It’s not exactly news that running your own business is a major commitment of time. A common saying in business circles is that entrepreneurs work 80 hours a week to avoid working a 9 to 5. At times that can feel true, especially in the early stages and during periods of rapid growth, but work doesn’t need to take over your personal life. I started my own company because I wanted a way to support my growing family that allowed me the flexibility to spend time with them and be a good mom. It’s important for me to be a good role model for my children and show them they can be whatever they want to without losing out on the people and things you love.
It’s been a learning process, but in the five years Wine & Design has been in business, I’ve developed several habits that help me maintain a healthy work/life balance:
Take time to unplug
Disconnecting from work at the end of the day is probably the most important thing you can do to create balance. To the greatest extent possible, you need to designate hours during the day that are focused on work and carve out time that’s exclusively for the most important things in your personal life – in my case, that’s my family. Turn off notifications and put your phone away when you get home. As soon as I walk through the front door, my focus shifts completely; doing this helps me eliminate distractions from my husband and kids and provides an opportunity to literally put work away for the day.
The best way to keep work from bleeding into your personal time is to keep your to-do list neatly organized. Make time at the end of each day to review your to-do list, making note of your progress and carrying unfinished tasks into the next day’s list. End the week by cleaning up your list and prioritizing tasks the week ahead. Accounting for what you’ve accomplished and what you still need to do at the end of each day and each week gives you a better grasp on where things stand and provides some closure, which helps you take your mind off of work at the end of the day or the week. This is crucial for helping you relax and shift your focus to your personal life during your free time.
Despite my best efforts, there are times when the work day carries over into the hours I normally dedicate to family time. If I need to take a call or respond to emails from home, I show my kids what I’m up to and explain why I’m working. It’s a great way to talk to them about what I do and help them understand and appreciate the work I’m doing. If family isn’t your primary focus outside of work, find other ways to take care of business without sacrificing the things you care about. If you have to take a call over the weekend, do it while you’re on a walk. Respond to emails between errands. Just try not to let work eat up big chunks of your nights and weekends.
Even when I faithfully practice these habits, there are still times when the demands of the job pull me away from my life outside of work. When you’re passionate about what you do and dedicated to your success, it’s inevitable. What’s most important is to limit the occasions to the best of your ability. Respect your boundaries and don’t stay glued to your email after hours or on the weekends. You’ll be happier, and you’ll notice you’re more focused and effective during the workday.
Harriet Mills is CEO and Founder of Wine & Design.