For those of us running small businesses, work-life balance is hard. It takes a huge effort to get a business off the ground, make it past those first few perilous and fledgling years, and then create sustainability with limited resources.
And that’s just the “work” part of the work-life equation. Creating time for family and friends in the midst of that is no easy task.
Even if you have mastered the art of balancing the two, there is a third element which often gets neglected: you as an individual. For me personally, in my quest for work-life balance, I was the forgotten one for a while.
It’s easy to forget about yourself with everything that work and life entail
I run a growing business consulting practice and a multi-media publishing company, write and publish books, two columns a week here at inc.com, as well as many other online publications. That’s a full slate, and it’s just the “work” part.
I’m also married, raising four children (two under the age of three years), have a lovably neurotic dog, two rabbits, and seven chickens. My dad passed away a year ago, and so I spend more quality time with my mom to help with a difficult transition for her after 50 years of marriage. That’s the “life” part, which is amazingly fulfilling but equally as taxing.
When you put it all together, I feel like the co-ringleader of a traveling circus. Maybe to be more accurate, I actually feel like one of the 12 clowns getting out of the packed clown car who then bumble around like the Keystone Cops as my wife, the real ringleader, keeps us all from wandering off into the lion cage.
Every once in a while, I have a glorious moment when I feel like the Cirque du Soleil juggler who is miraculously and effortlessly tossing and catching 19 glowing Frisbees in the air. Those days are rare.
Even with the madness, the businesses are running very well, and I spend a lot of amazing time with my family.
The gap in the equation is often my own personal balance and emotional needs. You might have the same gaps. I know many of my friends and business colleagues confess to it as well.
Can adding another thing actually help? If it’s the right thing, it can.
So what do you do? There are only so many hours in the day, and all of those hours are claimed by business, family, and maybe some sleep (for good measure).
Could adding one more thing to an already packed daily agenda actually assuage the lack of personal balance? Ironically and almost counter-intuitively, it did for me and might for you.
I added piano lessons.
I’m an ex-studio musician, so of course I would choose something musical. What I realized was that in the years since I started the businesses and the family grew, my love for music was still there but was not being acted upon. I had concluded that there simply wasn’t enough time.
As I contemplated the idea, I said to myself, “How in the world are you going to fit this in?” Even though it was just 30 minutes a week for a lesson and an hour a day for practice, finding calendar time was much easier said than done. It needed to happen, though.
I started practicing every night at 9:00 pm after work was done, my wife and kids had gone to bed, the rabbits and chickens were secured for the evening, and the dog was worn out from barking at everyone that passed by the house during the day.
By 9:00 pm I wasn’t exactly a bundle of energy, but a surprising thing happened. Despite it being an added thing to my already over-packed list of things to do for work and family, I found myself rejuvenated as I went to bed and when I woke up the next morning.
Playing piano was indeed additive, but it became the thing that was regenerative as well.
There is a lot of great advice out there on what you should do to create your own personal balance. There is talk about meditation, yoga, exercise, and of course playing piano.
What I learned for myself is that the really important thing isn’t to emulate what someone else does to create personal and emotional balance for themselves but to figure out what that one regenerative thing is for you.
Then simply start doing it even if it feels additive. The effects might surprise you.