Work Life Balance - WTF is that?

By Matt Tognini

Work life balance is a very popular topic of conversation in the community. I have been running my own business for close to 20 years and I am finally at a point to say that I have a reasonable work life balance. However, it has taken close to that 20 years.  Why is this?

A couple of reasons.

Firstly, the embryonic stages of a business are hard.  The growth stages of running your own business are hard. The consolidation phase of running your own business is hard. In fact, I don’t know a stage of running your own business that is not hard.  It is tiring, time consuming and in the end immensely rewarding. Business owners mostly find that they are 24/7. They don’t down tools at 5.30 or 6 and go home and have the luxury of not thinking of the work that needs doing when they roll into the office at 8.30 the next morning.  Mostly it is working long hours and waking up in the middle of the night (if you can actually get to sleep) worrying about something that has or has not happened.

I ‘m not painting the most rosy of pictures, but on the upside if you are the type of person who is inclined to venture into business for yourself, the rewards far out way the downsides. In my view the pros very much out way the cons. Just don’t expect to be having an immense amount of free time until you can get the business to a point where it runs without you.  This being said it is important to be self-aware and understand that at some point you will need to take a break. No person can go at a 100% for ever. No engine can rev at the limit indefinitely.  Most of us have learned this the hard way.

Taking breaks is fundamental in you being able to be clear headed enough to make informed and intuitive decisions regarding not only your business, but your life.  These breaks don’t need to be month long trips to Europe (although if you can, do it!) they need only be a quick trip down south over a long weekend. Doing something like this every quarter will help keep you sane.  It can be as simple as turning your phone off after hours so clients are forced to leave a message. Setting healthy boundaries and expectations with clients.

Work Life balance when you run your own business is more akin to taking the small opportunities that present themselves to empty your mind and disconnect.  Over time you may be able to expand this. For many people their business is like their child.  If your child needs your attention you don’t shy away from it to get some balance in life but when the opportunity arises it is always nice to dump the kid with the grandparents and take off for some away time.  Eventually the child will need you less and less and that time comes all too quickly. The same can be said for your business.  Then you will reap the reward fully of all the hard graft you have put in.  You will be able to stand back and be proud of what you have built and be happy that it does not necessarily require you there all the time.