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Managing your work/life balance

5 tips for bolstering your bottom line by adding some balance to your life

By Robyn A. Friedman

Susan Carter

Every year on April 16, Susan Carter breathes a sigh of relief. That date signals the end of tax season—and the beginning of her return to 50-hour workweeks after a whirlwind three and a half months spent working 70 to 75 hours per week.

Those long hours may be de rigueur for accountants, but they don’t help Carter, a CPA in Orange Park, achieve any sort of balance in her life.

“The balance between work and home is very difficult, especially as a woman business owner because you are trying to do it all,” says Carter, who admits that during her 17-year career, she didn’t spend as much time as she would have liked with her children, now 19 and 24.

Facts are facts

But Carter is not the only small business owner struggling to achieve balance. According to a survey released by Staples in January, 60% of small business owners admit to spending more time holding their mobile devices than the hand of their significant others, and 43% say they work during hours they are supposed to be devoting to family.

A CareerBuilder survey released in December 2010 revealed that nearly one in four respondents (24%) found it hard to stop thinking about work at the end of the day and that nearly one in five (19%) said they dream about work.

And the National Study of the Changing Workforce, released in 2008, found that 75% of employed parents feel they don’t have enough time with their children, 63% of employees in couple relationships feel they don’t have enough time with their significant others and 60% of employees feel they don’t have enough time for themselves.

The need for balance

Lack of work/life balance is a serious problem for small business owners. Sure, entrepreneurs need to spend time cultivating their businesses to maximize their chances of success. But those who adopt an all-work-and-no-play policy usually pay a price for doing so, such as stress-related health issues, a lack of time to pursue personal interests, or friction with family members.

And what small business owners may not realize is that a lack of work/life balance, rather than helping them achieve success, may actually impair their ability to do so. In other words, improving work/life balance may bolster the bottom line.

“Achieving work/life balance is important to the health of the business and the business person,” says Arthur Lynnworth, the

Arthur Lynnworth

Fernandina Beach-based author of “Slice the Salami—Tips for Life and Leadership, One Slice at a Time.” “A small business owner will not function at top performance solving problems and dealing with competitive issues if he or she is stressed out due to conflicts of work/life balance. Not only does the person suffer, but the less-than-optimum decision making, due to stress, also translates to subpar business performance.”

That can impact the bottom line because a business owner who is stressed out is not as productive,

Shirley Davis

experts say. “You’re not going to come up with the best solutions, be innovative and creative with new product ideas, reach out and service customers or broaden your business,” says Shirley Davis, Ph.D., co-director of the Workplace Flexibility Program for the Society of Human Resources Management. “Employees who don’t have work/life balance tend to be more likely to be late to work, not engaged at work, or call in sick.”

Strategies to reclaim balance

So what can you do to reclaim control of your out-of-balance life? Consider these strategies to restore harmony.

•Improve your time management skills. Plan each day by setting realistic objectives—and then try to meet them. “Don’t think that

Jack Harsh

busyness is the same as business,” says Jack Harsh, a business coach in Jacksonville. “Decide what your top three priorities are each day and what you will focus your time and attention on. Do that for both your personal life and your business.”

•Take real vacations. Everyone needs time away from work to recharge. By getting away from their businesses periodically, small business owners can better focus on important family relationships—relationships that will ultimately help nurture them. “That pays off in tremendous ways back in the business because they now have better balance,” says Harsh.

•Cultivate a support system. Entrepreneurs are notoriously bad at delegating. “Many small business owners bury their personal time

John Geshay

while pouring all their energy into the business,” says John Geshay, a certified business coach with FocalPoint of North Florida in Jacksonville. “Then they realize too late that while they may have achieved success in their business, they sacrificed a lot of other aspects in their lives.”

Geshay recommends delegating and outsourcing. He suggests that business owners divide their net income by the number of hours they work per year to see what their time is worth. For example: If a company’s net income is $100,000 and the owner works 2,000 per year, then his hourly rate is $50. “If there is any task he does that is worth less than $50 an hour, he should find someone else to get that done,” says Geshay. “That maximizes the ROE—return on energy.”

•Leave work at work. Smart phones and other technology make it difficult to create a boundary between work and home. It’s important, however, to block out time for your family that is free of distractions. Paresh Hirapara, president and CEO of Enaptive, a Jacksonville-based software development firm, works hard—about 60 hours per week. But he reserves his weekends for his family. “The weekends are our time,” he says. “I’ll hang out with the kids, do something around town or do stuff around the house. Building software requires a lot of creativity, and I can’t focus unless I maintain a good mental state.”

•If all else fails, seek help. Susan Carter, the CPA, realized that her life was out of balance after she heard Jack Harsh speak at a local networking group. “I felt that my business had consumed me,” she recalls. “When I listened to him talk about balance between work and personal time, I realized that I wanted that.” So she signed on as a coaching client and has since learned how to manage her time better, delegate, set goals and carve out time for family and fun.

Now Carter says she is more relaxed—and much more productive. “This tax season has probably been the least stressful one I’ve ever had,” she says. “And our revenues increased 25%.”

Robyn A. Friedman is a contributing writer to Advantage. She can be reached at robyn@everythingwrite.com or through www.EverythingWrite.com.


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