Survival Tips for the Entrepreneur Life

By: Jenny Retief, CEO of Riversands Incubation Hub

Most entrepreneurs battle with the overwhelming responsibilities of growing a business. Even entrepreneurs running big businesses struggle to balance work and life. So if you don’t get a handle on things today, you could be setting yourself up for tough times in the future!

Solving this dilemma is like finding that proverbial needle in a haystack. And that haystack is on fire.

The problem with the phrase ‘work life balance’ is that life refuses to be boxed. This especially doesn’t work for an entrepreneur. Got a big order to meet? You’ll be packing boxes in your PJs in the living room. Answering a client on a Sunday? Yes, that’s probably a wise thing to do.

When you start a business it’s healthier and less stressful to view your work life and personal life as one whole. Think ‘blend’ rather than ‘balance’.

So take a deep breath and forget about getting it 100 percent right. Here of some of the coping strategies I’ve incorporated into my life while building a business.

Working harder is not always the solution to every setback

Make it your mission to communicate

Many entrepreneurs live in their own head. They’re constantly measuring their progress against an internal goal. This isn’t helpful to people supporting them. Work at getting better at communicating. This includes with yourself (write down those goals), business partners, team members and family.

As an entrepreneur it’s critical that you ensure the survival of the business… so that your kids’ school fees are paid. Those who care about you and your business need to share in this mental load. Invite them in to cheer you on, provide advice and unexpected solutions to the challenges you face.

Pause and reflect often

When things aren’t going well, the balance between working and refueling your tank is especially threatened. Mistakes are inevitable. It’s what you do with these mistakes that counts more. Sometimes failures can motivate you to work harder and be better. But working harder is not always the solution to every setback. Many times failure is a moment to pause and reflect on what you do. Don’t beat yourself up to much by committing to a more grueling schedule.

Make your quality time count

Spending long days (and nights) on your business is inevitable. Spend this time as guilt free as possible, because your family’s livelihood depends on it. But then once the crush has past, make a conscious effort to spend the equivalent quality time with your loved ones. Quality time means being present in the moment. Put the phone and email away.

Don’t fall into the trap of working all the time. You’ll be better in so many ways if you take regular breaks

Don’t do it all

Never forget that you cannot do it all. Trying to do it all doesn’t serve you or your business well. It’s often not profitable. Spend time thinking about what you really enjoy doing in your business and what is the most profitable. Then look at spending more time in this zone. This doesn’t mean go out and hire a bunch of people.

Rather start with defined tasks in your business or your personal life that you can outsource – for example an external bookkeeper or a regular delivery service for your groceries. Learn to accept help offered gracefully, without feeling like you are falling short. Let your mom-in-law pick up the kids on Wednesdays if she offers. There are ways to carve out some extra time to do what you are best at.

Respect your limitations

Saying ‘yes’ is easier than no. When you take on anything new, be confident that you can handle the work and decide if it is worth your time. A large job may seem attractive, but a quick analysis will reveal that it’s just not that profitable. The cost of taking it on (to your other clients and your wellbeing) may not be worth the reward. It’s your business – you don’t have to accept everything that comes your way.

With some mental shifts it is really possible to have a better quality of life as an entrepreneur. Don’t fall into the trap of working all the time. You’ll be better in so many ways if you take regular breaks. From quicker decision making, less resentment of your responsibilities, fresh perspectives and time to dwell on what you are trying to achieve. You’d be foolish to ignore these advantages.

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