Merchant talkback: What’s your best advice for achieving a goodwork-life balance?

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Author: Sarah Morgan

Running a small business can be all-consuming. If you founded your own company, you are probably the first person called in any crisis and the last person to leave at night. Being passionate about your work can give you the drive you need to succeed, but that passion also has a dark side—burnout.

In one recent survey, 34% of UK entrepreneurs reported feeling stressed. A study of 500 small business owners discovered that more than eight in 10 (83 per cent) have experienced serious stress in the past six months, with around half (49 per cent) reporting that they have been more stressed than usual. Indeed, 17 per cent admitted they are ‘highly stressed’.

Over 10 per cent admitted the stress of running a business had a negative impact on their mental health. Small business owners said the root causes of business stress are: managing staff (42 per cent), admin (35 per cent), feeling personally responsible for the success of the company (31 per cent) and filing taxes (19 per cent).

Here are four tips from small business owners for balancing your business and your life successfully:

  1. Think of self-care as a way to support your business.
  2. At TheFYSlife.com, Stephanie Lee writes about how to build a healthy life while following your passion. She says:

    “I like to think of my mental energy as a health bar from a video game. Everything I do—writing sales pages, checking and double-checking our funnels, talking to customers, even thinking about work, etc.— steals a little chunk from that bar until it gets completely depleted, at which point it’s ‘game over.’ So don’t look at self-care as an optional luxury that makes you think ‘it’s nice to have but not now, thanks.’ Instead, think of it as the magic potion that helps replenish your health bar and gear you up for the emotional and mental strain of sustaining your chaotic entrepreneur life.

    • TIP: It’s easy to put self-care last on your list, but you should actually make even more time for breaks when you’re feeling busy or overwhelmed. You’ll be more productive if you step away every now and then.
    • "Be clear why it’s important for you to have time for yourself," says Eleanor from BehaviourWorks.co.uk.

      "Think about how you will feel if a year from now, two years, five years, ten years from now you don’t make time for yourself. Everyone deserves a little time out. It’s not whether you deserve it – it’s whether you can afford not to have it. We all owe it to ourselves to make some time for ourselves. Give yourself permission to have personal time.".

    • TIP: Remember that self-care doesn’t have to cost money, and it doesn’t have to be Instagrammable. Check out this list of simple self-care techniques for ideas, including snuggling with your pets, cleaning out your junk drawer, and journaling.
  3. Prioritise family or personal time so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
  4. “I will unplug when I get home. Family and home come first before any business. It’s fleeting, so don't miss all the little things! And then good doughnuts help a lot too!” tweets Charlotte from Magnolia Emporium.

    • ● TIP: Be sure to find time to spend with your family, even that simply means spending more time at home together.
    • At the Day Designer blog, the recommendation is to out family time at the top of your ‘to do’ list. “Before you can start rearranging your schedule and making more time for your family, you first need to make it a priority in life and ensure that you fully understand its value and benefits! Time together helps to build self-esteem, creates bonds, and nurtures positive behaviors—just to name a few benefits.”

    • TIP: Cutting your commute, including the time you spend driving to school or daycare, can free up a lot more time to spend with your family.
    • "Family time is about connecting with each other, about being in-tune with each other, about listening to each other, and about sharing with each other," says Dr. Richard Woolfson. "You might achieve that while walking your child to school in the morning, while your friend might not achieve that connection until the whole family is on a holiday together. The struggle to make family time is a solvable problem and you'll find the planning, effort and commitment required is well worth it."

    • TIP: Try to ensure that a clear line is drawn between work and leisure. If you do need to bring work home try to ensure that you only work in a certain area of your home - and can close the door on it.
  5. Take care of your body to avoid burnout.
  6. "Be aware of your thoughts and self talk," says life coach Jayne Morris. "Do you keep telling yourself to 'hurry up', 'be the best', or 'make it perfect?' These are common internal drivers that cause us to override our intuition and push ourselves too hard. Change your thoughts by flipping them to the opposite - such as 'slow down' or 'good is good enough'."

    • TIP: "The most important piece is self-awareness," says Benjy Hansen-Bundy. "As wellness-y as that might sound, I truly believe that the critical piece is being able to see what we're doing in our lives and to see when we're starting to enter that red zone. This is part of why I love meditation, not only because of what it does from a physical or mental standpoint, but just the fact that meditation is probably the most meaningful tool for increasing self-awareness."
    • TIP: Getting outside—and even better, getting out in nature can actually improve productivity. One study showed that a 50-minute walk in a city park not only boosted people’s moods, it also improved their memory and attention to detail.
  7. Be gentle with yourself.
  8. "Many of us where not taught the importance of being able to say nice things about yourself" says Lisa Phillips, Life Coach. "We think it is selfish. But did you know that every time you criticise yourself you are eating away and your self-esteem and confidence? However, if you begin to be a little more kinder to yourself, by saying a few nice things and also learning to praise yourself more regularly, this will really boost your confidence muscle and self esteem."

    • TIP: Learning to say ‘no’ is an important step to achieving the right work-life balance. Make sure you are focused on things that are truly important