The pressure small business owners experience as they get their business off the ground can be challenging because they also need to stay healthy in order to be productive. We asked experts to share their go-to work-life balance tips for employers, helping them maintain a balanced lifestyle while leading their team to maximize business growth.
Here are 25 expert work-life balance tips for small business owners:
Pushkar Gaikwad, CEO & Founder, AeroLeads
1. Create a Schedule of Priorities
The first thing you need to do is prioritize the work in terms of importance and urgency. Make a list of such tasks and follow them from top to bottom. You also need to do time boxing. You can allocate certain hours for the tasks and after the time, move on to other tasks. I use the Pomodoro technique, where I work for 25 minutes, take a break, and then again work for 25 minutes. There are some really good apps on iOS and Google Play store for this.
Michael Blank, CEO & Author, MichaelBlank
2. Set Attainable Goals
To find a better work-life balance, set goals for your finances, career, and relationships. You may decide to make a date night with your spouse a priority once a week. For health, your goal may be to eat right and go to the gym two to three times a week. It’s really important to set attainable goals so you can feel good about them. Schedule those things on your calendar so you have the time blocked off for what is most important to you.
Warren H. Cohn, CEO & Founder, HeraldPR
3. Go to Sleep Early
This tip leads to a lot of other small business benefits, as it has a snowball effect. When I go to sleep early, I am able to wake up around 5:00 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., which gives me time for meditation, prayers at my local synagogue, and heading to the gym. Getting my headspace right before a long and certain-to-be-stressful day is the best thing I can do for myself. That prepares me for whatever comes my way, as I am calm and have endorphins and lots of other juices flowing. This early morning time without all the emails and so on also allows me to read the news and to be prepared with ideas for stories for clients and other business opportunities.
4. Get Organized
April Kirkwood, Therapist, Author & Speaker, AprilKirkwood
It takes 33 repetitions to create a habit for yourself and those around you. That’s what it takes to transform your work habits so that your schedule runs efficiently. If it goes well, encourage others so everyone can follow your lead, both at home and at work. Imitation is the best form of flattery, and, after all, you’re a leader. Leaders guide, create, and set an example—including joy.
Maggie Alland, Marketing & Review Editor, Fit Small Business
Small business owners are aware that calls from potential customers can come in at any time. This makes work-life balance impossible to achieve without worrying about missing out on the next big client. Ruby Receptionists is an answering service that allows you to hire virtual assistants to take messages and relay basic information to your customers while you’re away. Their team of courteous and friendly receptionists ensures that you never miss any calls from current clients and leads. Click here to try Ruby Receptionist today and enjoy a 21-day money back guarantee with no long-term contracts to sign.
6. Shape Work Around Your Lifestyle
Heather Adams, Founder & CEO, Choice Media & Communications
So many people do the opposite. They let their work define their lifestyle. I reversed this mentality, rather than allowing work to dictate how I spent my time. For me, that means family always comes first. Period. I explain that to everyone who I work with in any capacity (e.g., our team, clients, and partners).
7. Automate Tedious Tasks
Jay Bhatt, Vice President, Brand & Small Business Advocate, Breakout Capital Finance, LLC
Automate the time-consuming, yet tedious tasks, like submitting and filing expenses. Find an app or software that can manage these tasks (you’d be surprised to see what is out there). If it’s time-consuming yet extremely important (like managing your books and cash flow), consider hiring a company to do it for you or hiring someone to manage it for you. Time is money; consider the hours spent per month and determine if hiring someone is a more cost-effective solution.
8. Turn Off Your Gadgets
Chloe Brittain, Owner, Opal Transcription Services
As an online business owner, I spend a lot of my day staring at a screen. Not surprisingly, research shows that too much screen time can contribute to depression, insomnia, and other cognitive issues. My suggestion for other small business owners is to block off some time each day (preferably before bed) to get away from their mobile devices. The best way to avoid the temptation to check work-related emails is to put your mobile device in another room where you won’t see or hear it. If you read in the evenings, it can help to read a real book instead of an iPad.
9. Develop a Strong Personal Support Network
Harvey Deutschendorf, Emotional Intelligence Expert, The Other Kind of Smart
People who have achieved good balance have a strong support network they can depend upon to help them get through difficult times. They develop this by extending themselves to help out in their family circles and communities. This provides them with a strong support network they can rely upon when they need to get away or refresh themselves. They develop a variety of interests and are always open to new learning and possibilities. They stay curious, open, and want to experience life to the fullest.
10. Treat Yourself to Lunch
Natalie Wise, Self-Discipline Expert & Author, NatalieWise
I recommend making a lunch reservation at a restaurant once a week. This is not a meeting. No one else is invited. Just you, for an hour, sitting with nothing to do but decompress and people-watch (and eat, of course). It’s important that it be recurring so you can schedule around it. You must prioritize this; never cancel on yourself. Canceling on yourself tells the emotional side of your brain, “You aren’t worthy.” This internal self-talk erodes your self-confidence, your energy, you focus, your emotional availability for friends and family members, and eventually erodes your health.
11. Create a Space for Your Kids at Work
John Lamb, Owner, Backbeat Music Academy
I’m a single father with full custody in addition to being an overworked business owner. There’s no getting around having to spend too many hours at work in the beginning. Most of the mistakes are yet to be made and the systems just aren’t in place yet to handle them. You need to be there.
My tip is to create a space for your kids at work. I have an area for him to work on his homework, and a dedicated Xbox for him to play with his friends, or for me to play with him online when he’s at home and I’m not. This way, I get to see him a lot more and am able to check in.
12. Build a Team You Trust
Jay Stalls, Marketing Specialist, Triangle Pest Control
The key to a successful work-life balance is to build a team you trust. Without that, you will spend your free time worrying about the work of your employees, if their projects are being completed on time, or if one of the teams is being well-managed without your oversight. Implement systems and procedures for the many tasks your employees do. When a task is done well, have that employee create a process, or update the existing process, to set the new standard for how that task should be executed.
13. Schedule Around Your Most Productive Hours
Whitney Asher, CEO & B(r)and Strategist, The Marketing Mixtape
Realizing my most productive hours are in the morning, I’ve found it’s helpful to structure my day to maximize my productivity. My job involves project-based work as well as consultations, so I start mornings with projects or campaigns that require the most attention to detail. Mid-morning is when I’ll begin fielding new business leads with inquiry calls, leading into the afternoon when I schedule meetings with clients, networking events, or presentations.
14. Implement a Strict No-work Policy
Bethany Parker, VP of Operations, Xero Americas
Taking time to recharge isn’t just good for your mental and physical health—it’s the smart thing to do for your business. Studies have shown that increased stress leads to reduced productivity, while decreased stress levels lead to increased productivity. So, it’s essential that you give yourself, and your team, license to shut down. Make sure that everyone agrees to the same rules: no weekend work, no emails, no “emergency” calls (unless it’s really an emergency). And, if you’re the boss, it’s even more important that you model this behavior.
15. Network With Like-minded Professionals
Dale Cook, CEO & Co-founder, Learn to Live
Reach out to other small business owners in your community and take time to attend networking events in your field. Each of us must build up our ability to maintain a sense of constant between the highs and lows of our days if we want to continue moving forward. Resilience is the key to a CEO or president making it through the inevitable “hero to zero” moments that come with operating a company.
16. Create a Workplace Learning Library
Alexis Korman, Co-owner & CMO, Big Easy Bucha
The concept is simple: Anyone can donate a book, and anyone can check out a book in order to encourage checking in with themselves. Even five minutes away from screen time per day can be extremely refreshing. Small business owners just need a few shelves and space to read.
17. Follow Healthy Micro Habits
Andreea Stroie, Co-founder, FreshForPandas
Regardless of the number of setbacks or successes you’ve faced, focus on creating a system of healthy micro habits that remind you of your identity outside of your business. And start doing so with deciding what your foundation of happiness is. My personal must-haves are: phone a close friend or my family for 10 minutes daily, cook a quick healthy meal for another 10, meditate for another 10, exercise for another 10, and share a meal with my partner.
18. Use Tools to Enable Remote Work
Jeff Dickerson, CEO, DaySmart
As their small business grows, owners may find themselves spending more time at the store processing payroll, sorting out schedules and reconciling payments—among other operational priorities. Thankfully, cloud technology can help foster a greater work-life balance; comprehensive business apps, integrated with the cloud, give users the ability to access in-store data without having to be in-store. As a result, owners are given the flexibility to run their businesses from anywhere, at a time that best works for them. Small business owners should choose a business management software that is web-based and lets them have access to what they need, wherever they may be.
19. Turn Off Your Push Notifications
Sherman Lee, Forbes Author & Partner, Zeroth
Turn off push notifications on non-critical apps or all apps altogether. I used to think receiving every single notification was important. What if you missed an important email? A text message? Or a Facebook message from a colleague? As both a founder and investor, I learned that push notifications on the wrong things actually pull you in a million directions. Be extremely diligent about what kind of notifications you allow. Stay heads down and be focused.
20. Take Breaks
Sarah Hancock, Chief Editor, BestCompany
When all of your goals are tied to your work, it can be difficult to take needed breaks and spend time on other important things because you’re so driven to achieve success. One thing that can help improve work-life balance is to set and write down measurable goals specifically in the life aspect of the equation.
For example, if you’d like to spend more time with loved ones, set a goal to go out with them at least once a week. If you enjoy music, set a goal to learn how to play the guitar. If you want to be more active, set a goal to participate in a half marathon. It will fulfill your drive to succeed while also giving you a break from work, allowing you to give attention to other things that matter.
21. Make Sure to Appreciate Your Family
Laura Bechard, Senior Advisor, ProVision Business Advisors
Business leaders are often laser-focused on generating sales or doing the operational work that they may forget to make sure the individual shouldering the family leadership responsibilities is appreciated. Without expressing appreciation, the family leader feels abandoned, is lonely, and feels unappreciated. The family leader may feel that the family always plays second fiddle to the business. The business leader may also feel unappreciated because, after all, they are putting all these hours into the business for the family’s benefit. If communication breaks down and the family leader’s values become misaligned with the business leader’s values, crisis may erupt.
22. Create Strong Boundaries & Stick to Them
Dominique Mas, Personal & Performance Coach for High Performers, Lead With A Twist
Reflect on what would you like to see in your life and identify what boundaries you need to set in order to get there. Tell people what you are doing to help you keep accountability. For example, if you say you’re not going to work past 5 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays because you want to spend time with friends or a loved one, who can help you make sure this happens? Learn to say no to those people who tend to steal your time. Perhaps instead of meeting someone for coffee, you offer to meet them on a video call and save travel time.
23. Start Your Day With a Plan
Amira Irfan, Lawyer & Entrepreneur, ASelfGuru
One of the easiest ways to create a work-life balance is to take five minutes at the beginning of each day to plan and map out your day. Prioritize your work, don’t work on concurrent projects at a time, and set work hours and stick to them! Design your day with what you need to accomplish and how long will it take you to complete those tasks. Be as detailed as you need to be. You will find that doing this short exercise in the mornings will set the tone for a productive day ahead.
24. Practice Focused Breathing
Conni Ponturo, Owner, Absolute Pilates Upstairs
This tip has saved me when I get stressed and overwhelmed. It is simple and easy to do anywhere. Sit back in your chair with both feet on the ground and back supported against the chair. Then close your eyes and inhale in for two counts, hold the breath for two counts, and slowly exhale as if blowing out through a straw for two counts. Do this for five or six times; when you open your eyes, you are present, in the moment, and clear, able to make decisions much better.
25. Have Dinner With Your Family
Ketan Pande, Founder, GoodVitae
Make this a rule. No matter how busy your schedule is, make sure to have dinner with your family. This is a valuable time to interact with your kids and spouse. You can go back to work afterwards. Having a conversation about the day while having dinner can assure your family members that you appreciate them, and don’t just prefer work.
Small business owners will push themselves until they spend all their energy, forgetting that success doesn’t come overnight. Part of a solid business foundation is creating a work-life balance for themselves. Follow our expert work-life balance tips for employers and prepare yourself for the long-haul task of getting your business off the ground.
Did we miss out on your favorite work-life balance tips? Let us know in the comments.