As the founder and CEO of a startup, free time is my personal unicorn—I know what it looks like, but finding it is next to impossible. And when I talk with other young executives and entrepreneurs, I find that my situation isn’t unique.
Running a business or startup can consume your life. From an inbox full of emails demanding your attention to the endless list of tasks it takes to grow the business, there is always plenty to do and little time to do it.
It isn’t easy, but finding the right work-life balance is an important milestone in achieving your personal and business goals. We’ve all heard stories about successful executives who suddenly dropped out of sight due to burnout or personal crises, a situation that is far too common in the world of technology startups.
When we procrastinate in creating balance between our “startup life” and our “real life”, we significantly increase the risk of damaging the health of our companies as well as the quality of our personal relationships.
Tips for Finding the Right Work-Life Balance
There are no formulas for achieving work-life balance. What works for one business or startup exec may not work for others in the same field or leadership position. So instead of trying to cram your schedule into a one-size-fits-all template, you need to feel around for the mix that makes the most sense for your business and social commitments.
Several strategies have been effective in helping me establish a saner and more sustainable balance between my career and my personal life.
1. Manage your expectations.
For startup founders, the sky is the limit—with dedication and a lot of hard work, nothing seems impossible. But whether you’re looking at your long-term success horizon or your daily to-do list, it’s important to set goals that are reasonable and achievable.
If your expectations are too high, you’ll never achieve your goals. Even worse, your motivation and morale will quickly evaporate, even though you’re pouring every waking moment into the company. By living your business (and your life) one day at a time, you can maintain a positive attitude while making time for things outside of the office.
2. Create whimsical weekly events.
A career at my company is not a typical corporate desk job. For example, every week our entire team participates in “Drama Thursdays”—a day when we do everything as dramatically as possible. Whether we’re asking someone for a pen or writing code, we try to be overly dramatic, and it usually ends up being one of the funniest and most enjoyable days of the week.
There are many different types of weekly events and activities that can be used to encourage a more relaxed work environment. Although you’re still in the workplace, these activities can sometimes become enjoyable, social events.
3. Reward your employees for hard work.
Few things are more satisfying than a job well done. At imagoo, we host barbecues and happy hours as a way to reward our employees for their hard work. During the lead-up to these events, the mood in the office lightens and morale improves because everyone has something fun to look forward to.
By encouraging employees to invite friends and significant others to company events, we create opportunities for our team (and me) to blend our business and personal lives. It’s not the same as dinner and a movie, but it’s a nice way to let important people in your life know that they aren’t being neglected.
4. Give everyone in the office flexible schedules.
Flexible schedules can make a big difference in helping you and your employees achieve a better work-life balance. Giving team members the ability to work at the times that are most convenient for them allows them to run errands or take care of family demands so they are more focused when they are at work.
Business leaders that give everyone flexible schedules empower themselves to take advantage of flexible work routines. But there’s a catch … to make flexible office schedules viable, you need to hire people that you know will invest the time and energy it takes to get the job done right.
5. Trust your team.
I’ve learned how important it is to delegate tasks to your team. You simply can’t do everything by yourself. If you do, you’ll end up single, overworked and burned out. When you separate the tasks you can delegate from the ones you need to perform yourself, you free up time to participate in activities that are critical for maintaining a healthy personal life.
No matter how hard you try, there will always be seasons when work has to be your primary focus. But by making an intentional effort to lead a more balanced lifestyle, you can improve the odds of success for your business and your social life.
Mickey Hernandez is founder and CEO of imagoo, a social polling app and Web platform for consumers, businesses and brands to access instant opinions and feedback. With a background in economics from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Hernandez’s analytical skills and passion for problem-solving fueled his desire to launch a startup. When Hernandez is not working on imagoo, he enjoys detailing cars and rooting for the Miami Heat.
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