The question of “Work/Life Balance – Myth or Reality?” is an interesting one.
About a year or so ago, my eldest daughter came home from school and needed help with a research assignment she was working on.
“Dad – how did you manage to achieve Work/Life Balance in your career?” she asked.
“Great question” I said. “What makes you think that I have achieved Work/Life Balance?”
“I’ve heard you say that you went into business to achieve a better Work/Life Balance” she responded.
What the hell was I smoking when I said that?
In so many cases, Work/Life Balance is like a mythical creature. You hear plenty about it, but you’re not convinced that it’s real.
You know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone that has apparently achieved it, but there’s no real evidence…just hearsay.
And when you start to look at your own circumstances, you realise that you have more chance of running through the woods with the Yeti or going for a swim with Nessie in Loch Ness then ever achieving it for yourself.
Yet, we all contend that the concept of Work/Life Balance is paramount for our health and sanity.
But I would argue that it is not so much about “Balance” as it is about “Co-existence”. In my mind, Balance conjures up thoughts of finding the middle ground between “good vs evil” or “right vs wrong”.
To have true Work/Life Balance is to enjoy and be fulfilled by both aspects simultaneously. It shouldn’t be a case of hating one and enjoying the other to get “Balance”.
It should also mean that you are not doing too much of one or the other. Maybe this is where the “Balance” part fits in?
So – what do you need to do to turn the myth into a reality? I’d start with giving the following five (5) steps a real crack.
1. Put Processes and Procedures in Place
Just about all business owners struggle with the concept of delegation and “letting go”. That’s because in our heads, no-one can ever do the job as well as we can. Or the way we do it. Because our way is the right way – right?
In his book “E-Myth Re-visited”, Michael Gerber notes that the best way to get over this is to systemise what you do and ensure each role within the business has a process and procedure that can be easily followed.
And guess who gets to write that procedure? You – as the business owner – get to write out each role the way you want it done and turn it into a procedure.
Once you are comfortable with the first procedure and the role is filled or being managed by someone, move onto the next one.
You slowly work your way through the business until such time as all roles have a specific procedure, are well defined and you have someone filling the role and following the procedure.
Now, this does take some time to complete. But before you know it, all the roles are filled with competent people who do business the way you want it done.
You’ve removed the reliance on you being “in” the business.
You can now use your spare time to work “on” the business. Or you can just go on holiday – whatever tickles your fancy. This is where you start to improve your Work/Life Balance.
2. Train and Empower Your Employees
Remember that you are the owner and manager of your business.
You are responsible for setting the targets and milestones for the business and ensuring they are met.
But – that does not mean that you have to do it all. This is where the empowerment of your employees is so important. They are a critical component in you transforming your Work/Life Balance from myth to reality.
You’ve already spent the time to put effective systems, processes and procedures in place. Now it’s all about:
- Getting the right people;
- Giving them clarity about their role and around the goals of the business;
- Delegating your workload to them and giving them the responsibility to do their job without you constantly being on their shoulder; and
- Making them accountable for their role.
It is important that you realise that your responsibilities with your employees do not end once you employ them. It’s not a set and forget.
Employees need to be managed, coached and trained.
If you leave them to their own devices, then you will find that they will be working towards their own vision and goals. This keeps you “in” the business!!!
Also, by giving them clarity around their role and responsibility, setting targets and making them accountable, they feel a sense of purpose and direction within the business. This encourages good performance which is positive for your business.
Your employees are your most important asset and resource – yet most business owners do not realise this until it’s too late.
3. If You Can’t Do It (Or Don’t Want To) – Outsource It
Most business owners feel that they need to do everything themselves and they completely lose focus on the things they do best.
What’s more, we go into business and we automatically think that we can be effective administrators, accountants, lawyers, business development managers, website developers – STOP IT!!
To improve your Work/Life Balance, you need to keep doing the things you are good at. And find good people who can do the things you can’t do (or don’t want to do).
In this Information Technology age, there are good, affordable people all over the world who are just on the other side of your computer screen.
We always baulk at the cost of a good accountant or lawyer (heaven knows I have in the past). But get the right person and they will save you a fortune in the long run.
And have a think about how much you are actually costing your business by trying to do these things yourself.
Firstly (and no disrespect intended), you are probably terrible at doing these tasks. And secondly, you should be using your time to grow the business and do things which make you money. Be the entrepreneur.
Seriously – if you can’t do it, outsourcing is the only way to go.
4. The Seven “P’s”
As a young engineer working my way up the ranks, I was always reminded by my superiors of the 7 “P’s”:
Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
What I like to do at the end of every day is spend 5-10 minutes planning what my next day will look like, putting together a list of tasks which need my attention, and then prioritising those to keep me on the path to achieving my goals and vision.
As a business owner, you need to be following a similar approach, not just for your business, but for you personally.
With regards to your business, you need to be prioritising tasks that:
- Generate new clients and sales;
- Improve the results you are getting with your current clients;
- Improve the capacity of your team to work independently;
- Enable automation of your business to run without you; and then
- The next most urgent item on your running “to do” list.
You see – the first 3 items are focused on the things that will help you reach your goals. The next items are the ones that start to get you out of the day-to-day running of the business.
5. The 80/20 Rule
Now – I am sure that most of you would have heard of the 80 / 20 Principle (or Pareto’s Law). But what does it mean and how can it save you time in your business and improve your Work/Life Balance?
Well, the 80 / 20 Principle effectively states that 20% of invested inputs bring 80% of the desired results. Or in plain English, and in a business sense:
- 20% of products or services usually account for 80% of dollar sales value; or
- 20% of customers account for 80% of a company’s profits; or
- 20% of your effort brings about 80% of your results.
The problem is that most business owners focus their time on the 80% that only bring them 20% of the results.
I know this sounds totally illogical – but unfortunately, it’s true.
As a business owner, if you really want to improve your Work/Life Balance, start to spend more time on the 20%. Focus on the 20% of clients that bring you 80% of your desired results.
For example – let’s just say you now spend 40% of your time on these clients and that improves your results to 90% or 95%. What do you think you could do with the 80% that only give you 20% of the results?
Well – if you can’t make it work for you, then drop the 80%. Why waste a large amount of your effort on minimal return?
Now – I acknowledge that this is easier said than done. But just give it a try. You’ll be surprised with how much time you’ll get back to focus on the things that really matter.
Work/Life Balance – there is no question that it is important for your health and mental well-being. It is something that we all strive to achieve.
But I think it’s more than that. Work/Life Balance gives you the opportunity to win back your time.
The one thing that we all have in common, regardless of how rich or how poor we are financially, is that we all only have 1,440 minutes in a day. Once those minutes are gone – they are gone – gone forever. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, you cannot buy that time back.
Achieving a healthy Work/Life Balance (or coexistence) is not an easy task. There is a fair bit of effort that needs to go into it to make it work.
But the positives far outweigh the negatives.
Just getting your time back to do the things you want to do, with the people you want to do them with, should be rewarding enough – shouldn’t it?
Just ask your family – I’m sure they would agree.