As a life coach, I often get this question from entrepreneurs. One of the first things people mention when asked why they want to go into business is “more time for myself.” They quickly realize that starting and running a business is actually much more time consuming than a regular 9-5 job.

More often than not, they burn out, and this partly explains the high failure rate of new businesses. 

Those who don’t burn out start to ask themselves, “How can I work less and spend more time with my family/friends?”

Let’s start by looking at some of the assumptions that lead to this.

Balance isn’t a destination

Assuming that you know how to prioritize your work, finding a balance between life and work isn’t something we discover. The worst assumption is that one day we will find a quick fix or a shortcut to reach that sweet spot. The truth is much less sexy and is a four-letter word, work.

Like anything worthwhile in life, having a life and a successful business takes work.

But not in the way you think about it.

Add life to your work

Entrepreneurs who decide to leave their role as employees mimic the same working hours that were previously imposed on them – the dreaded 9 to 5. Research has shown that we are not equally productive at different times of the day.

You have probably experienced the after-lunch slump. Real entrepreneurs will laugh and say that can easily be overcome with a couple of strong espressos. The coffee will keep them awake, but their brains are still running on empty when it comes to problem-solving skills and creativity.

Elite athletes figured that out years ago with a process called periodization. They plan their workouts through the year, all the way up to the big race where they have to be at their peak performance.

Some days are easy, some are hard, and rest weeks are scheduled in order to be in peak condition at the right time. The concept is based on the notion that nobody can maintain top performance for a long period.

We aren’t built that way; we have to add rest periods to perform well at work. So, even if you are not planning to take part in the Olympics, what is the best way to stay productive?

Body and mind

Molecular biologist, John Medina devoted his life to researching ways to improve brain performance and his findings are clear:

Fluid intelligence, the type that requires improvisatory problem-solving skills, was particularly hurt by sedentary lifestyle.

So, what does this mean to the entrepreneur whose only physical activity is a trip to the coffee machine? Well, you are losing out, both on life and work.

Medina found out that aerobic exercise for 30 min, two to three times a week will boost your productivity at work. So, putting on gym clothes and breaking into a sweat is not time you take away from your clients.

When it comes to finding new solutions and great ideas, sweat is part of the equation. Spend less time muscling your way through work and schedule regular renewable breaks.

Think about the last time you had a great idea; chances are that you weren’t sitting at your desk.

Work at living

I see many business owners put in a lot of focus, planning and support when it comes to their business. When it comes to their lives, well, let’s just say things fall a bit short.

So, you need to add some work to your life.

You know that date-night you always promise your special other? One reason it never happens is because you don’t plan it and treat it as a work deadline. It’s a vague promise, a distant dream. Give it the same importance that you give a client deadline. The people you share your time with outside of work help you fuel your emotional tank.

You need this tank on full to feel great about yourself.

As you know, how you feel profoundly influences the quality of your work.

The real meaning of work-life balance

So, there you have it; I’m sorry there is no magic trick or secret recipe to find the perfect work-life balance. Start by adding some life to your work, and work at having a life; things will change for the better.

So what do you think? How do you find work-life balance? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!