Entrepreneurs and the Elusive Work-Life Balance

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Incentives that drive entrepreneurs may vary, but generally ideas like increased flexibility, freedom and control come to mind. The internet is inundated with pages and pages of why starting your own business is so ideal. Yet only a true entrepreneur understands that initially, if a company is to become successful, most benefits will always be on the horizon.

Throughout the course of my career, I haven’t yet met a successful entrepreneur who hasn’t put in the nights and weekends. In the beginning stages, if an idea is going to work, it’s all or nothing.

However, at a certain point, it’s time to take those nights and weekends back. You’ve made it. Yet work still seems to eclipse other parts of your life. If things are going so well, why do so many entrepreneurs have trouble letting go of their survival mode?

I’ve talked to fellow entrepreneurs about this. General consensus is that it’s hard to let go. A start-up is like a baby. It’s only natural to want to continue to nurture it. But once a start-up starts to grow and thrive, rather than taking a step back, many founders find themselves micromanaging. While restricting employee growth and potentially brewing a sense of resentment amongst staff, micromanaging also inhibits a founder’s true purpose, which is big picture strategy. A football coach couldn’t properly direct a team from behind the goal. Win a few games maybe, but not the Premier League.

Micromanaging is tempting, though, because it keeps us frenetically busy, reminiscent of a time when this was necessary for the survival of our companies. Those early days are filled with highs and lows. Ups and downs. Of course, hopefully more ups than downs…

The nerves, adrenaline and excitement of starting a new business are terrifying at the time, but when things calm down, we miss it. Making the transition between this emotionally trying time to comparable stability can be strange. However, for a company to continue to thrive, it is necessary to take a step back.

Delegation at work is a skill I’ve been honing for a long time, and I have definitely improved. My employees are given a lot of responsibility. Sometimes they screw up, but usually they surprise me with their ingenuity.

More recently, hiring a virtual assistant cleared out the administration still cluttering my personal life. Besides focusing more on family, I was able to take a bigger step back and pursue three new endeavours that have had a tremendous effect on me personally, as well as having a surprisingly strong impact on my business acumen.

First off, I began to meditate. My father-in-law, a judge, first intrigued me about how meditation might fit into my lifestyle. He told me that throughout his career, meditating not only helped him manage the anxiety of the courtroom, but also provided him with tremendous insight.

More and more leaders in the corporate world are taking note of the benefits of meditation, including improved cognitive function, creative thinking, productivity, and even better health.

I meditate at least once per day and sometimes twice if I feel like I need a reboot. The time commitment is minimal but the reward is invaluable. Many of my best ideas seem to materialise when I’ve just finished meditating. I always keep a notebook next to my chair so that I can write down new ideas when I finish.

Secondly, long distance running has had a big impact on my business strategies, as well as my physical well being. In the crunch for time in running companies and spending time with family, exercise would always be first to get cast aside. At 40, I was concerned about my level of inactivity and burgeoning waistline.

My wife started running with a local group and encouraged me to give it a go. I could think of nothing worse but decided to bite the bullet and started chugging around the neighbourhood. Against the odds, I improved, and I actually began to enjoy it. On the weekends I go for my longest run. This is usually around 15K by myself. I follow a pre-determined route. I let my mind go. Sometimes my head is clear and the run reinvigorates me, and other times I return to my computer armed with ideas and solutions.

Clearing up a few hours per month has afforded me a third pursuit that has also had an invaluable affect on my work: I joined the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO). EO is a global, peer-to-peer network of more than 11,000 influential business owners operating in 48 countries.

Every month I meet with 7 fellow business members, from various industries, and we share our experiences in a safe and non-judgmental environment. It wasn’t until I joined EO that I realised how much I missed having the opportunity to discuss the trials and tribulations of running my own business. Moreover, it has been a fantastic experience to learn about what other entrepreneurs have been through, and to learn from their experiences. The EO also runs chapter-wide and global events offering loads of opportunities to learn from business experts and expand your network.

In summary, when I reflect on my journey as an entrepreneur, I could write a book about my mistakes. Thankfully I can laugh about most of them now. However, as Albert Einstein said, “The more I learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know.” The work-life balance will always be challenging but I feel like I’m making strides.

For years I thought that I’d tackled the challenge of stepping back from my company for increased clarity. It wasn’t until more recently that I realised that stepping back isn’t enough. In order to lead my organisations and provide direction, it was time for me to seek new pursuits for growth. In my case, it was meditation, long distance running and the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO). The elusive work-life balance requires that we promote growth and expansion within ourselves, as well as our companies.

By Richard Walton

Founder of Outsourcery


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