These days, finding and maintaining work-life balance might seem impossible. While technology has made it feasible to complete work-related tasks at anytime and from anywhere, it also means it’s harder for us to turn it off. Plus, with a million things vying for our attention — online and offline — it’s often difficult to determine what exactly to focus on.
When it comes to blurring the lines between work and life, business owners (retail entrepreneurs included) are notoriously overworked. It makes sense because your input is directly correlated with the success of your business. There’s no safety net, so why wouldn’t you want to give it 110% at all times?
Overworking, however, isn’t just tiring; it can be detrimental to your health. In a recent survey of hundreds of entrepreneurs, the Alternative Board found that 79% of them believed they were working too much, to the point where it affected their health. The most common symptoms entrepreneurs experienced as a result of business-related stress included:
- Impatience (21%)
- Insomnia (19%)
- Forgetfulness (13%)
- Mood swings (8%)
- Restlessness (7%)
- Boredom (5%)
- Temper outbursts (4%)
The good news is, these symptoms are avoidable, and work-life balance is attainable if you follow a few simple rules. Once you find work-life balance as a retailer, you’ll likely discover that you’re happier, healthier, and even more productive. In this article, we’ll discuss some concrete ways that retailers can maintain work-life balance.
Set Working Hours
While many full-time employees work a maximum of 40 hours per week, the luxury of “clocking out” isn’t the same for retail business owners. When you run your own company, the amount of effort you put in often dictates your success, so many retailers make the mistake of working around the clock.
In the same Alternative Board survey we mentioned above, the majority of business owners surveyed admitted to working more than 40 hours per week, some upwards of 60 hours. Here is a breakdown of how survey participants answered, “How many hours per week do you work?”
- 19% work 60+ hours per week
- 30% work 50-59 hours per week
- 33% work 40-49 hours per week
- 14% work 30-39 hours per week
- 5% work less than 30 hours per week
Image Credit: LifeHacker
A good manager would never encourage an employee to work more than 50 hours. In fact, studies show that working more than that actually decreases productivity and produces poor work.
Setting clear working hours is vital. Of course, as a retailer, that might mean some flexibility. You might set your working hours based on other obligations and responsibilities in your life, such as taking care of family, kids, and pets. Or, if you own a brick-and-mortar store, your work schedule would likely revolve around your location’s operating hours. The key is, in the retail world, that there’s always something more to do. But setting clear working hours for yourself means you’ll focus on what’s most important and likely become more productive.
Leave Work At Work
If you’re a retailer who owns a brick-and-mortar business, leaving work at your workplace might seem obvious. However, technology has made it possible to check email and complete other work-related tasks from virtually anywhere where there’s an Internet connection. Therefore, leaving work at work might include not tending to business after you go home for the night. It may even mean having a separate business-only phone that you only check during certain hours.
If you run a primarily ecommerce business and work from home, creating a clear divide between work and home is even more important. Dedicate a separate room or corner of your home to work rather than working at the kitchen table or from the sofa.
It might seem harmless, tempting even, to pull out your laptop to send a few emails from bed or while watching TV, but doing so blurs the lines between work and home. Creating separate, dedicated spaces for work and play helps set boundaries.
These firm boundaries help you be more productive while working and relax more when you’re at rest — different physical spaces create psychological associations with those rooms or areas. That’s why, if you have insomnia, many medical professionals recommend you don’t do any work in your bedroom (to break any mental associations with work that keep your brain from resting).
Everyone has the same number of hours in a day. One of the primary differences between successful people and those who have a hard time tackling their to-do lists is organization. Getting organized means planning your day, week, and even your month ahead of time. It also means simplifying and automating various tasks so you can focus on the important stuff.
Find yourself spending a lot of time sorting through piles of paper, whether it be invoices, inventory sheets, or employee files? Consider going paperless and creating digital versions of these files so they’re easier to access.
Perhaps you run to the bank several times a week to make deposits and deal with other issues with your account? Consider asking the bank manager how you can automate some of these tasks or complete them online. Many banks now offer a range of options to help business clients stay on top of their finances in a more efficient manner.
For retailers in charge of managing their business’s social media channels, consider using a platform such as Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule posts ahead of time. That way, you can create the posts you want once a day (or even once a week), set it, and forget it.
Setting daily, short-term, and long-term goals not only encourages you to continue to dream big for your business, but helps you then take manageable steps towards achieving those goals. It also helps you prioritize your time because you have a clear idea of what things are most important.
Stick To A Routine
Achieving work-life balance means more than just unplugging at home. It should be about attaining balance in all areas of your life, and the best way to maintain that is to set a daily routine and stick to it. Generally, this means making sure you get enough sleep every night, eating well, getting exercise, and making sure you get outside everyday.
Keeping a schedule isn’t easy. There will be days when you slip up due to life’s unpredictability. But at least trying to form a habit of doing these things will not only help with mental clarity and energy levels, they’ll likely make you happier and healthier.
Perhaps the biggest mistake most entrepreneurs make is trying to do it all themselves. It might not seem like a big deal when you’re first starting out – retailers naturally wear many hats. But as your business grows, it’s important to hire employees, delegate tasks, and put your trust in others.
In a survey of business owners by the Alternative Board, 70% of respondents indicated they could stand to benefit from spreading the workload around. These were their top reasons for not choosing to delegate tasks:
- They feel they’re “the most capable option” (30%)
- Their employees “do not have the right skills” (20%)
- They’re “in a hurry to get it done” (20%)
- They “like doing the tasks” (19%)
Consider making a list of tasks that don’t require your personal attention and then dedicating some time to train employees on how to do them. Not only will you be able to focus your attention on the things that really matter, but you’ll likely perform them better and more efficiently.
Are you ready to get an extra set of helping hands? Read our guide to hiring your first employee.
Make Time For Yourself
When is the last time you took a day off, like truly took a day off without checking emails, answering phone calls, or thinking about your to-do list? When it comes to business owners, 40% admit to working “always” or “often,” and a whopping 97% work seven days a week. It’s important to take time off and make time for yourself and the other parts of your life – hobbies, friends, and family. Not doing so and you’re at risk of burning out. Days turn into weeks, which turn into months. Your life becomes all about work.
It’s equally as important to also take vacations and shut off completely.
“A vacation could be a 15-minute walk around the block without looking at your phone, or a vacation could be two or three weeks traveling with family/friends,” says Jackie Stone, CMO of MiMedia, in an interview with Business News Daily. “It’s important to take a step back to physically and mentally recharge. If you are surrounded by good people at work, a vacation should be easy to take.”
When you’re planning out your business calendar, schedule vacation and time off for yourself. Think of it as a time to reset and re-energize so that you can approach your work feeling excited and inspired.
Moving Toward Balance
Whether you’re a retailer or the owner of another type of small business, achieving work-life balance is a challenge. There’s always more you can do. There’s the urge to push hard and get ahead. As a business owner, there’s no safety net – you are your business, so of course you’re willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.
But maintaining a balanced lifestyle is more than just building a wall between work and the rest of your life. It’s about connecting and integrating these aspects of your life in a productive and meaningful way so that it’s sustainable and you’re happy and healthy.
How do you find balance between your personal life and life as an entrepreneur? Share your advice in the comments below.