Mom embracing her child after work.

5 ways to strike better work-life balance as a business owner.

Sometimes, the hardest part of running your own business is getting a break from it. When you’re the owner, you might feel pressure to answer questions after you’ve left the office, feel it’s impossible to take a vacation or find you simply can’t stop thinking about your business. It’s understandable; you’ve invested a lot into it, and you want to make sure it succeeds.

But, when you consider the negative effects of working too much, taking that vacation may start to feel more urgent. Research from University College London found that people who worked 55 hours per week or more were 33 percent more likely to suffer a stroke than those who worked 40 hours per week or less.

Maintaining a 40-hour work week may feel impossible, but it is achievable. And it’s worth it for many reasons, including spending more time with your family, doing things you enjoy and making your working time more efficient and effective. It won’t happen overnight, but to help you strike a better work-life balance, we’ve provided five ideas to get you started.

Get strategic.
How hands-on are you in your business? It’s tempting to jump in and help your team get daily business done. But the more involved you are, the less time you can spend setting strategy and direction. As a result, your team may end up doing work for the sake of work, rather than work that moves you toward your goals.

Set aside some time to think through and define some specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely goals – also known as SMART goals, which you’ve probably seen referenced before. From there, you can prioritize certain projects or activities that support your goals.

Then, create processes for tasks that happen regularly. Delegate responsibilities to team members you trust. That way, day-to-day business can happen without your direct involvement (though you may still get questions from time to time).

This can help decrease the amount of time you need to be online, but it also frees you to spend more time thinking about your business with a big-picture perspective. You can track metrics to identify improvement opportunities, do research about market trends or go out and recruit talent or new, bigger clients.

Improve processes.
You may have more processes than you realize. For instance, you may say paying an invoice or running payroll is one of your formal processes. It happens the same way every time, and you can identify who handles each step. But there are others, like onboarding clients or approving marketing emails, that could also be thought of as formal processes.

If a process is handled through ad hoc communications between team members, map and document a formal process for it. That way everyone knows their responsibilities and can spend less time coordinating.

For any processes with existing documentation, review the steps to make sure they’re all still relevant. There may be a redundant form you can do away with. Or you may realize two people are duplicating the same task.

You may be able to automate some of your processes, even. There are many platforms available that help streamline processes in different ways, including:
  • Create checklists to ensure the same steps are taken each time
  • Automatically handle processes like payment reconciliation electronically
  • Replace a manual step electronically, like depositing checks to the bank through a scanner instead of driving to the branch
Tip: Many banks offer small business solutions that help streamline processes. Talk to a small business specialist to learn more about cash flow automation, remote deposit and other tools available through Commerce Bank.

Set boundaries.
With responsibilities clear, it’s easier to empower your team to handle business when you’re not there. To further secure your freedom, set expectations for when you will and won’t be available – as well as what qualifies as an emergency when you’re not. It might be difficult to be completely unreachable after 5 pm, but you could say you won't be available between the hours of 6 and 8, so you can enjoy dinner with your family.

Then, at home, be transparent with your family about your schedule and the demands of your business. Let them know how important your time with them is and share the ways you’re planning to prioritize it. When you’re at home, if you’re feeling distracted by something at work, take a minute to jot the idea or question down.

Take a break (for real).

According to research from Bowling Green State University, people in the study were happier when they disconnected and allowed themselves some time to recover from work stress. (No surprise there, right?)

So, take a vacation! Even if it can’t be a week away, at least take a long weekend every now and then. And when you are away, whether it’s for an evening or a week, enjoy it. Let that out of office message do its job, and don’t answer emails.

Get help from others.
You know the main functions of your business best, and there are others that can support with the ancillary ones. For instance, you might consult an accountant for help with your taxes, a banker for financial planning or merchant services, or a lawyer for contracts. Tap other professionals’ knowledge of their specialty for your business.

You went into business for yourself because you had a vision and a willingness to work hard. But that same drive that helps you self-motivate can also push you to work too hard. Trust your team and your processes to handle the work, and make sure you can step away and recharge every now and then. It will all still be there for you when you return, but you’ll feel rested and ready to tackle them.