Work-life balance for small business owners leans far more toward “work” than it does “life.” We often are a single employee to our small business — or supported by only a few other people. We work nine to five, and then break for food just to work from six to midnight. Our small business threatens to become our entire life if we aren’t careful.
For many years, I worked a day-job and ran my business during nights and weekends. Nowadays, there’s a trendy term for that — side hustle. It sounds sexy, but in real life it can be exhausting.
You’ll hear your loved ones, your friends, your customers say it, when they see the bags beneath your eyes and your fingers constantly clicking on your smartphone to answer client emails: “You need to find work-life balance.”
They mean well, but I politely disagree. I think we can do one better. Instead of work-life balance for small business owners, we need to strive for work-life integration. Balance implies that both sides — work and life — are equal. That’s rarely the case.
Small business work-life integration
We gave up traditional 40-hour workweeks. We freed ourselves from bosses and office politics. We followed our dreams and are directly working to fulfill our passions.
Our ideas and the spirit of our brand are our life, in a way.
Yes, there’s more to life than work. But isn’t there more to our small business than work too?
Plus, we have enough on our plate — should we really stress ourselves out more trying to force a “healthy” work-life balance? Won’t whatever is most important to us, whatever we want to spend most of our time on anyway, organically balance itself out?
I like to think it will.
Even though Zao has been a thing for five years now, I still go through seasons of focusing more on work and seasons of balancing work into a full life. And the seasons change as fast as spring or fall in Iowa.
I’ve found that by being intentional, I can integrate my small business and my life in a harmonious way. Your small business may have factors that control your time — things like retail hours or an industry’s business season — but these guidelines have helped me.
- I consider the people that I work with my friends. From sub-contractors to clients to vendors, I maintain fulfilling relationships with the people that I work with.
- My phone is my mini-office. I make sure to have the apps I need to run my business efficiently while I’m out and about doing life.
- Setting meetings prior to 10 a.m. is something I am conscience about. I can get the sleep I need and work yoga into my morning schedule.
- Family is first. I make time for my parents, my sister, and my nieces and nephews — even if it means I have to work once everyone else is in bed. (Hence the need for sleeping later. Sleep doesn’t get sacrificed in my world.)
- I meet with a business coach that helps me keep my big picture goals in focus and assists me in balancing them with my day-to-day work.
- Errands are ran when I’m already out meeting with clients. It’s the most efficient use of my time. “Lunch hour errands” are a thing of the past!
- When I first started this business, I worried that an email sent at 11 p.m. would either a) look unprofessional or b) look like I was a workaholic. I got over it. No one cares.
- Sometime I take calls at 6pm and sometimes in the ALDI’s parking lot, but I always have a notepad ready and am focused on the client.
I pose the question to you now, small business owners! How are you integrating your business with your life for less stress and more satisfaction? Let me know your thoughts or tips in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter!