Small Business Resources

Working to live

4 min read

​It is a damnation on our modern ethic that we still see leisure time as laziness. We still see long work hours and lack of sleep as a mark of achievement, not something to be ashamed of. Why do we value long work hours over long family hours?

It becomes obvious over time that we are working harder not smarter and talk of leisure is met with accusations of a lack of commitment.But who in their right mind would choose work over their personal life? A lot of small business owners for one.

The research is in and it’s not good

We recently conducted a study of over 1300 Australian small businesses. We found that,

“Fifty per cent of respondents in the Reckon survey sacrificed their wellbeing, including sleep, to stay on top of their admin, payroll and compliance requirements.”

That’s quite startling and gives us some insight into how much Australians are sacrificing their leisure for their businesses.

Our businesses are important but we clearly need to work smarter.

Work is a means to an end

To live fruitful lives, with rooves over our heads, food in our bellies and some spare cash for entertainment – we clearly need money. To achieve regular income, we of course need a job. Be aware of the order here – needs and wants come first, jobs are simply a means to achieving this, not an end in itself.

When you run your own business however, that line separating life from work becomes muddied as the business can begin to consume your life.

Making this even more stark is the fact that many who choose to run a business do so in a field they enjoy or have a personal stake in – magnifying this blurred relationship with work. Loving your work is a fantastic outcome for your life, just be cautious of the balance.

When you love your work and have so much invested in your business, it’s easy to spend every waking hour working on success, we just need to be mindful when this crosses into unhealthy territory and needs to be tempered, without compromising your business.

There are a few ways we can explore to restore a better balance to our working lives…

What do you really value?

This starts with a very easy question we often say ‘yeah yeah’ to, but rarely run our lives with such expressed purpose.

What do I value in my life?

It’s not a trick question – write down your top three and think about how you can maximise these activities. Try not to think of them as indulgences – you deserve your leisure time!

This may be; travel, family time, sports, friends, hobbies or time to read or paint.

It doesn’t matter what it is just as long as it represents the reason you work. Now let’s clear your plate so you can maximise your leisure.

Plot your time

Planning your day will come easier for some over others. But it is essential to working smarter and maximising ‘you’ time.

To save time here check out our comprehensive advice on how to plan your day for maximum productivity and maximum downtime.

The reverse of this coin, the part many people miss, is to actually plot your leisure time too.

You don’t just want a calendar of key tasks and appointments, you also want a plan of when you will be surfing, hiking, having a BBQ or cooking dinner for your family. Treat these calendar entries as just as important as work functions.

Your mental health and sense of fulfilment will thank you.

Avoid time wasters

There will be a hoard of people in your life intent on becoming time vampires and thieving your precious minutes.

There are tasks in your life that demand more of you than they are worth.

There are also a myriad of daily distractions which add up to steal hours from your day.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the net effect of this is the same as working in an unproductive manner – every hour you spend on time wasters is an hour you are not enjoying your life. What a waste.

When it comes to time wasting people, in both your personal and business life, you may need to be somewhat stoic in systematically removing people from your day or being very upfront about the time you have. Be polite but firm, your life is your own and you need barriers. Sometimes you need to be selfish – this is your life after all.

If considering time wasting tasks, take a good hard look at what those tasks are – is there an app for this? Is there a cheap solution or service? Can staff do this cheaper, easier and better? It is always worth considering the cost of your own time when it comes to admin or time intensive work – it may be cheapest to outsource.

In terms of distractions, consider a digital detox or a plan to limit mobile distractions. For tips on a productive digital detox, we have a very comprehensive guide here.

Perfection is not possible

A perfectionist attitude is both a blessing and a curse. It can propel you to excellence and be a cornerstone of success if harnessed properly. When it comes to a great life/work balance however, the downside to perfectionism shows.

In seeking perfection, we push our businesses to the pinnacle of success, with our leisure taking an inverse plunge.

As our lives become busier and balance becomes more important, you need to let go of perfectionism – it is not really possible in the first place and can throttle your work/life balance.

Instead, says Marilyn Puder-York (Phd, author and executive coach), you should strive for excellence and know when your work is ‘good enough’.

“As life gets more expanded it’s very hard, both neurologically and psychologically, to keep that habit of perfection going,” – Puder-York.

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