6 Tips to Creating Work-life Balance for Entrepreneurs

When I was in elementary school, after my mom cleaned up our dinner dishes and made sure my homework was done, she transformed our kitchen table into a desk where she spread out all the files and books she’d brought home from her business.  Some nights, she’d work until well after midnight before packing everything away so she could sleep a few hours before it was time to wake me up, make breakfast, and get me off to school.  I remember wondering, even at a young age, how she kept going.

For my mom, juggling the roles of entrepreneur, mother, and wife was a bit of an anomaly because not many women worked back then, much less ran a business. But today we have a name for it.  We call it work-life balance — a phrase first used in the United States in 1986.

The challenge to achieve work-life balance is even greater today than what my mom experienced. Instead of bringing work home from the office, technology keeps us connected 24/7.  When I’m on the road speaking to various groups, I am inevitably asked, “How can I build my business and have a life?” And it’s not only women who are asking the question. Men are also searching for ways to balance their careers and their personal lives.

Striking a balance

Is the concept of work-life balance a myth or can it be a reality? Personally, I believe it is achievable.  Here are my five favorite tips to help you create work-life balance in your life.

1. Time management.

It’s easy to let circumstances control your schedule instead of taking control of the circumstances.  With smart time management, you can gain control so you don’t feel so torn between the conflicting demands of your business and your family. Schedule time for necessary workday activities — such as emails, phone calls, and meetings — but make sure you also include dedicated quiet work time. By allocating time for focused work without distractions, you’ll increase your productivity.  It’s equally important to schedule your personal time and make that a priority.  Unless there is an emergency, don’t allow yourself to cut into your personal time.

 2. Set boundaries.

There aren’t many people who work a traditional 40-hour week anymore. When you own your own business, it’s easy to work around the clock, seven days a week.  So to achieve work/life balance, you have to set boundaries. Be disciplined about “tuning out.”  When you’re spending time with your family, you need to be present.  In most cases, going a few hours without checking your email isn’t going to make or break your business. A mother of four and the managing director at TallGrass Public Relations, Jennifer Fleming says, “I make it a rule to stay off my phone and computer when I’m with my kids.”

3. Don’t give in to temptation.

Speaking of staying off the phone, make sure you don’t make the mistake of texting while driving.  Those who read and send text messages while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash. In a recent AT&T survey, 49 percent of commuters admit to texting while driving and 43 percent called it a habit.  AT&T is encouraging small business owners and their employees to pledge to make a personal commitment not to text and drive.

4. Just say no.

How many times have you agreed to do something, and as soon as soon as the words are out of your mouth you feel your stress level increase significantly?  Entrepreneurs are “can do” people. But it’s a simple fact of life, there are a finite number of hours in a day. So stop doing the activities that don’t enhance your business or your personal life immediately, then prioritize everything else. Remember, when you say “yes” to one thing, you’re effectively saying “no” to something else.  It’s impossible to do it all.

“Above all, don’t try to base your priorities on somebody else’s, not even your mother’s,” says Margie Summers, owner of SumSites, Inc., a customer website design and development company. “If you don’t want to — or don’t have the time or energy to — can your own veggies or bake cakes from scratch, don’t.  In fact, don’t do anything you don’t really want to do.  You’ll find you do way better at the responsibilities you choose…”

5.”Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  

Sometimes I think we’re our own worst enemies because of the expectations we set for ourselves. Running a business and trying to have a meaningful personal life is challenging enough, but then we add in things such as the need to maintain a perfect home with a beautifully landscaped lawn.  If you have children, then you feel the demands of being the “perfect” parent who participates in all their activities. Give yourself a break. You may not have the best looking lawn in your neighborhood, but you will have more time to enjoy your family and friends.

“I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff. My house is far from immaculate and sometimes a birthday present gets wrapped in creative homemade materials,” Fleming says.

6. Leverage technology to your advantage.  

Technology is a double-edged sword.  In part, it’s responsible for the crazy, busy lives we live, but on the other hand, it can help us be more productive in our businesses and our personal lives.  There are myriad mobile applications that can minimize your workload. If you’d like to learn more about what might work for your business, AT&T has information on its website which explains mobile solutions for unique small business needs.

As for as your personal productivity, browse the app store on your smart phone.  There’s a tool to help improve almost every routine task, from a personal pedometer to errand organizers and personal finance systems.  One of my favorites is an app from my grocery store. From my phone, I can order my groceries for pick up on my way home, or even better, I can have them delivered.

These are just a few of the many ways in which you can help create work-life balance. By incorporating some of these tips and finding what works best for you, you can build a successful small business and enjoy a full personal life too. It simply takes a some planning.

How have you been successful in creating a work/life balance as a small business owner? Do you have any tips you would like to share?


Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and contributor to ABC News and other outlets, public speaker and attorney. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

Susan Solovic CEO Susan Solovic Media Group About Susan