Work/life balance is not just a buzzword; it’s a critical factor that can make or break the success and longevity of small business owners. Juggling between business responsibilities and personal life can be overwhelming.
As small business owners, we often work long hours to keep our businesses afloat. Most of us work over 40 hours per week, and at the start of launching your business, you may not be making minimum wage if you were figure out your hourly wage.
So how do you do it?
I think the key is changing our mindset and how we view our time and the things that make up our schedules – ultimately, our lives – both personally and professionally. Instead of trying to keep the two parts completely separate, understand that as a business owner, your personal and professional lives are intertwined.
Managing your life the way you manage your business will help you strike a better balance. You wouldn’t have your accountant handle your social media but they are both parts of your one business. The aspects of your work and your personal life are both parts of your one life.
Here’s 10 tips to help you reframe how you think about your time:
Tip 1: Prioritize Tasks
Prioritizing tasks is essential for focusing on high-impact activities that drive business growth and personal well-being.
Prioritizing tasks helps in focusing on what truly matters, reducing stress and increasing productivity. Sometimes the task needing priority will be business-related and sometimes it will be personal.
Dr. Darria Long gave a Ted Talk about being “crazy busy”. As an ER doctor, she knows quite a bit about being busy and talks about how implementing “ER Ready Mode” allows for you to handle the busy. Normally when you are “crazy busy” your stress hormones rise, your executive function in your prefrontal cortex declines resulting in loss of memory, judgement and impulse control – none of which are optimal for effectively handling everything on your plate.
Dr. Long talks about “triaging” what you have to do based on level of importance because you can’t take care of everything at once. Think about these levels as: Red, Yellow, Green and Black.
Red is where you move the needle the most. Think about the difference between a surface paper cut vs a deep laceration that is life-threatening. You need to understand the difference because what’s the noisiest is not always red. Crazy mode reacts to everything as red – not everything is red.
Once you stabilize the situation, what was red is no longer red. It might move to a green – where no one is going to die. And sometimes what you thought was red is actually black. Black is where there is nothing you can do and you must move on. If you try to take care of everything at once, you cannot save your reds. If you overestimate your ability and think a black is a red, you waste time that could be used to move the needle so the red becomes a green.
Save your reds – your personal reds and your professional reds.
Tip 2: Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries is not easy for anyone, especially small business owners who do everything and have to wear all the hats while maintaining a happy face. We seem to think that boundaries are for wimps when in fact, they are the very thing that helps us excel and win.
Think about running a marathon. No one is calling a marathon runner a wimp. If you sign up to run a marathon, you understand the goal is to finish 26.2 miles on the day of the race. You have the boundary of time – you can’t train forever, you have a finite time to get ready for this which means you need to carve out the time and prioritize training. This means you might not be able to do other things you want to do because you will be training. You might not be able to eat whatever you want to eat because you are fueling your body to run a marathon. You will have to say “no” to things because you are saying “yes” to something else you have deemed more important.
What’s important to you? If you haven’t already identified your priorities in both your personal and professional life, it’s impossible to set boundaries because you don’t know what you are trying to keep out or keep in.
Think of boundaries as a fence. Fences aren’t just for keeping things out or in, they are to lead others to the door. If your friend wants to come to your house, it’s not ok for them or you to jump through and break a window to enter your house. They get hurt, you have a mess to clean up that will take time and money, and you can’t even enjoy your friend visiting now because they didn’t use your door.
Maybe you need to set boundaries for your emails or office hours when you reply to emails/text messages from clients. You can put those in your email signatures so people know what to expect and where to find “your door” so they don’t barge in on your life and get mad you aren’t responding immediately.
Tip 3: Delegate + Automate
“But no one can do it like I can.”
“But it will take longer to explain what I need done than to do it myself.”
“I don’t have the time to delegate.”
So the real question then is “What’s worth your time?”
Everyone wants to be a “CEO” or a “6-figure boss” – which is fine. But a CEO can’t be the mail clerk. The CEO can’t be social media intern. The CEO can’t handle all the IT requests.
And if a CEO did, you’d probably scoff and say that they are not a “real” CEO because that’s not what effective CEOs do. CEOs know what their time is worth. Do you know what your time is worth?
As a business owner, often when you have money, you don’t have time because you’re doing everything instead of paying others to do it. And you would have less money and more time if you paid someone to handle everything like cleaning your house to answering emails to managing your social media. Delegation allows business owners to focus on strategic tasks. In fact, a Gallup study found that CEOs who delegate generate 33% more revenue. This is why we created Streamline Social – because let’s be honest, you probably didn’t start your business because you wanted to be your own social media manager.
When you think about delegating and automating like investing in the future of your business rather than an expense, you can grow. Investments have the opportunity to create more revenue for you. When your time is spent on strategy, networking, and creative solutions instead of typing the same response into your emails, you have a better sense of what needs to be done and the time to do it.
CEOs are the visionary for the business. They see what the company could be and know what needs to happen now to make that happen. They delegate those tasks to others to help move the company closer to the goal. Now not everything will get done to the exact specifications the CEO wants or would do if doing it all themselves. But more will get done – even if imperfectly – than a little bit done perfectly.
Tip 4: Use Technology Wisely
There are so many options to utilize technology for your business that it can seem like researching them all is a full-time job. Using AI, a CRM, automations, scheduling software, and your website can take up more time than you have in a day if you don’t know how to make technology work for you.
Automations are fantastic time-savers to do the repetitive tasks you do all the time. They are like having an automatic subscription. You don’t have to remember you’re almost out of your shampoo or coffee, it just shows up at your door. You don’t have to remember to go to the website or store, take the time to pay, get distracted by other things you don’t need, only to get home and then need to do it all over again in 30 days.
Tech automations are like that for your business. You can create calendar invites with details from a form your client fills out. You can use a kaban board and have triggers that send emails to team members or clients.
It takes time to create the systems, rules, triggers, and automation sequences but it saves you so much more time because once it is created, it is done and you don’t have to spend time doing those things every day, week, or month. You need to think of it again as an investment that will give you time back in your days in the future.
Tip 5: Take Breaks
But don’t I need to keep the momentum and flow going?
Yes and no.
Obviously if you are on a roll, keep it going. But if you find yourself slowing down, taking longer to finish what you are working on or simply getting annoyed that you’re not finished with the task, those are signs a break would be helpful.
Remember how your phone needs to be plugged in to recharge? Your brain needs it, too. And yes, even in the middle of a work day, a break is ok.
A 2011 study conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods. This could be something as simple as standing up to stretch, getting coffee or water, or taking a quick bathroom break.
Another study by the Draugiem Group in 2014 discovered what’s known as the 52/17 rule, where the most productive individuals worked for 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break.
Ironically, this is where I need to pause, take a break and go for a walk. BRB (be right back).
Tip 6: Exercise Regularly
Now that I’m back after my walk, my brain is working much better. The funny thing is I literally had to take my own advice to finish this.
So yes, take breaks and yes, also exercise regularly.
Hear me out – I know you probably *know* you should exercise regularly but you’re busy. I get it because that was my excuse for a stretch of time. And I love exercising. I love running, walking, lifting weights – I even did ballet as a child. But I saw it as a luxury, a personal indulgence that “wasted” my time I could otherwise use to work.
The problem with the busy excuse is the way we view exercise. You’re not too busy to work hard and make money. You’re not too busy to find time to sleep or eat or shower. And if I told you that I had a special “get smarter, do more in less time, sleep better, be happier” hack to teach you, you’d be all ears.
Guess what? I do. And it is exercise.
And science backs it up. Research shows that not only does it release endorphins (natural mood lifters), reduces anxiety, increases cognitive function and makes new brain cells, helps us work faster and longer, be more creative and of course, it also helps our physical bodies do more.
If we change the way we see exercise to being part of the work we do instead of taking us away from it, we will reap all the benefits we seek.
If not, we can continue to stay the same, process information more slowly, become frustrated more easily, forget more often and easily, and of course, the obvious – possibly have a physical health issue that takes us out of commission in a serious way.
We need our physical bodies and minds to do the work our business and clients need us to do. Therefore, taking care of them is interconnected to ensuring we can do the work itself.
Tip 7: Plan Personal Time
If you find yourself answering emails on your phone while having dinner with your family, or while watching movie with your kids, or while out with friends, it is time for you to schedule in some personal time for your calendar.
Remember that the world won’t end if you are a human being and take time to eat a meal, have a chat with a friend, or spend some quality time with your kids. In fact, just the opposite. The world will be better because you will be better – and those you are 100% present for will also be better thus making the world better – all because you took some personal time.
Planning time for things that are important to you, things that fill your cup (self-care), and things that are NOT work all help you do your work better when you do focus on your work. You don’t feel guilty for working because you already spent time with your family or friends.
You need to remember that planning personal time is important because YOU are important. You wouldn’t bail on a friend or client. Treat yourself as well as you treat others – you deserve it.
Tip 8: Seek Professional Help
“But I got this.”
Now, clearly you do because you have a business. You are capable and smart.
And yet the smartest people know they don’t know everything. They are always ready and willing to learn what they might not know.
Professional help can provide actionable strategies for improvement. This could be business coaching, hiring a social media agency, or seeing a therapist.
No one is born knowing everything they need to get through life. Yet, sometimes we hold ourselves to an impossible standard that asking for help means we are a failure. Reframing how we see “help” allows us to become more than what we are.
If you haven’t yet, I recommend reading the book, “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson. There are 2 quotes I especially like:
“Old beliefs do not lead you to new cheese.”
“If you do not change, you can become extinct.”
Learning to try something new and different can be scary, and sometimes you don’t get what you are looking for from the new thing, but sometimes you do. Sometimes you get more than you ever imagined because you only know what you know.
Tip 9: Network
This seems obvious and do you schedule in time every week, month, quarter, or year for intentional networking with new people?
Growing your business requires new people to know, new businesses to work with, and new ideas to try.
Now, I agree, networking can be a waste of time if you are approaching it wrong, going to the wrong events, or disingenuous about your willingness to both give and get from the new connections. It’s like friendship – it’s a 2-way street. Your friend doesn’t want to just listen to you complain, give you advice and referrals, and have you go on your merry way when you’re done talking.
You also cannot just show up to a networking event and do what I call a “say and spray” with your business cards. This is where you go to everyone there, shake their hand, introduce yourself, give them your card and move on to the next person. You might even say, “Hey, if you ever need a [fill in the blank: florist, DJ, photographer, etc.], let me know.” But they won’t because they don’t know you. And you don’t know them. You need more than a piece of paper to compel someone to refer you. You also need to treat them with a level of respect as a person – not just an opportunity for business.
This is why we created our State of the Wedding Industry Mastermind Forums and are taking them all over the globe.
I get it. Sometimes you’re so busy, you aren’t thinking straight. Our State of the Wedding Industry Masterminds help in 2 ways: solutions for your current struggles and networking connections with like-minded businesses. That’s what good networking should do – it should provide you with deep connections to allow others to get to know you and have more than a piece of paper to refer you and also it should provide a support system for you to work through your business challenges. And because you’re busy, we do this all in a few hours on a weekday afternoon for you.
Tip 10: Reflect and Adjust
When you’re busy, reflecting seems like a nice idea that you don’t have time for.
But like what we talked about earlier in each of the other tips, when we prioritize incorporating new ideas, breaks, and change, we become better.
Sometimes the new reflection and adjustment is simply as small as turning off your notifications for your phone during personal/family time. It could be working on a presentation or project at a library or coffee shop instead of home. It could mean leaving your phone somewhere outside of your bedroom so you don’t fall asleep and wake up to your phone or waste time on social media.
In order to get something different, you need to do something different. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Doing things differently requires you to carve out the time to think about what and how you can adjust your life, plan for the learning curve of incorporating something different and then consciously managing your expectations about “getting it right the first time” so you can keep reflecting and adjusting to make it work.
It’s like the scientific method – you try something, take a moment to see what worked, what didn’t and then try it again. And if it did work, try it again to make sure it wasn’t just luck or based on something else you didn’t control for.
In Spencer Johnson’s “Who Moved My Cheese”, he says, “Keep experimenting with different ways in order to get new cheese.”
I’d challenge you to do the same. Remember, figuring out how to achieve the right work/life balance is less about achieving a “level” and more about your approach to your personal and professional lives, how they intersect and don’t, how they should and shouldn’t, and making sure your goals and actions for both align with each other so you aren’t self-sabotaging one or the other.
As always, if this seems overwhelming, impossible, or you just want more information about any of the things I talked about, feel free to reach out and DM me on Instagram or email me to schedule a time to chat briefly: firstname.lastname@example.org.