I was struck recently by a question that was asked by a fellow business owner in a group we’re both part of. She was asking how other people organised their work / life balance as she is already working full time and wants to scale her business. The assumption being that building the business means she will need to work evenings and / or weekends in addition to what she is already doing.
It’s not an unusual perspective – there’s a view from some that if you really want your goal, you have to do whatever it takes to make it happen. It’s all about the hustle. In fact the revered Gary Vaynerchuk boasts on his blog that ‘there is so much hustle in my day I don’t even have a spare second to hang out and catch up with the people around me’. Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds to me like a weird boast. ‘I’m so successful that I don’t have time for friends’ is not something I aspire to.
I’m not suggesting that setting up or growing a business is easy, because it’s not. I’m not suggesting that hard work and extra hours are to be avoided; I’ve always been the kind of person who gets motivated and energised by an impending deadline and in my former life I loved the buzz of a crazy 16 hour day when I was mid shop fit. The thing is, there is a very different feel to doing something for a fixed purpose over a short(ish) timeframe as opposed to it becoming a daily grind.
It reminds me a bit of the anti-gambling adverts that tell you ‘if the fun stops, stop’. That slogan is pretty much pointless because by the time gambling is no fun, the gambler is stuck with a habit that it hard to break. If that wasn’t the case then gambling addiction wouldn’t be a problem. So how do you balance the need to ‘hustle’ if you want to grow your business without it becoming a habit that you struggle to back away from later? Here are three questions to ask yourself to help you find the balance that is right for you.
If you couldn’t work any extra hours but had to get more done, what would you do? Often putting in extra hours is the easy and immediate answer to getting more done. But it can also be the lazy answer and can mean being less than optimally productive for 50 hours instead of 40.
So try asking yourself this question to prompt a more creative solution and get you focused on productivity first and foremost. It might be that there are things you are spending time on which are giving you a poor return – maybe now is the time to pause them and see whether it has an impact? It could be that now is the time to start systemising or outsourcing something you’ve been doing so far. Or maybe you’re allowing distractions to get in the way of your daily working and now is the time to tackle them.
What are your non negotiables? If you definitely want (or need) to work more hours for a while, then creating some boundaries can help. If you set clear priorities for the things you won’t sacrifice then you’re less likely to resent the decision you’ve made. It might be that you’ll work one day at the weekend but not the other, or that you will get to an exercise class you love. If you’re a parent then you might choose to do school pickups or read bedtime stories.
Think about how you deal with customers too. If you don’t want them to contact you in the evenings or weekends, then tell them your daytime working hours and only reply during those hours. As soon as you respond, you set an expectation that you are available and that becomes tricky to reverse later on.
When will you review things? The sense of momentum and energy that comes with working in a purposeful way can get lost if there’s no end in sight. Rather than just work an undefined number of extra hours each week, treat it as a project. Set an end point and goal, along with milestones to review progress against. Then be disciplined about considering the pros and cons of the extra work. If you’re making progress and feeling good, then by all means keep going. But if it’s like wading through treacle and you’re missing out on other things that matter to you then is it really the success you hoped for?
If you want to get more done rather than hustle harder then why not get in touch for a free coaching call to see if working with me could help? You can book here.