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Juggling work-life balance when running a small business

Thursday, November 19, 2009
Work life balance. Image: Getty Images
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By Diana Clement
MSN NZ Money writer

"I'll just check one more e-mail" you think to yourself, and the next thing is it's 9pm and most of the evening has gone. Every self-employed person or business owner who reads this article will be able to identify with that thought to some degree.

Work-life balance is about managing the juggle between your business and other activities — such as spending time with your family, and leisure activities.

Business owners and the self-employed are awful at striking that balance. Some work from when they get up until they go to bed. What happens to them is that they eventually burn out and have unfulfilling lives along the way.

There is no magic cure for the work-life imbalance affliction. Ironically it takes work to stop overworking. You need to first admit that you have a problem — and if you're not sure, take this quiz to find out if it's an issue for you.

The key to moving on is accepting that you have a problem and making an active decision to change. The rest is relatively easy as there are numerous books and classes on the subject as well as Internet resources. A great place to start is the work-life balance section on the Department of Labour's website.

Here are some of the best tips I've collated over the years:

  1. Set up a written schedule of work and leisure activities that fits your family and support network in.
  2. If you can afford it, have your main office or workspace outside of home. That will help curb you working evenings and weekends.
  3. Have dedicated work telephone lines and make sure you don't answer them at 10pm.
  4. Do things that make you laugh and have fun.
  5. Get exercise. Healthy business owners are more productive and exercise is also a great antidote to stress and anxiety.
  6. Take a breath of fresh air. Get out of your office and enjoy the outdoors — even if it's a 10-minute break to do some gardening.
  7. Take holidays away from the business and if possible from your mobile phone and computer to ensure they're real.
  8. Share your day with your family and involve them in what you've been doing.
  9. To give yourself "me time" it's important to get other people involved in the business — as employees or contractors/consultants. This will also help you grow the business to something saleable, rather than just a job for you.
  10. Search online for more tips.

Finally, enjoy your life outside of business. Take a walk at lunchtime, have lunch rather than doing lunch over business, and remember that you only have one family.

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