Despite the common assumption that successful entrepreneurs have to be completely obsessed with their work, I think work-life balance is possible, even for people starting new businesses.
I don’t like the myth that the real entrepreneurs ignore everything else. In fact I know several very well. They work hard, but also get back to family for dinner time and bed time for the kids, get to parent-teacher conferences, watch some if not all the kids’ soccer games, help with homework, and take the occasional family vacations.
Here are some ways they do it:
- It takes being mindful of priorities. You do the business to make your life better, not give your life to make the business better. The kids will only be little for a very small time, and if you miss that, you can’t make it up. Relationships matter to most of us. It’s easier to build a business, or find a new job, than to find a new spouse.
- One insight required is that in a startup there is always more to do. Work could be 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and there will still be more to do. So you stay aware of what’s most important.
- Also, there will always be crunch times, a few days or weeks, when all bets are off, and the entrepreneur has to be obsessed. The balanced entrepreneur separates the crunch times from daily life. And the good relationships understand and let the entrepreneur alone for those crunch times.
- Most businesses are done in teams. A balanced entrepreneur builds a team, delegates, and trusts.
- The people involved with the entrepreneur can help with this. Book vacations in advance, be aware of crunch times, but help with reminders about the kids’ events, school events, etc. Insist on family time.
- Many successful entrepreneurs start early in the morning, work all day, get home for family-spouse-significant other time, then work some more later in the evening.
- It takes honesty and self awareness to separate loving the work – most entrepreneurs do – and obsession from just having excuses to not bother with the rest of life. There’s a temptation to use “I have to work” as an excuse for unconscious selfishness.
- There’s an argument to be made that people – all people, including entrepreneurs – are more productive when they split the day between work and life.
And I do know people who deal with this well, some of whom are very well-known in startup circles. But I won’t mention names because this is very personal.
For the record, this comes up because of this question in Quora, and some of the answers to it.