Question #8 How can I manage my business and still have a life?
This is the eighth in a series of thoughts and opinions by Graham Edwards and Renée Cormier — click here to read the backstory and inspiration (if only for the entertainment). It should be noted that neither of us have seen or discussed our answers before they are posted, which in our mind makes this all the more interesting.
In this blog series we will attempt to answer ten different questions business owners may need answered, using our individual and unique perspectives and approaches. It is our hope that this series will inspire both action and interaction. Please feel free to comment and ask more questions.
When I first read this question I could not help but slip into “Capricorn mode” and wanted to go off on a tangent about the whole Work-Life balance concept; something I’ve noticed that tends to get kicked around when people find themselves working more than they would like.
For those of you not familiar with the “astrological arts” let me offer up a Capricorn’s perspective regarding work — Capricorns are the most determined of the entire Zodiac, and the most prominent qualities of the Goat (as they are called) are ambitious, conservative, determined, practical and helpful. They make good team leaders and organizers because of their single-minded focus on their work, sense of responsibility and sincerity. They are perceived by people around them to be workaholics, unemotional and detached. Sometimes their negative qualities — suspicious, resentful, inhibited, pessimistic and stubborn are seen clearly, but deep inside the Goat is a humble heart. * (In fact, you should probably stop reading this and get back to work <insert smiley face>… sorta.)
Say what you will about the utility or validity of knowing I’m a Capricorn, it does make a nice segue into a perspective of Work-Life balance and more importantly scratching at an answer for Question #8.
I have always truly disliked the term Work-Life balance and not just because I was born in mid January — I believe the term is misleading as it suggests there should be balance between work and everything else. If you are truly looking for balance you should be considering a number of things that all carry importance in our lives:
- Work and Career
- Personal growth
- Rest, Play, and Reflection
This is by no means a complete list (or even academically accurate I suspect) but the important point to be made is that the more appropriate term probably should be “Life Balance” — work does not own fifty percent of the equation. The Capricorn in me also wants to defend work because more often than not it becomes the fall guy when other aspects of your life get fucked up as a result of willful neglect. I have far from mastered any of this (and don’t even get to sit at the adult table when it comes up in conversation) but I do know enough to understand it has to be viewed as a LIFE BALANCE for you to be successful.
And now to the question at hand — how can I manage my business and still have a life? Here is what I know (with none of it influenced by the stars) —
1. If you want to be successful (at anything) you will have to work very, very (add another very) hard — and this work will be very time consuming, particularly in the beginning. There is no way to avoid it so it’s important to be efficient, effective and ensure you are doing something you enjoy.
2. Hire people you trust. To build any business you will need people to help you and it is very important that you trust them — you will be asking them to work hard for you and they will if you let them.
- Delegate when you can.
- Understand the talents of the people you work with and use that talent.
- Don’t micromanage the people you work with (actually don’t micromanage in general)
3. Measure what you do in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. You should be forever vigil in stopping any work that offers little or no value, as well as striving to do what you do faster (without compromising quality). Finding TIME (like customers and revenue) is extremely important — then you can decide what to do with it.
4. Don’t use work as a reason to avoid other aspects of your life — it will call catch up with you in the end.
5. Don’t forget your Life balance, and more importantly don’t dismiss it — it is where true success and fulfilment is found.
I met a man in his early seventies a little while back who was selling his business for health reasons — in our discussions he felt it important to mention one of his mistakes over the years was not delegating enough to his employees; he made a point of saying he truly regretted it. As we parted company I couldn’t help wonder if his inability to trust and delegate didn’t permeate through the rest of his life, and although he had a successful business, his lack of a life balance was killing him.
Who am I to say, I’m just a Capricorn working to answer the question.
As a postscript I must say Capricorns aren’t workaholic stick-in-the-muds — ask any Virgo or Scorpio.
* I found this on-line at www.ganeshaspeaks.com
Business owners often find themselves at a loss to balance their personal lives and the demands of their work. I may not have all the answers, here, but I do know that people always make time for things that are really important to them. So I guess the first thing on the list of things to do in order to create balance is to get your priorities straight. Guard your time to nurture relationships with your family and friends, before they all disappear from your life. Set boundaries around activities that are not related to business. For example, make a point of eating dinner with your family every day. I often shut my cell phone off at 8:00 PM. There is rarely anything that happens after that time that can’t be tackled in the morning.
Several months ago, Graham and I were speaking with a business owner about his business and he admitted to being unwilling to grow his business because he already had too much work to do. I often think about how people like Sir Richard Branson, who own large corporations with multiple interests, manage their time. I can assure you, they do not try to do everything themselves. They delegate and trust in the ability of others to make decisions and do good work. That brings me to the second point on the list, I guess. Hire good people, empower them and delegate!
Once you hire good people you can delegate responsibilities to, you will be able to do the third thing on the list. Free up time to look after your own health and well-being. Eat good quality food. Set aside time for regular exercise, meditation, reading, or doing things that allow you to recharge your battery. If you don’t make time for those things, you will find yourself on an operating table and incapacitated for an extended period of time. What good will you be then?
The fourth thing, although, not necessarily less important than any of the others mentioned in this post, is to love what you do. Doing work that excites or inspires you keeps your energy level up. Focus on things you are really good at, because they will actually take you less time to complete, and you will do them well. Let others deal with tasks you don’t like as much (see the tip about delegating).
The fifth thing I would suggest would be to evaluate the importance of each task. How much time do you spend on time wasting activities which ultimately rob you of the balance you crave? Be sure to evaluate who you meet with, how you meet (phone or face to face) and when you meet with people. Save your most productive hours for the most important tasks. Let other people handle things that are not the greatest use of your time and commit to not doing anything that really doesn’t add value to your life.
The last piece of advice I can give to those seeking balance is to examine what drives you and how it relates to your self-perception. What is your definition of success? What are your emotions around money? How does your value for hard work relate to your self-worth? Are you only as good as the work you do? Does everything have be perfect in order to be good enough? Is it wrong to take a break when there is so much that needs to be done? We have a lot of stories that we tell ourselves that may not always be grounded in truth or logic. Just because someone once called you lazy, doesn’t mean you are. Just because you grew up poor, doesn’t mean you always will be at risk for poverty. You are not a failure if you make a mistake or disappoint someone. If you want balance in your life, then you really need to claim it, and know that that is something you don’t have to justify to anyone. Life is supposed to be a rich and joyful experience, but you must choose to make it that way.
Thanks to the social media platform beBee, Renée Cormier & Graham Edwards developed a business relationship and friendship that typically involves regular meetings, goal setting sessions, etc. Our meetings often provide the fuel for plans around business strategy, blog ideas and more.