To a lot of entrepreneurs the concept of a work/life balance is some kind of sick joke. After giving up their job and ploughing thousands of pounds of savings into building a business, why would they want to focus on anything else but making it work?
‘The work/life balance in startup mode was – there was none,’ says Darren Fell, CEO of online bookkeepers Crunch Accounting, which he founded in 2009 and now employs more than 150 people. ‘It was all or nothing, zero work/life balance and you’re just going for it all the time, and you’re not sleeping particularly well because you’re thinking about how to solve problems in the middle of the night.’
While building a business in undeniably more challenging than a normal nine to five, you don’t necessarily have to work every hour God sends to build a successful business.
Teresa Scott founded Kennedy Scott, a back-to-work services company for the very purpose of mixing her business ambitions with her desire to raise a family. ‘I thought it would enable me to keep working throughout child-rearing years and it did indeed do that – it gave me the flexibility to enjoy both.’
Obviously the most basic step in keeping a healthy balance is scheduling time to not be working so you can take care of the other things in your life – whether that’s looking after your kids, to exercise or just to unwind.
Fell admits that as the business becomes larger and more stable this becomes a lot easier. Five years after launching he felt comfortable enough with where the business was and the quality of his team to take a few months off, which he used to fix up a house and visit Australia.
But actually managing your time is just half the battle. ‘I think one way where people don’t get the balance right is mentally, in terms of you’re doing one job and always fretting that you should be doing something else, like you’re at work and you’re fretting you should be doing something with your family or vice versa,’ says Alice Weightman, CEO and founder of headhunters Hanson Search.
‘Whatever choice you make stand by it – guilt is a waste of energy because it stops you from being a great parent when you’re with your kids and from really focusing on your work when you’re in the office.
‘Whatever balance you decide on, when you have that time make sure it’s proper time rather than doing half a job. When your children need your attention make you sure you give them your attention, rather than being on your Blackberry and answering emails.’
Stop thinking about time not working as time not put to good use. For a lot of business owners, getting away from the desk is a valuable chance to clear your head and get fresh inspiration. ‘It’s really important to have some head space and thinking space and time,’ says Weightman.
‘It’s important to think creatively and go and meet with your friends and do other things because I think that’s inspirational time when good ideas come to you. I used to always see that as wasted time but now I don’t, I really value that quality time.’
‘In Japanese culture part of the process of relaxation is not doing nothing, but doing something else with an intensity,’ adds serial entrepreneur Ed Bussey, who is presently CEO and founder of content marketing agency Quill.
‘I’ve known that myself along the way. If you go and do a circuit class, go for a run, go and do a yoga class, that gives your mind focus. I think our minds get habitual and you start thinking in certain patterns and getting into a cycle. In my experience you’ve got to do something very different to break the end of the day.’