We talk about work-life balance, in general terms, but here’s one simple thought that should always be there in the background:
Your business exists to make your life better. Not vice-versa. Don’t sacrifice your life to make your business better.
I got a lot of play on Twitter recently with this simple idea. And this post is largely based on one I did two a few years ago. But this bears repeating. Of course it’s obvious, But people forget. We business owners forget way too often.
The “have-to-do” factor is infinite
Do you use what you “have to do” for your business as the constant recurring excuse for missing things that matter to people you love – soccer games, recitals, appointments, and so on? I’m sure you’ve heard the oft-repeated saying about people on their death beds not wishing they’d spent more time in the office.
I think the “have to do” factor for entrepreneurs, startups, and small business owners is essentially infinite. If you are one of us, then you can – if you want – always find a “good” business reason to not do anything but the business for the rest of your life, non stop, without anything else.
But real life is more important
Specifically, my advice (from a post I did here in 2012):
Don’t use business as an excuse for selfishness and obsession. I’ve lived through this. There is an overpowering temptation to push everything else aside and dive into the business. Everybody who wants you to do anything else is annoying, and “Don’t they realize you’re building a business?” You miss dinner, the kids’ games and teachers’ conferences, everything that matters to anybody else in your life.
So you have to draw lines and set priorities. As I was building my business my wife insisted I be home for family dinner every night I wasn’t traveling. I objected at times, but looking back, with the kids all grown up. I’m so glad. And she set vacations and paid deposits months in advance, so we had them. I’m glad for that too. I posted about that here on this blog, several years ago in True Story: Relationship vs. New Business.
You know this. But so did I, and I would have really screwed this up without reminders. So this is your reminder. Life is more important than business. And the right work-life balance isn’t 95% your business and 5% the rest of your life.