One day I came across a sign posted on the door of a small business stating they were closed for the following three days for a family wedding. To be honest, I love to see that kind of thing happening—when a small business has a non-negotiable closure because they’re prioritizing the people who matter most to them. A wedding is a fantastic occasion, and it’s not something any family member should miss out on because they have to work.
I know not all entrepreneurs would share my opinion. And indeed, the capitalist in me can’t help but think of the money that small business lost by closing their doors for several days. But the human in me wants them to be at their family member’s wedding—a part of me even wants to be there with them to celebrate.
Many business owners and entrepreneurs understand the two sides that often conflict, the profit-driven side, and the human side. We work through holidays, stay up late working, and sometimes neglect what’s most important in our lives for the sake of our businesses. But we mustn’t forget that we are humans. We need rest, we need relationships, and it’s important to take time to celebrate, relax, and give to those around us. This became incredibly clear to me when I had kids of my own.
Ultimately, a family wedding is a lot more important than the money that business probably lost. It’s a priceless moment, something that can never be replicated again. There are things the business can do to bring their profits up again, but the business owners can never regain the time they would have lost by not being there for their family.
It’s a matter of priorities. Before I had children, I bought into the entrepreneur mindset that I always needed to be working harder than everyone else. I was always the first one at work each morning, and the last one to leave at night, usually well after the sun had set and everyone else had gone home. Then I had kids, and they made me better at business than I ever was working 16-hour days.
Step back for a moment and think about what you want out of life. What did you want to achieve before you started your business? What did you dream about? I’m willing to bet it wasn’t grinding hours at the office every day working on your computer. You have life goals outside of work. Your business exists to help you achieve those goals.
In order to create a healthy work-life balance, what changes can you make in your business? What responsibilities are you currently taking on that could be handled by someone else? Some entrepreneurs struggle to delegate work effectively because they feel they are the only ones capable of handling their tasks. But in many cases, that isn’t true. You have a capable team. Rather than trying to out-work everyone else, be a leader. In order to get enough time with my family and allow my business to succeed, I had to step back and become a better leader through hiring smarter people than me, the training and delegating to them, rather than trying to accomplish everything myself.
We don’t work just to work. We do it to enable ourselves to enjoy life. Even if you love your work, and I hope you do, the most important things in life happen outside of work: making memories with your family, helping your kids succeed at their goals, supporting whatever causes you’re most passionate about, and leaving a positive impact on the world. You probably went into business with those goals in mind, so don’t lose sight of them.
When I was about 6 years old, I made a promise to myself that if I was ever successful, I would someday buy myself a Lamborghini. As an adult, I had nearly forgotten about that goal. But when I did eventually buy one, it was for my son. My son grew up loving sports cars. He was the kind of kid who decorated his bedroom with pictures of cars. When I heard that a friend of mine was selling his Lamborghini, I had a moment of realization. How awesome of a dad would I be if I made an impulse purchase for my son and fulfilled his dream along with mind? So I took my son to the bank with me to get a cashier’s check, and we bought the car. It was such a meaningful bonding moment between us, and I’m incredibly grateful I was able to do that.
It’s so important to understand your priorities in life. That’s the key to achieving a healthy work-life balance. This applies on so many levels: What’s most important to you in the grand scheme of things? How do you prioritize your day to include those people who matter most to you, and how do you find time to work on what’s most important to you? How do you determine what’s the best use of your time at any given moment?
Whatever your priorities are, extend that to your team. Your employees are just like you, with families and things that are important to them. Make sure they have time to take vacations and attend their kids’ performances and sporting events.
Work-life balance is a mindset that can benefit everyone. The truth is, without time to relax and focus on what energizes you, you cannot do your best work. We need to spend time outside our work doing things that fuel our minds and bodies in order to stay passionate about our work, maximize our creativity, and be energized to do our best.
Stress is a signal to slow down. That applies to you and your team members as well. When you begin getting stressed out, take a step back and consider whether it’s time for a break. If your business has recently been through a big push or a time of major productivity, give your team members a break as well.
Don’t take life too seriously. This is an important mindset in order to live a fulfilling life. If you’re always high-strung or stressed out, your life will pass you by. It’s important to laugh frequently and laugh at yourself. This requires humility and knowing your priorities, so you know when it’s time to be serious and when it’s okay to goof off, relax, or simply laugh when you make a mistake. This mindset will help you deal with stress better and enjoy everything you do more. Don’t work to just work—work to live life. We’re all going to die someday, so live the best life you can each day you’re alive with an immense heart of gratitude.