Work-life balance is not a new idea. For someone who is driven, it may be easy to simply pour oneself into something to the exclusion of everything else. Balance suggests some equilibrium, not unlike (but not as dangerous) as walking along a thin wire 30 feet above a circus floor. Balance is really about discipline and about choices. As Betsy Jacobson said, “Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.”

Work-life balance may be particularly challenging for the small business owner because of what the owner has put on the line, along with the multi-faceted demands of running a small business.

What is Work-Life Balance?

Work-life balance can be defined as the ratio of an individual’s career time needed to be productive and successful compared to one’s private time needed to be healthy, happy and successful off the job.

It does not mean a totally equal or 50/50 ratio. Trying to schedule an exact equal portion of each sector of one’s life is simply unrealistic. Rather, balance is a fluid concept meaning that the time allocation on one day may favor work, on another day friends or family and on another day something else. Further, that balance will vary based on age and life stage: single or married, just starting out or well into a career, for example.

Other phrases showing a harmony of work and life that illustrate the concept of balance, and leading to both achievement and happiness are:

  • Work-life fit, suggesting that different uses of time can work together.
  • Work-life integration, suggesting that work and life can be effectively distributed.
  • Work-life sway, suggesting that time demands are variable and thus ebb and flow.

Why is Work-Life Balance Important and Beneficial?

According to studies, work-life balance increases an individual’s motivation and productivity, reduces absenteeism and burnout and increases workplace engagement. It relieves stress as well as improves an individual’s overall health. It also allows a person to enjoy outside of work quality time including such things as vacations, family time and hobbies. It is truly a “big picture” concept as Heather Schuck said, “You will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied by life.”

Ways to Achieve Better Work-Life Balance

  1. Build some downtime into your daily and/or weekly schedule. Make time to relax and recharge.
  2. Stop doing things that don’t add value or that unreasonably drain your energy and time.
  3. Re-think the small “errands” and activities that others can do or that don’t need to be done.
  4. Get some exercise. Exercise will boost your energy level, increase alertness and ability to concentrate.
  5. Delegate or outsource duties and activities to others that will free-up your time.
  6. Set proper priorities on the use of work and non-work time.

Avoid Work-Life Balance Mistakes

  1. Don’t wake up late. Arise early and prepare well for the day to increase effectiveness and efficiency throughout the day.
  2. Do turn off electronic devices at night. Don’t be dogged all night by a glowing screen. Get real rest.
  3. Don’t react emotionally to problems at work.
  4. Don’t undervalue the importance of time to be away; to relax and recharge.
  5. Do plan to value the important people in your life and give them your time.

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