You have probably heard the expression “work to live, don’t live to work.” However, putting that into practice is difficult for some entrepreneurs. Many of us believe we need to pour an extraordinary amount of hours into our business dealings in order to be successful. Trust me, I know. I’ve been there. In fact, my
You have probably heard the expression “work to live, don’t live to work.” However, putting that into practice is difficult for some entrepreneurs. Many of us believe we need to pour an extraordinary amount of hours into our business dealings in order to be successful.
Trust me, I know. I’ve been there. In fact, my intense focus on work began when I was just a teenager. I was attending school full time and clocking 40-plus hours a week stocking shelves at our local Walmart. When I was a bit older, I worked as a welder for a while and labored 70 hours a week. Then when I got into the car business, where I remain today, I worked 70-plus hours nearly every week for many years. In fact, I have always felt determined to work hard and work long hours.
Where did I get this intense drive to work? I probably got it from my father. He has worked 60-plus hours per work for most of his adult life. Even today, in his sixties, he continues to work long hours. I believe he strongly influenced me and made me feel I should make work a top priority.
Therefore, I did exactly what my dad did: I worked and worked and worked, and focused on little else. As a result, my twenties and early thirties were a blur. I lost valuable time with my children, my marriage failed, and I ended up feeling miserable about my personal life. That’s when I decided I needed to make a change.
A few years ago, I came to an important realization: I don’t want to take after my dad in the sense that work takes over my life. He spent so much time working, he rarely came to my sporting events or spent much time with me when I was young, unless it was for labor projects. We went on very few vacations my entire childhood. Did I really want to follow that pattern? No, not at all.
I decided that I wanted to do the opposite of what my dad did but still take what I learned from his desire to succeed and work hard. I made a choice to focus less time on work and more time on my family.
If you are in the same position, here are four tips I recommend based on my own experience:
1. Change your mindset
Stop feeling guilty about spending some time on non-work activities every week. I realized that revolving my whole life around work was not healthy. I wanted to be able to spend quality time with my kids and my family and I knew I had to change my mindset in order to make them my first priority.
2. Delegate some tasks to outside resources.
Fortunately, entrepreneurs these days have great resources available for outsourcing one-off projects. For example, I recently began using Upwork to have some small tasks (online research, WordPress coding, etc.) done at a low cost by freelancers.
Freelancing platforms are also great for outsourcing simple, repetitive tasks typically handled by in-house employees. I have done that to free up some of my employees’ time so they can work on more important responsibilities. That helps free up some of my time, which works out really well.
However, delegating to external resources is not easy for anyone with an entrepreneurial streak. Honestly, I avoided it for the longest time because I’m a doer by nature, not a delegator. I always felt I could do everything better myself. Then I started listening to some motivational speakers talk about the subject, and I heard this recurring message: “Others are not going to do some tasks as well as you can. But what lesser quality can you live with in order to keep moving your business forward?”
That’s when I chose to begin delegating small tasks externally. It was really difficult at first. In many cases, I would delegate something and then grab it back if I started to see a problem. Thankfully, I eventually learned to simply oversee the process and help freelancers bring their output up to my standards.
3. Don’t be afraid to schedule personal time.
For several years, I was unwilling to take time off because I was afraid of losing customers. I always made myself available around the clock.
Then, after my divorce, I decided to make a change. I began blocking out time to pick up my kids from school two or three days each week, spend quality time with them, and then put them to bed at 8:30. Also, I told my customers: “I’m not available during those hours because I want to spend time with my kids. However, I’m available after 8:30 on those days if you need to reach me.” I was afraid of a big backlash, but none of my customers left or were even upset. My need for personal time was a non-issue.
Take my advice: Don’t be afraid to schedule personal time, and let your customers know when and why you’re unavailable. That’s all there is to it.
4. Set priorities with your personal time.
What can you live without to free up time for a better family life? Personally, I don’t watch TV and I don’t look at social media. I choose to spend zero time on those distractions. Instead, I book my days top to bottom with work responsibilities, family-oriented activities and needed chores.
In summary, I have put all four of these tips into practice to improve my own life. Have I been successful at it? Not always. Sometimes I still struggle with the work-life balance concept.
However, the result of making these changes is that I am working much less than I used to work and I’m spending more time with my family. And guess what? My business is still thriving. So to me, that’s a win – a big win – and proof that work-life balance is attainable, even for ambitious entrepreneurs.