As entrepreneurs, we’re faced with constant messages all around us saying that we need to create a work-life balance. That we need to carve out family time and make it a priority that we schedule everything else around.
However, I feel that this message is often taken to extremes and directed more at the people who are seriously lacking any work-life balance. Plus, it seems to be promoted by people who have a stable financial environment that perhaps allows for a bit more time to smell the roses. I also feel that the constant presence of this message results in many people feeling guilty that perhaps they’re failing at life, which is simply a breeding ground for all levels of self-doubt.
Will I ever reach my goals? Am I neglecting my family? Will I lose my family? Will I lose my business? Should I just get a job? Will I ever be able to make ends meet? Does my family understand? Will I ever be able to take my family on a proper vacation?
But here’s the thing…
So it’s important to keep yourself in the right mindset. But I do believe that we also need to step back a little bit from the idealistic visions when we’re taking the steps to get there.
DON’T FORGET THAT THE GOAL IS BALANCE
The concept of a work-life balance shouldn’t feel like a guilt trip. So if your attempt to create “balance” makes you feel worse or more stressed, listen to your instincts, because something isn’t right.
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While it’s ironic, we actually need to create balance within our quest for a work-life balance!
Yes, we all know that we need to take time to smell the roses – but if all we ever do is smell the roses, well chances are the bills aren’t going to get paid and the roses will probably die. Since I’m pretty sure you don’t want dead roses, you shouldn’t feel guilty about not always stopping to smell them.
Over the years I’ve been drawn to many articles and videos that promote the concept of taking time to enjoy life. It’s a concept that I deeply believe in and something that I think everyone can benefit from striving for.
However, recently I’ve been diving my thoughts a little deeper into this concept and in particular on how entrepreneurs and authorpreneurs are able to relate to it.
We’re often coached to make lists of our dreams and the things that we would like to achieve in our lives. Which is a great idea, but what I find that is often lacking, is any clear guidance on what to do once we have created those lists.
The reality is that for most people, the funds aren’t available to immediately pursue many of those dreams. The more real, and immediate, pressing matters are usually more about “How do I generate enough consistent income to pay the bills, and support my family and business endeavours, without putting myself in the hospital?”
So does this mean that some people are simply destined to not pursue their dreams? I don’t believe so. But I do feel that perhaps concepts that are grounded in a little bit more real-world-life are called for – especially at the beginning.
Do I hear a sigh of relief?
Good, because here’s the thing, the whole point of creating balance is to reduce stress, not increase it. And when we’re faced with financial struggles and the task of trying to solve problems, trying to swing too much the other way will tear us apart more than it will help us.
But please don’t take this as permission to reside at the other extreme end of the scale. We already know that life is no good over there.
The real key is “balance” and I feel like we often forget that balance is the goal.
You have to know what is truly important to you. You also need to know what your external and internal challenges are.
Here’s an example:
You’re struggling with financial stability and it’s keeping you awake at night. You’re wondering how you’re going to pull off making ends meet this month. How you’re going to increase business so that you can keep things going. How you’re going to afford your child’s school trip next week. How you’re going to tell your spouse that you can’t afford to do your regular date night tomorrow. You wonder when you’ll actually be able to go on a vacation with your family.
Basically your thoughts spiral out of control and chances are they make everything seem much worse than it really is.
But let’s face it, if family time was your only driving concern, then chances are you’d stop doing what you’re doing and get a job that pays the bills. But you’re an entrepreneur (or authorpreneur); you’re as passionate about what you DO as you are about your family, and thus find yourself in this tug-of-war predicament.
Getting the money is an external challenge. Losing your business and disappointing your family are internal challenges. Armed with the self-awareness of these factors will actually enable you to manage the situations much more efficiently and with less stress.
This isn’t a therapy session, so I’m not going to dive too deep here – but I will say that at the root of things, quite often the best way to deal with the internal challenges component is communication. Have open and honest conversations with the people who are impacted. Part of this conversation should also revolve around what “balance” actually means and looks like for your family or in your life – it’s entirely possible that “balance” in your life is not a 50/50 split of your time.
We understand that a work-life balance is likely to produce better end results. But in striving for that balance it’s important that we’re realistic and that we’re inclusive with the people in our lives who may be affected by the goals we set and the decisions we make.
In doing this, chances are that you’ll find yourself feeling like you’ve just managed to take a massive step in the right direction towards a work-life balance. At this point you can then allow your internal challenges to become a positive, motivating, driving force behind your actions, rather than a negative cause of stress.
In some circumstances “balance” does not necessarily mean an “equal allocation” of time – this is an important distinction.
While “balance” and creating a “work-life balance” have become somewhat buzz terms, I’m not so sure that “balance” is completely the right word. Mainly because it immediate conjures up an image of scales in balance. But the reality of life has never been a division of equal hours between the different priorities in our life. We don’t even allocate equal hours between our various work projects.
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I definitely understand the concept of being an entrepreneur in order to create more freedom to do what we want with our time, that’s all part of that big picture… but it doesn’t mean that by default we no longer have to put in the time as required, or that we can afford to not put the time in. Especially when we’re starting out or trying to pull out of a slump.
Sometimes, trying to apply an equal allocation of time and resources between two different areas of our lives can in fact create stress rather than alleviate it.
So what the heck are we supposed to do? Well first, take a deep breath.
We don’t know what we don’t know. So the first step is in fact to get a handle on the big picture and the big goals, with the understanding that the big picture won’t be the starting point of our actions. Your big picture should also be a combined vision of both work and personal desires.
Once you’ve got a clearer vision of the big picture (and don’t worry about it being perfect), then you’ll want to work backwards. For every end result desired, there will be a pre-requisite step needed to precede it.
As you work backwards from your big picture, you’ll start to see the specific goals and steps necessary to get there and you’ll see whether they fall under personal or work goals. Eventually you’ll work your way back to exactly where you are at this moment and you’ll have a much clearer blueprint of what your next steps need to be and what the “balance” in fact looks like for you today and each day moving forward. The image below offers good representation, clarifying that balance is more about equity rather than equality. The ultimate goal for all of us is to remove the systemic barriers that prevent us from living the life we truly want to live.
Image source: http://culturalorganizing.org/the-problem-with-that-equity-vs-equality-graphic/
To take this one step further, there’s a popular method of time allocation that may come in handy.
Take a 7 day span (168 hours in total) and mark down the hours for sleep and then meals, personal hygiene, laundry and housekeeping; then allocate the total number of hours for work (I recommend 40-50 hours per week to start with), the remaining hours are the free hours to allocate to family or personal endeavours. Keeping in mind that meals and housekeeping type tasks can be structured as family time as well.
Once you have these hours broken down you may even want to grid them out as a schedule. If you do, be sure to allocate the highest priority tasks and events first, both for work and personal things. Think of your schedule as a jar that you want to fill. The highest priority items are the big rocks that need to go in first. All the rest (pebbles, sand, and water – respectively) can then be added in layers to fill the gaps. This is a great step towards a work-life balance because it ensures that you’re giving priority to the big things that matter most.
From there you’ll be able to take the blueprint of your goals, the steps you need to take, how long they’ll each take etcetera and slot them in to your calendar giving you a much more accurate picture of the timeline required to reach your goals and milestones.
For some of us, just trying to wrap our heads around any goals give us a headache. There are entire courses dedicated to the art of effective goal setting, but even if a goal setting course doesn’t fit your schedule or finances right now, you can still get a basic handle on this concept, it doesn’t need to start out perfect. As my mentor Stu McLaren frequently says “It doesn’t have to be perfect, just get it started.” So I suggest you start this journey with a little bit of research and Michael Hyatt is an excellent resource in this area. Below are a few links for you to have a gander through over a cup of coffee or tea. Come back to these once you’ve finished this article.
https://michaelhyatt.com/goal-setting.html – beginner’s guide
https://michaelhyatt.com/tag/goal-setting – archive of goal setting articles
https://michaelhyatt.com/season-4-episode-08-goal-setting-for-beginners-podcast.html – podcast episode on goal setting for beginners
At the end of the day, focus on keeping things simple. The point of addressing your goals is to give you a blueprint. You need to know where you are and where you want to be, in order to figure out the steps required to bridge that gap. Armed with this information it will become much clearer on how to establish the right work-life balance for you and to keep moving in the right direction.
Key points to remember:
- Create a blueprint of specific steps.
- Set a realistic amount of time to complete those steps, that can be broken down into a daily or weekly component of your schedule.
- Work on the steps for a specific, allocated amount of time as per your blueprint.
- Schedule a check point to review those steps and your progress.
- Make adjustments, as necessary, to your blueprint for the next leg of the journey.
This process can be followed for our big picture and every single business and personal goal that we want to achieve.
Know where you are.
Know where you want to be.
Breakdown the steps to bridge that gap.
Create milestone check points and course correct if necessary.
Smelling the roses along the way should absolutely be a part of the steps and milestones, but don’t feel like you’re failing at life if they’re not your primary focus. Contrary to popular belief, being passionate about your work is not a bad thing. Remember, the goal is “balance” – not to swing from one extreme to the other. Give yourself the permission of time to conquer your goals and achieve your work-life balance.
One final, parting thought… you don’t have to face this alone. We all need accountability and someone to help keep us grounded. This can be someone you’re close with or it could be someone like-minded from a group that you’re a member of. Having that person can be a massive stress reliever too. If you’re not sure where to find a group with like-minded people that you might be able to connect with, you’re welcome to join us at the Panoptic Foundations Facebook Group… this is exactly what we’re here for.
About the Author
Tanya Jones (Thibodeau) is the owner and publisher of the Gateway Gazette, a digital media news source. Tanya has 12 years of experience in publishing and marketing and 25 years of experience in various business sectors. While offering most “do-it-for-you” marketing services is not part of her business model, she has spent a great deal of time over the last 12 years researching and learning about the ins and outs of marketing, solely for the purpose of being able to pass that knowledge on to help clients. This passion has expanded into a new venture called Panoptic Foundations where they teach entrepreneurs & authorpreneurs how to create and maintain a thriving online presence, from scratch, with ease, even if you’re not techie.
Are you looking for more detail, how-to and guidance? Consider joining our Membership – we dive into the detailed “how-to” of creating, establishing and maintaining an Online Presence for your business in an incredibly easy, step-by-step manner that is guaranteed to get you there without overwhelming you and you’re completely supported throughout it all.