Over the past decade, more and more women have found a new and commanding role in the workforce: the entrepreneur. In fact, women-owned businesses account for 40 percent of all U.S. businesses, and they generate nearly $2 trillion a year in sales. While there has been a considerable shift in the numbers surrounding female entrepreneurship, which increased by 58 percent from 2007 to 2018, the social and domestic responsibilities traditionally placed on women haven’t changed much at all.
Female entrepreneurs face all the same challenges as their male counterparts – and more. In addition to being successful in business, they also shoulder the societal expectations placed on them as females, bearing the brunt of housework and childcare. What’s more, women also take on most of the invisible work or the mental workload that comes with managing the logistics of the family, including making appointments, organizing schedules, remembering birthdays, planning meals, maintaining ties with extended family members, and much more.
While the conversation around work-life balance unveils a host of gender inequality issues, the truth is women aren’t slowing down in the office or at home despite the unequal workload. The tips below offer options to take a step back and evaluate how best to approach the many roles in which female entrepreneurs find themselves to find some balance and peace of mind.
#1. Take Care of Yourself
For your business to be the best it can be, you also need to be at your best. That means taking care of your mental and physical health, while keeping your finances healthy, as well.
Being an entrepreneur is demanding, stressful, and sometimes isolating work. As the boss, an entrepreneur may think she has to present a strong face for her employees, regardless of how she actually feels. Oftentimes, when you own a company, you aren’t just worried about your own job – you are worried about every one of your team members as well. That kind of stress can take a toll, so be sure you are checking in with yourself and addressing any issues as soon as they arise.
Yes, running a business takes work, but to work at the best of your ability you have to keep yourself healthy. If you are exhausted, skipping sleep or meals to work means you won’t be in the best condition to run your business effectively. To avoid this kind of burnout, prioritize your days, your tasks, and your health.
While taking time away from work might be an anxiety-inducing prospect for some entrepreneurs with busy schedules, it can be tremendously beneficial. Being in a different space and frame of mind will boost creativity and improve your mood. However, you choose to spend your non-work time, make sure that it is restorative and has a positive impact on you.
#2. Set Boundaries and Expectations
As an entrepreneur, it can be tempting to devote all your time to your venture. Perhaps it’s the dream job you’ve always wanted, or your work is connected to a cause that’s close to your heart. If you want your business to grow and be successful, you need to work at it, right?
While it is true that running a business requires a huge amount of effort and time, if you’re not careful you could end up lost in your business at the expense of your own personal life and the relationships that you hold dear. That’s why setting boundaries for yourself and managing your expectations is so important. Take some time to sit down and think about how you want your life to look and what that might require. Perhaps that means turning your email notifications off on the weekends when you’re with your family. Or scheduling some time each afternoon to do meditation with your phone turned on silent. It could be that no matter what is going on at work, you make an effort to show up to every soccer game your child competes in.
Boundaries will look different for everyone depending on what is prioritized. Family needs may arise that must be addressed. That’s ok. Work projects that require your full attention might force you to ease up on your domestic responsibilities for a week or so. That’s ok, too. Establish clear lines of communication between your employees and your personal relationships to ensure that everyone knows where you’re at and what you need – and so you can know where they are at as well.
Whatever your boundaries might be, it’s crucial that once you establish them, you respect them. Be sure to encourage this in your employees as well. Studies show that happy employees are productive employees, and that goes for entrepreneurs as well.
Additionally, know that boundaries can sometimes change as life factors change. When this happens, you should also adjust your expectations. Being able to recognize your own limitations is critical. Society may say that you should be all things to all people at all times, but that doesn’t mean it is a realistic possibility. Give yourself some grace by tempering expectations to reduce your stress.
#3. Be Intentional with Your Time
At least once a quarter, set aside time to sit down and evaluate your schedule. What’s working and what isn’t? Have things changed over the past few months? What should you do differently? This approach to scheduling will help you remain focused on work-life balance, keeping you productive at work and present at home.
Your time is precious, and you shouldn’t have to work on projects every day until the wee hours of the morning. One of the best ways to prevent work from spilling over into your personal time is to avoid distractions that compromise your ability to focus or produce good work.
Stay away from social media and avoid nonessential phone calls while working. You can even set certain times to check your email so you don’t get bogged down responding to every message as it comes in.
Another approach to managing your workload is setting one day a week when you don’t take meetings. That day is completely devoted to focusing on your own projects.
These strategies for time management can significantly boost your productivity, providing you with dedicated time for your most important projects and safeguarding your time with family and friends.
#4. Know when to say yes – and no
Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean you have to do it all. With all the responsibilities women entrepreneurs face, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Accepting help isn’t a sign of weakness or failure; rather, it’s vital to achieving the work-life balance so many people seek. Say “yes” to help when you need it.
At home, you might consider hiring someone to clean the house or do the yard work, while at work you can delegate certain tasks to a qualified, reliable employee. And don’t forget those closest to you. Spouses, friends, family members, and business partners can be invaluable resources for female entrepreneurs. They can provide support in a very tangible way, or they can offer advice about what you can delegate or outsource to free up some more of your own time. You don’t have to do everything yourself.
Another way to keep yourself from being overwhelmed is to be picky about what you agree to do. If a task or project doesn’t offer you a benefit or is more trouble than it’s worth, you can say “no.” Expending energy on pointless, time-consuming tasks will leave you burnt out and behind on your own work. Know your priorities so you can say “no” when you need to, explaining the reasons behind your refusal if warranted.
#5. Stop Comparing
In the age of social media, it’s far too easy to compare yourself to others. You might see a mother who seems to be doing it all with her children while running her own business. What is her secret? Does she know something you don’t? Is she doing something different or better than you are?
Don’t compare your strengths and weaknesses to others. It’s self-destructive, and it’s often inaccurate. No one truly knows what’s happening behind the scenes in anyone else’s life. Instead, focus on your own growth and goals. Not only will you achieve more, but you will be impervious to the damaging effects of social comparison.
#6. Lead By Example
When you are responsible for your business, working to grow and improve it might come naturally. Long hours and missed weekend activities may seem like a necessary sacrifice. But to ensure a healthy work-life balance, you need to set a schedule with reasonable hours – and you need to stick to it.
Decide what your work schedule will be. Maybe it’s the standard eight hours a day, five days a week. Perhaps your entrepreneurial endeavors are happening around a full-time schedule. Whatever your schedule, commit to being done once your working hours are over. This will help you have a clear delineation between the time you dedicate to working and the time you devote to your family and friends.
Taking time off for holidays is equally important. These regularly scheduled breaks will provide you with an opportunity to disconnect and recharge, making you more creative and giving you a fresh perspective when you turn your attention back to work.
Concluding Thoughts on Work-Life Balance
Each person’s experience as an entrepreneur is different, and everyone encounters their own unique challenges. One common obstacle among most entrepreneurs is striking the right balance between your career and personal life, a feat that’s even more complicated for women business owners.
By following the guidance above, you can take a hard look at your own entrepreneurial journey and evaluate how to make the most of it. Your time is precious, so decide how to spend it wisely – and then stick to that plan. Be the boss you would want to have, one who understands that sometimes your personal life comes first, and you’ll be well on your way to a happier, more balanced life.