Work-life balance has been one of the biggest business buzzwords of the past decade or more, with business leaders from all industries and stages of life weighing in on how to achieve optimal balance between professional and personal challenges, opportunities and responsibilities.
Such balance is a difficult challenge in the era of the smartphone, when people are often tempted to stay always connected to the office. Especially for small business owners whose personal lives and livelihoods are so inextricably linked, work-life balance is often an impossible ideal.
Perhaps we need to re-think and re-define the concept of work-life balance for small business owners. Instead of beating ourselves up about not achieving the perfect balance of work and life, let's look for more ways to do better at both of them.
You don’t have to work less if you don’t want to.
It’s true that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” and burnout can happen even to the most enthusiastic entrepreneurs — but work-life balance doesn’t have to require you to work half-days and turn off your smartphone. Instead, try to work smarter. Focus on the work tasks that are most exciting to you and get better at delegating the rest.
What is most energizing to you about running your business? Do more of that. What do you dread most about running your business? Get more help with that. If your work energizes and inspires you, and your hours at work are not interfering with family relationships or impacting your health, then by all means, keep working.
Focus on what you need in your life to be happy.
Instead of assigning an arbitrary ideal of “work-life balance,” do what works best for you. The idea of work-life balance means different things to every small business owner, and instead of spending an arbitrary amount of time away from the office, perhaps it's best to make sure that your time away from the office is dedicated to the people and activities that you love most.
What do you want from your personal life? Do you want to have dinner with your kids every night? Can you carve out time for getting exercise every day? Can you set up a recurring lunch date with your spouse or a close friend once a week? You might find that you're happy to put in longer hours running your business if you get a few of these "life happiness" needs met on a regular basis.
Being out of balance is OK — as long as you're happy and energized.
As Forbes contributor and leadership coach Kristi Hedges writes, "Happiness and work-life balance aren’t the same thing. You can have perfect work-life balance and a dead-end job that leaves you exhausted. Those who are able to lead inspired, engaging lives in various spheres — from work, to family, to personal well-being — have something greater than balance. They have fulfillment. Their life fits."
Have you ever noticed that some of your busiest, craziest weeks of work are also the most exciting, fun and fulfilling? Have you enjoyed going on a date with your spouse even more after a series of success stories at the office? Do you thrive on the adrenaline rush and feeling of triumph that comes from winning a new client or solving a long-running problem at your business? All of these feelings are important and can help you lead a more inspired, engaging life away from the office — and sometimes, you have to be a bit unbalanced to make that possible.
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