is important, whether you run your business full time or work 9-to-5 and run your business on the side. With it, you will be able to keep motivated and keep burnout at bay.
The beauty of being an entrepreneur is being able to design your own schedule. You can work when you’re most productive, go to the gym in the middle of the day, and choose your work hours.
Finding harmony between work and play is critical to your success, both in business and in your personal life. That’s why creating a better work-life balance can reduce stress and improve your mental health.
What is work-life balance?
Work-life balance is the amount of time you spend working on your business or at your job versus the amount of time you spend not working, such as enjoying time with your family, taking part in your hobbies, resting, traveling, and generally being away from your desk.
The more time you spend working on your business, the less time you have to do other life activities, which can lead to resentment and, ultimately, burnout.
Why work-life balance is important
Fifty-one percent of small-business owners say balancing their professional and personal lives has been essential to their success. Taking time off, doing things they love, and stepping away from the wormhole of business activities can bring a fresh perspective and added health benefits. And entrepreneurs are increasingly aware of just how critical it is to maintain a healthy balance between work and life: One study shows that almost 60% of small-business owners take regular vacations.
Productivity levels shoot up too. People with a healthy work-life balance are 21% more productive than people with a poor work-life balance because they’re able to come back to their job with an open and well-rested mind.
The effects of a poor work-life balance
- Always thinking about work. When your business is constantly on your mind, you push out any room for other responsibilities like family, friends, fun, and your home life.
- Poor productivity at work. Productivity levels plummet in people who struggle to juggle their work and personal life. Taking even a short amount of time away can help you come back refreshed and motivated.
- Struggling to take time off when needed. It can sometimes feel like you don’t have the time to take time off, but failing to give yourself a break when you need it can negatively impact your health and your business.
- Everything outside of work seems unimportant. When the balance between your personal and professional life is off-kilter, everything work-related becomes a huge, insurmountable hill, with everything else paling in comparison.
- Spending more money on outsourcing personal tasks. The costs of the cleaner, personal assistant, and after-school nanny you hired so you can spend more time on your business will eventually rack up.
These detrimental effects aren’t just limited to your personal health and productivity—the stress and the symptoms that accompany a poor work-life balance can also affect your personal relationships with your spouse, family, kids, and colleagues.
If you’re not at your best, your business can’t be operating at its optimum, and if you work a 9-to-5 job while you’re building your online business, your performance there can take a hit as well. There's a lot at stake.
How to find work-life balance: 7 tips
Creating a healthier work-life balance really comes down to recognizing how much is too much, establishing boundaries for work, and setting aside quality time for non-business activities. Here are seven tactics you can use straight away.
- Organize your work week
- Break down your tasks into manageable chunks
- Embrace technology
- Designate working hours
- Take time off
- Exercise and practice mindfulness
- Think output, not input
1. Organize your work week
One of the best ways to get more done in the time you have (so you can have more time for life) is to be organized and prepare each week with a list of tasks and activities that need to be done. Take some time at the start of your work week to plan out the next five days. Just 15 to 30 minutes of planning can help provide significant gains in productivity.
“I plan the week ahead on Sunday nights. I add as little as possible to my to-do list,” says ecommerce professional Marie Stuart Noel. “As an entrepreneur, my time feels scarce all the time. So I think in terms of what must I be present for and what I do not have to be physically present for.”
Some of the tasks Marie needs to be present for include personal appointments, networking events, and weekly meetings. She doesn’t have to be present for food shopping, running errands, and doing household chores that can be outsourced to someone else. This is a good time to prioritize your most important tasks and schedule time away from your desk, including exercise classes, social events, and hobbies.
2. Break down your tasks into manageable chunks
If a task feels huge and overwhelming, break it into smaller chunks. This technique has been dubbed “microproductivity” by the task management tool Trello, and is a great way to add flexibility to your schedule. Start by identifying the biggest tasks on your plate and turn them into a series of smaller tasks—for example, if you’re creating a new website for your ecommerce store, you might turn that into several smaller tasks including:
- Research website hosts
- Write the copy for the homepage
- Hire a designer to create graphics
- Upload products
This is obviously a very basic plan, but you can see how the mammoth task of “creating an entire website” suddenly becomes four smaller activities that don’t seem quite as overwhelming. This also means you can spread each smaller activity throughout your schedule so you don’t end up working for hours back-to-back trying to build an entire ecommerce website in one sitting.
3. Embrace technology
It can sometimes feel like technology is against us, and it can deplete our productivity levels if we’re constantly tuning in to every ping and new message. However, there are some fabulous tools out there that can help you plan and focus better, as well as help you actively balance your work and home life.
Here are some tools you might find useful:
- Productivity tools like the Pomodoro timer
- Time tracker tools like Toggl
- Task management tools like Asana and Trello
- App blockers like Freedom
- Automation tools like Zapier
“From the moment I wake up, I’m already mapping out what needs to get done in order of importance and urgency. That way, when something unexpected pops up during the day, it doesn’t end up derailing my entire plan.” —Entrepreneur Aaron Jerez
4. Designate working hours
It’s tempting to reply to every new email and social media notification as soon as it comes in.
But setting boundaries around the hours you work can be critical to your sanity and success. Consider setting boundaries for each work day and, if possible, select one day of the week that you do absolutely no work.
Within those workday boundaries, you can assign dedicated times for checking your email or set aside half an hour at the end of the day to go through your social media notifications. It helps if your team and anyone who needs to get hold of you knows your dedicated working hours and understands when they’re likely to get a reply from you. An easy way to do this is to include your response times in your email signature.
Entrepreneur Aaron Jerez suggests prioritizing tasks too: “From the moment I wake up, I’m already mapping out what needs to get done in order of importance and urgency. That way, when something unexpected pops up during the day, it doesn’t end up derailing my entire plan,” he says. “I also have a set time each day when I shut off all distractions, like social media and emails, so that I can focus on one task uninterrupted.”
“I find vacations the best time to make big business decisions—the ones that can steer a business journey in new and game-changing directions.” —Entrepreneur Wendy Maynard
5. Take time off
Taking time away from your business and work gives you a fresh perspective when you return—you never know, you might come up with an obvious solution to that problem that’s been worrying you for weeks.
Successful entrepreneurs bake time off into their hectic schedules as a matter of importance. In fact, one report says the magic number is four weeks of vacation time a year—at least.
For many, taking time off gets the creative juices flowing and leads to some important decisions. “I find vacations the best time to make big business decisions—the ones that can steer a business journey in new and game-changing directions,” says entrepreneur Wendy Maynard.
But we’re not just talking about taking vacations here. Time off can also mean leaving your phone at home while you walk the dog or putting your laptop in a drawer while you spend the holidays with your family.
For Tory Jon, the founder of CamperFAQs, the choice to spend downtime more intentionally was a game-changer. “I spent my off-time more deliberately, focusing on time outdoors with family and off of screens. Once that felt solid, I started to find more opportunities to give space to outdoor pursuits,” Tory says.
“The idea of being deliberate with your free time is a game-changer, making your free time more meaningful and engaging instead of passive and numbing. For me, this was the outdoors, but for other entrepreneurs, this could be the arts, sports, cooking—anything that energizes you and brings you joy.”
6. Exercise and practice mindfulness
Work-life balance isn’t just about finding the time to hang out with friends and family around your working patterns. It’s also about staying healthy and looking after your body with regular exercise. This might be a simple walk around the block before you start work, or you might schedule an hour at the gym at lunchtime every day.
You can also bring mindfulness into your daily practice, which can work in two ways:
- It improves focus and concentration to make you more efficient at work.
- It deepens compassion and connection to help you fully engage in personal time.
7. Think output, not input
The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, can be applied to help you find work-life balance. Look at all business activities and focus on the ones that give you the most significant results while removing ones that have little impact.
For example, is your business on multiple social networks and do you spend a significant amount of time on social media? Scale back. Choose just one or two channels that are sending you the most customers and ignore the rest.
Work-life balance: a success enabler
It always feels like there's more to do and not enough time to do it. That's entrepreneurship. Most entrepreneurs will at some point work too much, too long, and too hard, burning themselves out. While the hustle is important, especially in the early stages of a new business, what’s important is to recognize when productivity, health, and relationships with those around you suffer.
When you can balance your work and life in an enjoyable way, you can dramatically increase your productivity levels and work on your business while being the best version of yourself. For many entrepreneurs, this balance is the key to success.
Use some of the simple methods outlined in this post to stay productive, happy, and healthy so you can keep building your business and not burn out.
Work-life balance FAQ
What causes poor work-life balance?
Poor work-life balance is the result of spending too much time and energy at work so you don’t have enough left to enjoy your hobbies, time with your family, and other personal activities. There are many reasons the balance can shift, including bad time management, not taking time off, and failing to look after your health with regular exercise.
How many hours should I work to maintain a good work-life balance?
There is no gold star standard of how many hours you should work a week, but past scientific research shows our productivity levels start to drop after six hours a day. To keep a good work-life balance, make sure you’re spending just as much time on hobbies and personal commitments as you are at work.
What are the 7 steps to achieve work-life balance?
1. Organize your working week.
2. Break big tasks down into smaller chunks.
3. Embrace technology and automation.
4. Designate working hours and set boundaries.
5. Take time off.
6. Exercise and practice mindfulness.
7. Think output, not input.