Everyone dreams of having a work-life balance.
That’s usually why entrepreneurs become entrepreneurs in the first place—to shrug off the nine-to-five yoke and give themselves more free time.
But I’ve spent over a decade running my own businesses and living in the entrepreneurial world, and I’ve rarely seen anyone achieve that balance right away.
In fact, most people start by throwing themselves into their business—to the detriment of everything else in their life.
I’ll freely admit that I’ve had a hard time achieving balance in my life, especially in the early days of running my own business. My mentor always told me, “You have to work 40 hours to make a living and 40 hours to make a fortune, just don’t get rid of that make-a-living money.”
Despite his warning, I did get rid of my “make-a-living money.” I quit my job before lining up a steady stream of revenue on the side. As anyone who’s been in that situation can tell you, it’s incredibly stressful. I compensated for that stress and pressure with a ton of caffeine and a junk diet. And for a few years, I got by.
Right up until I found myself in the ER with an ulcer, that is.
That trip to the hospital was the turning point for me. I realized I wouldn’t be able to enjoy anything I was building without a functioning digestive system. I had to change.
But I learned it wasn’t just my diet that was a problem. It was the larger imbalance in my lifestyle that sent me down the path to a hospital.
If you’re obsessed with your work, there will come a time when you realize you need more balance.
At some point, you’ll find out (hopefully not the way I did) that your body and mind have limits. You can’t keep burning the candle at both ends indefinitely.
After my visit to the ER, I had to establish a new routine one step at a time. I found a diet that helped ease my digestive problems. I started doing martial arts to let off some steam, learn visualization, and practice discipline. And I put myself on a normal sleep schedule—eight hours a night.
While I live a much more balanced lifestyle these days, I still have this conversation with my friends and family all the time: what’s the perfect amount of downtime?
Honestly, the answer is different for everyone. Some people need an entire weekend to recoup after the workweek. Personally, I’m a high-energy type of guy. After a few hours of relaxing, I’m ready to get back at it. Since you’re going to have to find what works for you, start thinking about it early on—before you find yourself at the end of your rope.
There’s nothing wrong with being focused on your work, but it’s better if you learn how to do it without destroying yourself in the process.
If you’re a young, hungry entrepreneur, it may seem impossible to find the balance you need. But you can take simple steps to get your head in a better place.
When you’re running a business, you’re going to have to make sacrifices. And you’re likely going to be working more than 40 hours a week. But I believe there are ways to do it without running yourself into the ground. For instance:
- Don’t make yourself available on weekends. Or, at the very least, on Sundays. If you’re constantly available, people come to expect that—and you’re going to find yourself in a vicious circle. Honestly, the vast majority of people respect it when you set reasonable boundaries.
- Take time to hang out with friends and family. Do things that are entirely unrelated to work. Catch up with the people you care about and see how they’re doing. Giving your brain a break from the business is a great way to unwind.
- Adopt the 80/20 principle (20% of the effort produces 80% of the results). I can’t harp on time management enough. The 80/20 principle is real, and you should utilize it to become more productive. “Working” all the time isn’t actually the most productive strategy. Sure, it looks impressive to people who don’t know any better, but you can get the same amount of work done by really focusing yourself for manageable periods of time.
- Listen to your body. Rest when you need to rest. Seriously, don’t be like me and wait until you’re sitting in the ER to start thinking, “Hey, maybe I should make a change.”
Get your eight hours of sleep, take breaks when you need them, give yourself space from work every now and then. And stop thinking, “I’ll make money now so I can do the things I want later.”
All that money is going to seem pretty worthless if you’ve ruined your relationships and health to get it.