As an entrepreneur growing or starting a small business, work can be all-consuming. It’s hard to take a step back, turn off your devices, and just… relax.
But striking work-life balance, or putting your work responsibilities on hold to attend to your personal responsibilities, is crucial to your well-being—and to the success of your business. Most importantly, proper work-life balance can help you avoid burnout and keep your productivity and motivation going strong.
Some of the best advice on work-life balance comes from people who are in the exact same boat as you are, other entrepreneurs.
We asked some entrepreneurs exactly how they found and kept their work-life balance. Remember, it’s a balancing act that is bound to see changes over time, and will need readjusting too. Below are some of the key ways you can establish work-life balance as an entrepreneur.
Work-Life Balance Tips for Entrepreneurs
Some of the greatest lessons come from experience—whether your own or someone else’s. Hopefully, you can learn from the experiences of these entrepreneurs.
1. Schedule Everything
One theme among these work-life balance tips from entrepreneurs is to learn to schedule your time at work—and away from it. Let’s learn more.
Create Hard Stops
It can be hard to set hard boundaries for other people, but sometimes it can be even more difficult to create them for yourself. However, it’s one of the most important things you can do to create work-life balance.
“First, I create hard stops around when I work and when I’m not working, and I honor that schedule. I block out time for self-care like I would a client,” Catherine Wood, founder and executive life coach of Unbounded Potential, LLC, tells Fundera.
“By doing this, I prioritize my relationship with myself above my relationship with anyone else—which allows me to be the best version of me when I am connecting with and helping others through my business… Remember that the better you take care of yourself, the better you will be able to take care of everything else in your life.”
Find Your Schedule
Not everyone is fit for the typical 9-to-5 schedule, especially entrepreneurs who might have to work at all odd hours of the day. Take it from Kean Graham, CEO of MonetizeMore, “On a weekday, I’ll do three increments of two to four hours of work. In between, I’ll do something active or social so that when I start more work, I’m refreshed and ready to go. I don’t work when people think I should work. I work when I’m most alert and I produce my best work.”
It might take some time to find exactly what works for you, but once you do, it will be easier to create some balance within that schedule.
Take Time Off
While it might seem counterintuitive, taking time off and giving yourself a break is one of the best things you can do to create a sustainable work-life balance. “One of the things that has helped me with work-life balance is realizing that enjoying my time away from work is what allows me to stay laser-focused while I’m at the office,” says Ryan McGrotty, co-owner of Rep Fitness.
“It’s not about the number of hours you sit at your computer, it’s about the number of quality hours you spend working with 100% of your focus. It takes repeated practice to crush that feeling and accept that enjoying time off is good for your mental health. Besides, what’s the point of making money if it doesn’t allow you time off to enjoy life?” he points out.
2. Use a Support System
You can’t do everything alone, and in fact, you probably shouldn’t. Another key to establishing work-life balance is making sure you have a trusted team to whom you can delegate day-to-day tasks and larger projects.
Get a Little Help From Your Friends
“Don’t do everything yourself: Your friends, your classmates, and your family all have certain skills that could be of use… Or, find a co-founder,” Zoe Vu, co-founder of Pass the Keys tells Fundera. There could be helpful resources all around you that you just aren’t seeing because you’re afraid to ask for help.
“Many founders can build businesses on their own. However, if you find a co-founder with complementary skills and perspectives, it will help you be more efficient—two heads are better than one. Finally, make sure there are activities outside of work that you consider must-do. For example, if you go to the gym every Monday for one hour, you should block that time off in your calendar!”
Don’t Go It Alone
“Accept help. Getting a better balance on your professional and personal life depends on the ability to outsource. You can’t do everything to your high standards,” says Ferne Traeger, president of Beyond the Boardroom.
Part of the draw of being an entrepreneur might have been that you get to do it on your own terms, but that doesn’t mean you have to do any of it alone. There’s actually great value in being able to ask for and accept help from others, including those you hire. “The ability to accept help is a talent, and lots of people need assistance in learning and mastering how to accept help when they need it,” says Traeger.
Focus on What’s Important
The second step to asking for help is being able to delegate once you receive the help you need. “As an entrepreneur, it’s best to know the value of time and spending it on things that only you can do—nobody else. Delegate the other things that you’re not really good at. That way, you can focus on the more important things that only you can do and save time,” says Daisy Jing, founder of Banish.
“Ultimately, hiring smart people who can run the business effectively in my absence allows me to spend more time with family and take vacations,” says Luke Knowles, CEO and founder of Kinoli. Hiring the right people helps you get the support you need and the peace of mind so that you can take time for yourself and not worry about work.
“That’s why hiring the right people is so important. Otherwise, you end up sacrificing self-care in an effort to keep the business afloat and can burn out in the process. Designing our company culture around a true belief in work-life balance has helped out a lot. When my employees see me leave the office at 5 p.m. and don’t receive a ton of emails from me over the week, they feel more comfortable unplugging during their time off, too,” says Knowles.
3. Focus on Non-Work Time
You need time to yourself to be restored and ready for work, so make sure you’re taking time to focus on your interests, your family, and regular downtime.
Balance Your Priorities
To come up with the right balance for you, examine your priorities and where you want to be spending your time, both in work and outside of work. “Prioritize. All small business owners should have a clear vision of values and goals that are meaningful to them. Be productive. Evaluate times of optimal productivity and do the three most important tasks each day. And finally, go with the flow,” says Deborah Meyer, CEO of WorthyNest.
“Entrepreneurs do not have superpowers. Work may have to take the back-burner to other life events, and that’s okay. It all goes back to priorities. Ask for outside help if needed—outsourcing inside or outside your business can be a saving grace,” says Meyer.
Take a Break
Taking time for yourself can also be sprinkled in throughout your workdays; it doesn’t necessarily only have to be time larger blocks of time like weekends or vacation. A break here and there throughout the day for some fresh air or for some exercise can go a long way as well. “Make sure that you’re taking breaks throughout the day. This can seem counterintuitive, but at least one break in the morning and afternoon helps keep you focused,” says Andrew Schrage, CEO of Money Crashers. “And finally, consider outsourcing some of your work… When you lessen your work load, balancing that against your personal life becomes that much easier.”
Pursue Your Hobbies
It can be easy to get lost in your work, especially as an entrepreneur who’s working to make a new business successful. “The hard part is not letting your business life overwhelm your personal life. There will always be some crossover—that’s the nature of being an entrepreneur, but there are ways to keep yourself centered,” Will von Bernuth, co-founder of Block Island Organics tells Fundera.
“One way is to actively participate in outside interests. Find interests that have nothing to do with your business and make time for them every week. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to burn out from the intense focus on your business. Outside interests combat this.”
Plan Ahead, Reflect, Relax
“Take one full weekend day off. We’re all tempted to ‘catch up’ or ‘get ahead’ on items. However, give yourself a chance to relax, recharge, and connect with family and friends,” says Kris Pennella, founder of Ideate Co.
Planning can also help you be able to better enjoy the time off that you do have. “Another tip is to block out one hour at the end of the week to review the prior week and plan for your coming week. Priorities change quickly in small businesses. This is a great way to make sure that nothing gets dropped along the way and show your progress on items. Knowing what my coming week looks like helps me enjoy a day or two off over the weekend,” Pennella says.
Give Time to Your Extracurriculars
“When you’re a self-starter, it can be really hard to break away from your work—work goals are what keep you going. But the need to break away from work still exists, so start a hobby or sport that you can set a goal to,” says Kyle Boureston, founder of Mantelligence.com. “It fulfills your drive to succeed just like work, while also giving you a much-needed break.”
Having goals outside of work can help you create a great balance, and setting goals within your hobbies will help you view them as a must-do instead of a nice-to-do.
4. Form New Habits
Once you turn a behavior into a habit, it becomes a part of your life. Striking the right work-life balance can be tough in the beginning, but once it becomes ingrained in your routine it’ll feel like second-nature.
When it comes down to it, you’ll only successfully have a good work-life balance if you’re willing to create boundaries. “Schedule calls in advance and avoid giving out your cell phone. Create boundaries that support your best work and life. The key to this is knowing yourself really well—what energizes you versus what drains you,” Elizabeth Potts Weinstein, small business attorney, recommends.
Connect and Keep Learning
“There are a number of things small business owners can do to stay healthy mentally, physically, and spiritually,” Blair Koch, CEO of The Alternative Board – Denver West says. Your connections are a key part of keeping your personal life and work-life balanced well.
“Connect with people outside the office. Stay connected with the community—where you live and work. Do something just for you. Go ahead, splurge. Delegate tasks—you hired great people. Let them take your business to the next level,” she says.
Another key is to continue learning—just because you’ve started your business doesn’t mean the learning process is over, it actually could be just the start. “Keep learning—go to seminars, webinars, read or listen to books and blog posts… Whatever works for you. Be a mentor and a teacher for your team and others in your community. Set measurable goals so that you can have the joy of checking off the box when something is done,” says Koch.
Work-life balance isn’t something that just happens all of a sudden or without committed effort and work, and it can mean breaking some bad habits you may have formed early on in your time as an entrepreneur.
“The idea of achieving balance is two-fold. First, you need to make sure that one aspect of your life doesn’t eclipse all others. Second is the idea of being present—both in your personal life when you’re trying to enjoy some activity, and in your professional life when you’re trying to work and be productive… Sometimes we sabotage our own work-life balance. For example, if you’re checking your email on Sunday, work isn’t invading your personal life—you’re inviting it in,” says Maura Thomas, author, speaker, and time management consultant.
Keep It Going
Once you’ve implemented all of these tips and created all of these new habits to establish a work-life balance, you’ll have to put in some work to protect it. “The hardest part of achieving a good work-life balance is actually sustaining it over time,” says Jeremy Schaedler, president of Schaedler Insurance Agency, Inc.
And it’s at the most difficult times when this matters most, he says. “When business and home life are sailing along smoothly, maintaining a good balance is not all that hard. It’s when life throws an unexpected wrench into one or the other—then things become much more challenging to manage. I’ve found that the best way to sustain long-term balance is to accept that things will never be perfect in either environment and set priorities for both life and work. This way, when one starts to get out of balance, your priorities can act as a compass—guiding you on where and how to expend energy to get things back on track.”
The Bottom Line
In order to create a sustainable work-life balance that actually works for you and for your business, you’re going to need to work at it and find the right mix of actions and mindfulness. Much of what you do will come down to scheduling—and sticking to that schedule—forming new habits, surrounding yourself with people who can support you, and giving attention to how you spend time outside of work.
It’s no easy task to find the perfect work-life balance, and it might even be a little uncomfortable while you’re trying to figure out what works best for you. But in the end, you and your friends and family will be thankful that you did it.