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Finding work-life balance as a busy entrepreneur

(Photo credit: imtmphoto/iStock.com)

“Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

It’s a classic platitude you’ll hear from a lot of entrepreneurs. But let’s face it, starting your own business can feel like a lot of work, even if you’re passionate about your operation.

Entrepreneur Neil Martin is that passionate. In fact, he believes the “Love what you do…” line, but he admits that when it comes to, say, doing corporate taxes the hours start to feel a lot longer.

“It’s not a standard job,” Martin says. “I’m sort of always working.”

The young co-founder of Project Spaces, a Toronto co-working space, is kind of on-duty 24/7, since those are the hours his business is available. Requests from new members go right to his phone and, “If I’m awake, I’ll send a text right away,” he says.

The ability to instantly connect to a business owner is a selling feature, but certainly doesn’t make for a 9-to-5 lifestyle. “I haven’t quite figured out balance,” says Martin.

He’s not alone. While many will caution workers about burnout, some entrepreneurs insist that “real winners” don’t take breaks. Between your personal life and your professional goals, it’s hard to know what to give up. Here are a few things to keep in mind no matter what stage your business is at.

Really, really love what you do

You’re going to be spending a lot of time with this idea or product, so make sure it’s something you can stand behind wholeheartedly. Dedicating even 40 hours a week to a job you despise is bad enough, let alone 80-100.

Decide what balance means for you

“Balance” in this case needn’t mean total equality. Starting a business requires a lot more TLC than your average job, so it stands to reason that your life will skew workwise for at least the first year.

Maybe, for you, balance means 80 per cent work, 20 per cent personal life, but when you’re taking that free time, you’re 100 per cent unplugged. One of the perks of owning your business is making the schedule, so do yourself a favour and pick one that works for you.

Schedule breaks into your day

You know how easy it is to get wrapped up in a task and forget to eat lunch, or even to stand up from your desk for 10 minutes a day? That’s where scheduling comes in. If you put it in your calendar, you’ve got an automatic reminder you can’t ignore and a blocked-off section of time that’s all yours. Plus, taking breaks sets a good example for your employees. You don’t want team members burning out just trying to keep pace with you.

A group of coworkers eat Chinese food around a table during lunch time.(Photo credit: vgajic/iStock.com)

Delegate

As much as the new business might be the centre of your universe, that doesn’t mean you need to deal with every rogue planet that comes into orbit. Hate doing taxes? Hire someone to do them for you. Does every piece of copy need proofreading? Pass it along to someone else.

These tasks, while certainly important to your business, take you away from your focus of getting the business off the ground in good shape. You’re likely already burning the candle at both ends, so if someone on your payroll has the skills to get a task done, let them! That’s what you pay them for.

Letting go of a few things might even be the key to your company’s success.

Keep your mind and body in shape

You’re already working your brain all day, but don’t neglect your body or there could be consequences. Besides the very real possibility of burnout — the symptoms of which include anxiety, depression, insomnia and worse — chronic stress is a very real problem for entrepreneurs. No job is worth working yourself to an early grave. Eat breakfast, get up and move around, sleep, and use some of that me-time in your schedule to hit the gym.

Neil Martin has his own little trick to make sure healthy lifestyle is always top of mind. “I literally carry my laptop in my gym bag,” he says, “so the gym bag is always there as a reminder.”

Many entrepreneurs’ ventures don’t make it as far they hoped, but don’t let your health go down with the ship. Your body and business will thank you.