May 22, 2014

Can Entrepreneurs Have Work/Life Balance?

entrepreneurshipgoalIn the March 2014 edition of Harvard Business Review, the featured cover article asked whether work/life balance was achievable or “a complete myth.”   While they focused on senior executives in established companies, the same question can be asked of entrepreneurs.

You are no doubt familiar with the stories of entrepreneurs sleeping at their desks and pulling all-night sessions to get their company started.  These stories are so familiar in fact that we tend to think that that is formula – or recipe if you will – that all entrepreneurs must follow in order to succeed.

That, however, is not a reality for many people.  Perhaps you have other people counting on you – spouses, partners, children, aging parents, siblings, etc. – and you can’t simply disappear from the world for months on end.  Or perhaps you’re still working in your ‘real’ job while you get this entrepreneurship venture off the ground.  Your boss isn’t going to take too kindly to your not being reachable while you go on an entrepreneurial bender.

And that reality can sometimes make you feel as though you’re not a real entrepreneur because you’re not willing to put everything out on the line – your health, your relationships, your financial stability, and your mental and emotional sanity – like we’ve so many other entrepreneurs do before (in all fairness, they’re mainly 23-year-old tech entrepreneurs who may be whip smart and changing the world, but the stakes aren’t necessarily as high for them when they start out).

Here’s what the Harvard Business Review research team found though – success really all comes down to your definition of the word.  It’s a concept I talk about when I teach class too.  We have this belief, at least here in the US, that success must be tied to a financial figure.  But what if it’s more important for you to pick your kids up from school every day than make millions of dollars?  If you’re able to create a life in which you can do that, isn’t that success?

Those who achieve work/life balance, Harvard Business Review found, were those who clearly understood what was important to them in life and in their work and then they focused exclusively on those.  That meant there were times these senior executives had to say no to opportunities that weren’t right either for them personally or for the goals they were trying to achieve for their business in order to leave themselves open to achieving their version of success.   Interestingly, the research also found that these executives, by focusing their attention on what was most important, were able to put their energies into those things that really made a difference – both in their life and in their work – and thus, that made them more successful.

So what’s your version of success?  This picture, by the way, is my version of success.   It’s the front porch of a little cabin I own on several acres in the mountains and I spend a fair amount of time (though not as much as I’d like) working from these two chairs you see.  To me success is the flexibility to work from wherever I want.  I’m happy to put in 60-80 hour weeks doing something I love (working on this site and associated projects) as long as I have that flexibility.


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