It’s a perennial question, don’t you think? How to create work-life balance? And that can be especially true when you work for yourself. Then when you throw other ‘life commitments’ into the mix – children, aging parents etc – it can be even more of a challenge. But yet how to create work-life balance is such an important question. Why? Because entrepreneurs often work far more hours in the average week than a typical worker. This article by Startups contains some startling statistics on the size and scale of the difference.

But why is this important? Sure, you might be thinking, an entrepreneur needs to put the time in if they are expected to achieve any level of success in their business?

This is true to a point, as the responsibility for that success is on you. However, putting in unlimited hours is risky. It leads to overwhelm. And that overwhelm can eventually lead to burnout.

No-one his deathbed ever said ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office’.

Paul Tsongas

Don’t get me wrong – I’m the first person to advocate for entrepreneurship. Working for yourself is an incredibly hard, but incredibly rewarding journey. But it can also be draining, stressful and incredibly challenging. Which makes it so important that the entrepreneur learns to look after themselves first. Because only when that happens can they really and truly look after their business.

What does work-life balance mean to you?

To illustrate this, we asked Ella Biggs, founder of Social Ella, what work-life balance means to her. Here’s what she said:

“For me, work life balance is one of the most important parts of my business and is the main reason I decided to run my own business in the first place. Ensuring that I take time out for myself is essential to both my happiness and productivity and therefore the smooth running of my business.

However, maintaining the balance can be easier said than done! There are so many tips and tools that can help you maintain your work life balance; not checking work emails past a certain time, making sure you take time out for yourself and your family and setting goals and priorities.

One thing that really helps me is setting firm boundaries. This doesn’t have to be complicated and can be as simple as blocking out time in the diary each day to go for a walk. You may decide that you are going to work a four day week or finish early on a Friday. You may be run down and know that you need to take time out to rest. Whatever you decide, in order for boundaries to work you must stick to them and communicate this with your clients.”

But what about you? Before you go on to read the remainder of this blog, pause for a second, and think – what does work-life balance mean to you? And most importantly, do you have good balance? Or is it something you need to work on?

What does that mean for me?

Once we have an idea of what work-life balance means to us, we can then start to think about how to deliver it. It’s something we also cover in our coaching programme quite regularly. ‘Work-life balance’ will mean different things to different people – and as such what works for one person might not work for another. So the following tips are intended to help you to create a work-life balance that works for you, rather than to encourage you to do particular things.

1. Think about your non-negotiables

These are the things that you really, really need to happen. For some people, it will be a daily walk. For others, it could be making sure you have enough time to read before bed. Whatever they are, plan your schedule around them. Don’t fit them in as and when you have gaps in between your other commitments.

2. Set boundaries

We all want to provide good customer service. Of course we do. But that doesn’t mean answering your work phone outside of office hours. And you know what? Your client really won’t mind if you don’t send that email this evening. It can wait until tomorrow morning.

3. Be selfish

It really is ok to put yourself first. If a business opportunity doesn’t float your boat, or risks causing you stress, you don’t have to take it. If a customer is making unreasonable demands, you don’t have to fulfil their request. Equally, if scaling up your business doesn’t feel right, right now, you don’t have to do it. Spend some time in the consolidation phase for a while, and give yourself a break!

But whatever work-life balance looks like for you, commit to it. And remember that you – the business owner – are the most important factor in the entrepreneurial equation!

When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.

Paul Coehlo