Q: It took me a long time to get my small business running smoothly and at a profit. I gave up time spent with family, friends, and for myself. Now that the business is doing well, I'm having a hard time breaking old habits and getting some of that work/life balance I hear so much about. How can I let go and live a little?
The funny thing is, the same techniques you used to become successful in your professional life will serve you well in boosting your personal life. And the good news is these are habits that are probably already deeply ingrained in you and can now simply be refocused.
What does success look like?
When you were starting your small business, you likely developed a vision of success -- what kinds of projects and customers you wanted, your ideal schedule, and a minimum amount of revenue. Now take that same process to define what work/life balance means for you.
Be specific. Go from “be more active” to selecting a specific exercise class you’d like to try. Go from “see my friends” to setting a goal of at least one lunch or dinner with a friend every week. Start with “more family time” and push towards a version that works for your unique situation, be that Sunday suppers or jumping into the carpool rotation.
Don’t think about pink elephants
The primitive mind has difficulty with negatives and habit change is made harder by focusing on what you don’t want, e.g. you don’t want to work too much, you don’t want to bring stress home, etc. This is a common starting point, but we need to progress our thinking to what we want instead.
Instead of “Stop working late,” set an intention to “Leave work at 6 PM to enjoy a cocktail on the deck before dark.” Instead of “Don’t work all weekend,” make a plan to “Invite at least 3 people to see a Saturday matinee.”
Whether your goals are about family, friends, or self-care, you will dramatically increase your chances of success by drafting a couple of people to support you. I think we’ve all blown off the gym one time or another when it was just us. But how often do you stand someone up, leaving them waiting in front of a restaurant?
Use this kind of social support to your advantage. Call, text, email, Facebook, and Tweet your peeps that you’re down to have to some fun this weekend and see what happens.
Finally, business success is important and so is your personal life. Treat yourself at least as well as you treat your clients and your success is assured.
Jennie Wong, Ph.D., is a syndicated business writer, executive coach, and the author of “Ask the Mompreneur: Small Business Advice on Starting and Growing Your Own Company,” available at www.JennieWong.com. Email your entrepreneurship questions to TheJennieWong@gmail.com.