The Secret Entrepreneur: Work life balance

Why entrepreneurs don't need to clock-watch – or think working 24/7 is the only way to succeed

There’s no doubt about it, running a business is hard work. Being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle as much as a profession.

That said, there’s a damaging myth that in order to succeed in business you have to work 24/7 and not waste time on trivialities like a social life or hobbies. That’s got it all wrong. There’s also a lot of counter-talk about work-life balance, which I think misses the point as well.

I don’t feel like I ever really ‘work’, in the traditional sense. I became an entrepreneur because I love it, and as long as that continues to be the case, I’ll keep doing it. Being the boss also means I have the ability to do things my way, so I damn well will.

I don’t draw rigid lines between different areas of my life, I’ve never seen the point. Yes, I’ll often answer emails or ponder a project late at night or at weekends – because I find what I’m doing interesting, and sometimes following an odd pattern suits my energy levels better.

I always end up countering this ‘work’ with other things though. Like writing this column (yes, really –  right now my team think I’m working on a proposal. I’ll do that this evening). You can’t get more done simply by working more, and without outside stimulus creativity wanes, so that’s an important part of my day. Even if I have to sometimes sneak it in.

You see, as great as this philosophy is, and as much as I’d love to apply the same approach to my entire business, it’s not going to happen any time soon. Not everyone thinks like me (thank goodness) and managing a big team like this would be… let’s just say ‘challenging’.

So I have a few techniques to build in flex to my schedule whilst still outwardly appearing to be hard at work the whole time. For example, I’m often out and about meeting clients and suppliers. Usually at least three to four times a week. My team all know this and can check my diary to see when I’m next available.

At least one of those times each week I’ll actually be at the gym though, ‘meeting’ with my personal trainer. And one of my ‘working lunches’ each month will be at a nice restaurant with my wife.

I used to feel guilty about this subterfuge, I harboured (and still do really) utopian visions of a completely engaged workforce that worked at maximum effectiveness by working flexibly.

But this is much easier said than done, and every example firm I’ve (so far) visited that has tried this model has major issues – usually that this flexible vision actually creates an expectation that people will work all the time, ending up with them burning out.

So for now, I’ll use my position to design my life along my utopian lines and leave everyone else on the nine-to-five!

Read previous Secret Entrepreneur columns here on Startups.co.uk.

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