by Michael Cocco, CFP®, AXA Advisors
There are some days where you put out a fire, only to see another rear its ugly head. As the owner of the business you know you’re ultimately accountable, so you run around solving problems until the dust settles. When you finally take a breather, you realize you’re not only exhausted, but the entire day has passed and your to-do list is still completely untouched.
Taking a step away from the never-ending demands of owning a business can be a real challenge for many highly-driven entrepreneurs. All the hard work you do can take a physical and mental toll, disrupting your work-life balance. But making just a few basic changes can help you sustain your work ethic over the long haul. Here are six to consider:
1) Don’t Equate Keeping Busy With Being Productive. Spending all day at the office plowing through emails and meetings doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve accomplished anything worthwhile. As productivity expert Oliver Burkeman says, tiring yourself out isn’t a reliable indicator that your time was well spent. In fact, taking a few minutes in the morning to quietly reflect on a strategic challenge might be the most useful thing you do all month. Measure your success each day by the tangible results you produce, not by the time you’ve spent.
2) Adopt The “Pareto Principle.” This is the famous 80/20 rule that says 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of activities. Identify actions that create a disproportionate value to your business, and prioritize them. Knock out those tasks early in the day so that the critical work is completed before last minute requests start popping up. That way, if something doesn’t get finished it will have a smaller impact.
3) Stick To Your Core Values. Reflect on what’s most important to you—not just as a business owner, but in all aspects of your life. Check whether your time allocations align with your values: Is each thing you do worth the amount of time you spend on it in the long run? If the answer is “no”consider shifting your schedule to change that. You won’t be able to do everything. Be sure the tasks you do take on are the ones that really count, and skip the rest.
4) Eliminate Distractions When You’re With Family And Friends. You can’t really enjoy a meal with your spouse when you’re mentally immersed in a business challenge. Being physically present doesn’t suffice as “quality time,” you need to be mentally present too. CEO Brian Moran conducted an experiment, shutting off his smartphone for 24 hours. The result? “I realized that almost everything I missed on Friday could have waited until Saturday,” Moran explained. “The Earth didn’t spin off its axis because I responded to [messages] 24 hours later.”
5) Get Out Of Your Chair. Invest time in physical activity, which not only promotes good health but also reduces stress and enhances your decision-making. Find a physical activity you can fit into your schedule. It doesn’t need to be a full workout; simply walking to a nearby coffee shop can stimulate creativity, and enhance work-life balance.
6) Pay Attention To The Symptoms Of Imbalance. Extended periods of overwork can lead to long-term problems that will impact your business, family, and health. Irritability, mental staleness, and a drop in overall productivity could indicate you need to take more time for yourself. Consider visiting a doctor or another medical professional if you continue to experience these signs.
Spending every waking hour on your business may feel like a necessity now, but it isn’t sustainable. Making sacrifices to improve your work-life balance—such as skipping a less critical task—may be uncomfortable, but is crucial to avoid burning out. If you feel there are gaps, delegate and encourage your team help pick up the slack.
Before jumping on every fire, consider this: Are you really the best person to solve that problem?
If the answer is “no,” let the person who is handle it, and focus on the things that need to be done by you. Your fire will come soon enough.
Michael Cocco is a certified financial planner with AXA Advisors in Nutley. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 667-8650.
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