Making a Life, Not Just a Living

Business Owners

Making a Life, Not Just a Living

Find a better balance with focus, the right team and rest.

November 10, 2016

Serial entrepreneur Brian Scudamore knows how easily the wheels can fall off for business owners. “My marriage was over. I was working on my first company, 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, to the point of exhaustion, but it wasn’t growing. Add to that co-parenting a newborn baby, and I was on track for total burnout,” he wrote of his life 12 years ago in The Wall Street Journal.

He turned his situation around by taking every Friday off for biking, spending time with family, cooking and other hobbies. “I realized I had to stop trying to keep up with everything and start focusing on the right things.”

The Power of Focus

That advice is echoed by Charles Duhigg, author of Smarter Faster Better, who warns not to fixate on a goal without asking if it’s the right one. He suggests writing to-do lists that break stretch goals into short, concrete steps. This approach, pioneered by GE and imitated throughout the business world, is a proven way to boost productivity.

Productivity expert David Allen has another suggestion: If a to-do item can be dealt with in two minutes or less, tackle it immediately. Such “small wins” can build to something larger, and give us the energy to keep going.

A Team You Can Trust

Even at the leanest of startups, there comes a point when you’ll need to hire employees to take some of the burden from you. At a small business, it’s critical to hire someone who not only has the specific skills you need, but is also a self-starter. Micromanaging is counterproductive – when people feel a greater sense of control over their work, it boosts motivation, Duhigg says.

It’s also important to foster a culture of commitment – let your employees know that you’re committed to their growth and development. Offering flexible work arrangements, 401(k)s and other perks that make employees happy can help retain the talent you’ve recruited.

Taking Time to Unplug

With the right team in place, you can take the time you need for yourself – and it can actually enhance your venture. “When I’m away from the office, things have time to marinate. Connections bubble up and often turn into big, business-changing ideas,” Scudamore says.

Giving yourself permission to take a break is key, whether you need a six-week vacation off the grid or a mini-break to clear your head. Studies have shown that working long hours doesn’t seem to result in getting more accomplished – but it does have a negative effect on well-being.

Breaking the Cycle of Overwork

It’s time to create a new cycle as a business owner: prioritize your most crucial tasks, engage your team, then rest. At the end of the day, your work – and your life – will be better for it.



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