As an entrepreneur, do you ever find yourself wishing things could be easier? Business owners so often find themselves constantly chasing an ever-expanding to-do list of tasks. It’s no big secret that so many people like you can easily find themselves working 50+ hours a week just to stay on top of things.
And pretty soon, it can soon feel like your whole life is your business.
This can quickly lead to entrepreneurial burnout, which I’ve written about in detail before. Putting work before your health is a recipe for disaster – for yourself, for your relationships and for your business.
Today I want to talk about how to prioritise better for a more successful business and a better work-life balance.
Dealing with overwhelm in the entrepreneurial journey
While it’s easy to blame outside circumstances: those invoices you need to file or client meetings you need to prepare for, the truth is we’re often the very thing complicating our own lives.
Okay, I know what you’re probably thinking: “What do you mean I’m the author of my own misfortune? What do you mean I’m the one who’s in my own way? I’m working hard now so that things become easier when they’re done!”
With this in mind, I recently found myself sitting down with a guru-type character and asked him the question: “Why do we even do all this personal development while we’re working so hard?”
“Well Jamie, it’s essentially about putting ourselves at greater ease,” he replied. “It’s about helping us to relax more into ourselves and become more of ourselves.”
This is so true. When we’re on our entrepreneurial journeys, we so often find ourselves wondering what we’re actually doing. Things can often feel really hard. This feels all too real when we look at social media and start convincing ourselves that other people are managing their businesses effortlessly.
But the entrepreneurial journey is hard. I know this from experience.
But I do also know from experience that there are actually ways to make the entrepreneurial journey easier…even if it feels impossible right now.
Why entrepreneurs struggle with work life balance
When I boil down my approach with my life coaching clients, it all comes down to a very simple process of helping somebody look at what they’re involved with. Together, we determine what’s worthy of the workload and what’s not. I then help them prioritise these commitments one by one and start moving away from those no longer serving them. These commitments could be related to anything – work, family, friends or relationships. It’s surprising how quickly these commitments can build up and compete for our attention if we let them, leaving us feeling overwhelmed.
The truth is, the more we feel obliged to keep giving our energy endlessly, the more we become stretched. And the end result is that we become ‘diluted’ versions of ourselves.
As well as our own expectations, we can also become too wrapped up in the expectations of others. What happens here is that we end up in double binds. By attending to one thing, we might neglect another.
In this stretched, frantic state, we can never keep everyone happy – least of all ourselves. When we’re stretched too thin, cracks appear, both in business and in life.
However, when we’re totally concentrated on one thing, we get to show up as our undistracted, focused selves.
And then we’re unstoppable.
Prioritise what matters in life and business
Think of all the things right now that you’re currently committed to – all the things that are perhaps pulling out of you. I know for some people reading this, you might end up with a pretty big list.
Sometimes friendships are pulling out of us. Sometimes it’s our professional ambitions. Sometimes we might be putting crazy expectations on ourselves; for example, get up at a specific time, do this, clean that, go to this gym, complete that training, and so on.
Take a pen and paper and list them out. Just looking at that long list is enough to make anyone feel exhausted, right?
When we take the time to actually step back and see the bigger picture, we can use it as a catalyst to help us prioritise what really matters.
Now look at this list again and ask yourself which of these commitments are really necessary. Ask yourself which ones are relevant, and most importantly, which ones are relevant to you right now. Sometimes we can find ourselves committed to things that might have been relevant before, but no longer serve the current version of ourselves.
We simply keep giving them our energy out of habit.
What I’d love for you to be able to do is to relieve yourself of some of those expectations and commitments. Refine your list for who you are today.
If one commitment isn’t serving you anymore? Take a deep breath and cross it out. Try to do this without guilt; instead, focus on how freeing it feels to see that list get smaller.
Schedule your priorities, don’t prioritise your schedule
There was a period a few years ago where I found myself having no time at all, with a packed schedule that was booked minute-to-minute. It was at this time that I was struck by a phrase that has stayed with me: “Schedule your priorities, don’t prioritise your schedule.”
This gets me thinking about some interesting statistics by Zervant which have highlighted the problem of juggling priorities for entrepreneurs. It reported that:
- Entrepreneurs work upwards of 49 hours per week, with admin being completed outside of working hours.
- 47% of these entrepreneurs found themselves also working on weekends to catch up.
- 67% of small business owners check in on their business at least once a day when on holiday (if, of course, they even allow themselves a holiday – only 57% of those surveyed have taken a holiday, and this is typically for less than two weeks).
Clearly, I was not alone in having a tendency to prioritise my schedule. It’s clearly a pretty common problem for most of us. Yet the interesting thing is that in the same findings, more than half of entrepreneurs surveyed rated a good work-life balance as an essential part of their success.
It’s time we paid attention to that and started doing something to strike that balance. After all, your business success depends on it.
Now that you have your list, make this your chance. While I hate oversimplifying the life coaching work I do with clients, sometimes we do need to go back to basics. This helps us see what we’re committing to so we can start narrowing things down to what matters.
Doing less to achieve more as an entrepreneur
When we do less, we can achieve more. What I mean by this is that we move from a reactive state to a proactive state and we feel more in control. We can see beyond simply putting one foot in front of the other – we have the energy to plan big and act on it.
The flipside is also true: when we do more…well, then we have to keep doing more. This is because when we are doing too much, we show up only as a diluted version of our full selves.
It doesn’t take long to discover that this de-energised self has a tendency to make decisions that only necessitate more decisions. And this creates more work down the line. Our de-energised self has a way of rushing things, of not getting the right results…and then having to redo tasks all over again.
It’s a one-way ticket to burnout.
On the other hand, that focused and prioritised self that we really want to be is able to make the kinds of decisions that save ten future decisions down the line. It’s an impact player that delivers in terms of productivity. It has a far more balanced approach to life and business.
And this is what I want for you.
The most successful entrepreneurs have the most time available
I’ve interviewed hundreds of people for my University of Life podcast. I started with entrepreneurs first, then I started interviewing therapists and coaches.
And what I’ve found is that the most successful types have the most time available. And the least successful?
Surprise, surprise: they have the least time available.
Perhaps you have contacts you text but don’t hear back from for months. It’s not that they’re trying to avoid you. They’re simply too overwhelmed. They’re spread thin with too many commitments, too little time and they’re caught in a reactive loop.
We’ve been led all our lives to believe that to do well, we need to work hard and commit more and more of our time.
But that’s simply not true.
I want you to know that if you can work smarter and focus on impact rather than quantity, you can preserve the time you need to do your best work. If you can drop some of the unnecessary commitments no longer serving you, you can show up all the more in a much greater capacity for the things that matter most.
Only then can you achieve results that you could only ever dream about before.
Ask yourself: “If I gave myself a chance to focus, what could I achieve? How would that make me feel?”
If you need more help prioritising and you feel like things are just that little bit over your head, then I’m here to help you out. Get in touch and we’ll see how we can free up space in your life so you can show up as your truest, most powerful self.
A better work life balance starts with smarter priorities and more focus on what matters most.