When you’re running a business, it’s easy for your work to become your whole life. It’s completely understandable to put as much time and effort as you can into building the business and giving it the best shot you can to make it successful. But if all of your time is spent on your business, you can end up missing out on key parts of your own life, such as spending time with the people and doing the things you love.
Let’s dive into some strategies for how to balance your business and your life, and I’ll share what I did in my business to get there.
My dad and I opened an ice cream shop together when I was 14 years old, building it from the ground up. It really was a major part of my identity for more than half of my life, and my world and life completely revolved around it. I absolutely struggled with balancing my life and my work.
Especially with it being a family business with my dad, there was no real separation between work and life. We always talked about work, and our personal and working relationships blended together. In some ways it was great to run a business with someone I had such a close connection to, but sometimes it took a toll on our relationship and my personal life.
I had a really hard time making room for myself, doing the things I loved, and spending time with friends and family outside of work. I ended up going to work, going home, and not doing much of anything else. I struggled with depression and hopelessness, and often it felt like I was wasting my life by not doing the things I knew I wanted.
I spent years putting the business first, and at a certain point it sunk in. When I hit that breaking point, I decided to make a plan and change what I was doing so I could live a better, more separated life.
Make time for you.
Part of separating yourself from your business is making sure that you have a life outside of your business. They say if you’re doing something you love, it’s not work. While that can be true, if you turn what you love into your work, you may end up not loving it as much anymore. Some people turn their interests into businesses and find that they get less joy from doing those hobbies. Either way, it’s essential to have something you’re passionate about outside of work.
Finding a new hobby, interest, or passion project in your personal life can help you to make time for yourself. If you have things you’re excited about, you’re more likely to make time to enjoy these activities. I love to stay active, but I found myself completely abandoning the gym and moving when I was in the busiest part of my season. I realized it was time for a new hobby, so I started indoor rock climbing. I got really excited about getting to try it out, so I made sure to schedule some time every week or two to get there.
Set a work schedule.
One of the big perks of owning a business is having a flexible schedule and not reporting to anyone. But in practice that lack of structure can often lead to blurred lines and overwork. Making a set schedule for yourself can help establish boundaries and help you make time for the rest of your life. Try as much as you can to keep it as close to 40 hours a week or less. It doesn’t have to be exact, and you don’t have to keep it perfectly. Just having a guideline and a framework can be helpful. Even if you stray a bit, it can give you some structure and prevent you from working all of the time.
My days off ended up being Mondays and Tuesdays. It was great to go out into the world and enjoy low crowds wherever I went, especially on the days that everyone else dreads.
Take time off.
Once you have a schedule set, take the next big step and make sure you take time off throughout the year. Time away from your business can be absolutely essential to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Everyone needs time to unwind, to decompress, and to turn off the work side of your brain. While one or two days off per week can help, taking some extra time a few days in a row can do that just a little bit more.
If you’re nervous about it, start by trying to take at least one extra day off each month to test the waters and see how it goes. Then slowly work your way up to taking a full week away. It may stress you out more in the beginning, and some things may go wrong, but it will get better. And it’s absolutely worth it.
Traveling is my favorite thing ever, and again, I wasn’t making time for it. I started to make a list of all of the places I wanted to go, and I chose one to be my next trip. I figured out when the best time of the year would be, made my plans to make sure I could escape, and then just picked up and went to Ireland. Best time ever.
Hire and delegate.
Limited hours and time off sound great, but how do you actually make that happen when your business is fully counting on you?
If you’re a company of one, it can be extra hard to balance everything you have to do to run your business, let alone maintain your personal life. It might be time to think about hiring someone. Whether it’s part time, full time, or even contractor work, bringing in help at any level can be tremendously beneficial.
It can still be difficult to hand off certain tasks, even when you have employees and a team. But there are probably opportunities to delegate and pass off some of your tasks to someone else. Start by making a list of all of the tasks you do every day, week, month, and year. Next figure out how much time you spend on each one, and which of them you enjoy and dread doing. Then decide whether someone else could do certain tasks or whether you’re the only one who could do them. If you are the only one, decide whether you could teach and trust someone else to do them.
You can turn this into a list of tasks that you’ll keep and tasks that you’ll delegate. Passing off some of your work will free up your time and empower your employees to take more of a vested interest in the work and your business.
Taking it full circle, check out these tips to help manage your employees’ time off during the holidays.
The benefits of structure
Having a structure definitely helped a lot with my mental health in general. Having a purpose and a set of things for me to do really kept me on track. Knowing somewhat regularly which were my work days and which days I had off made it a lot easier to make plans with family, friends, and myself. I made sure to decompress, to find interesting things to do each week, and to take some extended time off to travel and get out of the working mindset completely. It’s always a work in progress, but with time and effort, it’s absolutely doable to reclaim your life.
I’d love to hear from you. Head over to this week’s Question of the Week to share what you struggle with the most in balancing your personal life and which strategies work best for you.
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Aylon Pesso is the Square Small-Business Evangelist, helping sellers run their businesses better. Based in the U.S., he is a former small-business owner, consultant, and Square Seller.
This article is only for advisory purposes. The information provided reflects solely the authors’ views and is not endorsed by Square. This article is limited in scope and is only intended as a high-level overview of the topics mentioned. Nothing in this article is or should be used as legal advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, you should consult with a qualified legal professional.
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