According to The Alternative Board’s January 2016 Small Business Pulse Survey, the average business owner works 49.4 hours per week—but they’d love to cut that down to 41.7.
Last year, our research showed that the number one reason business owners start a company is to be their own boss. Considering business owners are working 400 hours a week more per year than they want to be, it seems they’re no longer their own boss—the work is.
So, if you’re an entrepreneur who went into business for more freedom, flexibility, or time with family and friends, but you’ve achieved the exact opposite, it’s time to look into the root of the problem.
Below are eight ways to modify your leadership strategy, so you can be a business owner and still have a life.
1. Implement a strategic plan
Having a strategic plan begins with defining your personal vision of success. If you’re reading this article, chances are your personal vision includes having a personal life.
Perhaps that’s even more important to you than huge profits—and that’s okay! Incorporate “personal time” into your strategic plan, so all of your business decisions factor it in. Hiring one more staff member may be costly, but it could also mean more dinners at home with your family. Likewise, it might make sense for you to not take on an extra client if you are already spread thin.
Having a strategic plan focuses your efforts, so every move you make is progress toward achieving your personal vision. There’s no reason to lose time on tasks that aren’t furthering your goals.
2. Hire, hire, hire
If you think you might need to hire someone, it’s time to hire someone.
While it may seem like a big expense right now, the cost will work itself out in the long term. New employees mean new growth which means bigger profits. Hiring comes in many forms—whether full time employee or part time contractor—so it’s very doable to find someone who fits your budget.
Hire before it becomes urgent. Well-chosen employees will save you a lot of time. When new employees have a lot of relevant experience, they save you time on training. When they’re a good cultural fit, they stick around longer, saving you time from having to hire again. When they have a great work ethic, they save you time on having to check up on their work consistently.
Hiring in a pinch may be quicker in the moment, but it will waste a lot of your time in the long run.
3. Don’t be afraid to delegate
It’s no surprise that business owners are inclined to like control. Very often, it’s part of the reason they got into business in the first place. They believed that they could do something better, their way. While that may be true, holding onto the reigns forever means holding on to an enormous workload someone else could be doing.
Of course, there are ways to let go of tasks while maintaining control. Implement a system of spot checks and conduct regular reviews. Be sure all employees are trained thoroughly and all processes are documented and easily accessible for employee reference.
4. Schedule personal time
Business owners live by their calendars. In the same way you schedule meetings (and stick to them), you should schedule personal time and make no excuses.
Decide what personal events are essential to you—the kids’ sports games, family dinners, and so on—and commit them to your calendar. Make it clear to employees and clients that you are unavailable at these times; more importantly, make it clear to yourself.
5. Have a hobby
The best business owners are well-rounded and constantly growing. It’s a good idea to have a passion outside of what you do for work.
Whether it’s a sport, art, or even a wine club, having a regularly scheduled activity out of the office will get you out and meeting new people. Who knows? You may even discover some business development opportunities through these activities!
6. Go on vacation
If your business can’t live without you for a week or two, it’s in bigger trouble than you know. You can’t (and won’t) always be available to work. Taking a vacation is a good excuse to prepare your staff to operate without you, in case of an emergency.
Not only is traveling a great educational experience for any business owner, but it also provides you with necessary “unplug” time. You’ll return to your business refreshed and avoid dangerous burnout.
7. Don’t give up your friends
When you start a business, it’s easy to isolate yourself. Stay connected to the people who have nothing to do with your business. They’ll remind you that there’s a whole world that exists outside of your workload.
This help make you a more well-rounded leader, and it will also help get you out of the work mindset from time to time, which is much needed for your long term mental health.
8. Commit to your physical health
Maintaining good physical health will ensure you have a better quality of life. Get eight hours of sleep, eat foods that fuel you for success, engage in some form of physical activity a few days a week, and take walks to break up long days at the office.
Practicing healthy habits will give you the energy to go home and actively participate in your personal life—rather than falling into an exhausted slump.
As a business owner, you deserve to get out of your business what you want from life. I’d be very surprised to hear a business owner say that what they want out of life is working to the bone day after day.
If your goals include traveling, enjoying the company of those you love, or just not being at work over 50 hours a day, you need to incorporate those goals into your day-to-day decision making as well as long term planning.
Make sure all of these points are incorporated into your strategy, so you can have a successful business without having to give up your life. Your business will be better for it!
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