Can you have it all? A business of your own, good health, quality time with your loved ones, and enough time to catch up on that reading list you haven’t touched? Or are you doomed to the entrepreneur’s dilemma, as Randi Zuckerberg calls it, never being able to do everything you want (or sometimes need) without feeling overwhelmed.
When time starts to escape us, we feel doomed to giving up on some of our priorities that once were at the top of our to-do lists. This is especially true when creating a startup that consumes not only your savings, but now all of your time as well.
There is hope, though, for finding that lost time and bringing your life back into balance. The secret? Plan out a schedule.
Making a Perfectly-Balanced Schedule
Entrepreneurs agree that the best advice for work-life balance is to create a schedule that includes more than just work priorities, but time for other personal pursuits and interests as well.
Scheduling out time for yourself sounds crazy when there is always something else to be done to get your business up and running. However, work-life balance requires just that: time for work and time for you to live your life. Separating the two and making time for both will help you not to feel so burned out.
Jessica Mah, CEO and cofounder of the successful accounting software company inDinero, said that when she didn’t take the time for herself she hit her breaking point. Out of fear of failure and dedication to her new company, Mah worked late nights, weekends, and even holidays. That is until one Christmas, when Mah was working and missed her family and friends, when she realized, “I forgot why I went into business in the first place. I started a company so that I could work when I want, on my own terms, and that was no longer the case.” She has since committed herself to only working the five-day workweek, with holidays off, and finds that this has helped her productivity and creativity immensely.
Other entrepreneurs have also said that limiting time for themselves and working too much has put a strain on their companies. One entrepreneur and New York Times bestseller, Kevin Kruse, in looking back at the sleepless nights and long hours he put into his first failed startup asked himself, “How creative could I have possibly been while I was fighting fatigue? How effective of a leader was I when I could barely stay awake? What was my sales presence like in front of potential customers?”
While you may feel that you are not putting in enough time towards your business by taking some time off, in the long run that time off may be exactly what your company needs.
Creating that balance for yourself means that you have to be unyielding with your priorities. Entrepreneur Ed O’Keefe plans out his schedule by first deciding which events or tasks are non-negotiables and planning the rest of his free time after those have been scheduled in.
What are your non-negotiables? If you’re finding that you miss spending time with friends and family, then make them non-negotiables. They don’t have to get in the way of your allotted work time: even if you were to work 60 hours a week, and sleep for 8 hours a night, you would still have 52 spare hours for your other non-negotiables.
Stick to Your Schedule!
It’s so easy once you make a schedule to stray from it back into your old, unbalanced lifestyle. If you are having a hard time keeping to your schedule, be more precise with how you block out your day. Just saying “Work” from 9 to 5 and “Free Time” after 5 may not be as helpful as mapping out what specifically you are going to do in those hours. Once that block of time is over for your to-do item, drop what you’re doing and move onto your next item. This also means that when you are at work, do what you can to stay focused on work, and at home, really be at home by not thinking about work. Keep different blocks of time separate from each other.
For some projects you will need to put in extra time, but the more disciplined you are to your scheduled work hours and personal time, the more stable you will feel, allowing you to accomplish even more work.
Live With Tension
Even the ultimate balanced schedule will still have moments of stress and strain. Balance doesn’t mean that suddenly your workload is lightened or your personal life has cleared up out of the blue. Balance requires taking out unnecessary tasks while making time to focus on what matters most to you. Michael Hyatt, another successful CEO and New York Times bestseller, says this: “Sometimes we think if we’re in balance we’re going to be in this Zen-like state…[However,] when I’m trying to be balanced, it’s taking a lot of focus and a lot of work. You just have to live with that tension.” To those seeking out a balanced life, Hyatt says, “It’s going to feel like work,” because it does take work and a whole lot of discipline to be balanced.
Your life doesn’t have to be perfect, simple, or calm for you to feel balanced. Remember to discipline yourself to stick to the schedules you create, measuring out enough time for yourself to balance out work with your other personal priorities. Reevaluate and adapt your schedule when you still feel unbalanced, keeping in mind that you are the one who decides what kind of schedule and life you want to make.