You can easily be devoured by your work—in many jobs, there are so many hats to wear, so many tasks to keep track of and complete. We're all so busy now! This can be especially true when you’re the head honcho—your business is your baby, one that needs constant attention, care, and upkeep. That in mind, we asked busy entrepreneurs in a variety of industries how they maintain their work life-balance. Here’s what they said. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Be realistic, set boundaries
I start by letting go of the idea of "balance" because it's not realistic. Balance implies that your attention and focus is evenly distributed which is somewhat impossible when, as an entrepreneur, no two days are the same. I like to strive for what feels good and in harmony with my spirit. I'm more concerned with living a purposeful life––where I'm pouring into others and lifting as I climb––than a "balanced" one.
Learn how to set boundaries. I teach people how to engage me by stating my business hours at the onset and not responding to work correspondence outside of those hours unless it's time sensitive. Also, learn and exercise the power of "no." What we say no to is more important than what we say yes to because it makes time and space for the opportunities we truly want to take advantage of and experience. - Renae Bluitt, Creator and Executive Producer of She Did That, publisher of InHerShoesBlog.com
Don’t withdraw, share your struggles
Avoid withdrawing. It's the first thing we want to do as leaders; it's hard to admit failure or struggle, but withdrawing only makes it worse. Avoid cutting out all the "nice to have" self-care stuff like exercise or meditation. It's always the first to go but it's the only thing that'll keep you sane.
Mental health is something I'm super passionate about. The media doesn't help. We only share stories of entrepreneurs who have "made it" and they tell their story through rose tinted glasses in reverse. We don't tell diverse stories or stories in real time before we know the outcome. We don't tell the story of struggle or failure enough. And founders typically hold this stuff in and then reach a breaking point. So I’m super passionate about sharing my struggles and failures. - Emma Mcilroy, CEO & Co-Founder of Wildfang
Be gentle and patient with yourself
No doubt it has been a real challenge to juggle all my roles (business owner, wife, and now mother), but I have learned to be gentle with myself and allow for a slow and steady transition by cutting back on my day to day workload. One thing I have learned this year since starting my business is to be patient and kind to myself. As I am embracing these lessons, I celebrate small victories (i.e., a great coffee date with a potential client; a good comment on social media; etc.). Also, my work is filled with so much meaning and purpose as what I do in collaboration with others touches so many people's lives. So, this really fills me with joy. - Monique Lopez, director and social justice planner at Pueblo
Make to-do lists and stay in your lane
Creating a small to-do list and attending to it five days a week can make you a much happier person. We are so fortunate to have a fabulous Associate Director, Valerie Dohrer, who can take things off of our plates. But if you aren’t able to have a “Valerie," then we would suggest making sure that you don’t overload your plate. Keeping your plate full will not allow you to truly relax into your personal life at all.
In terms of a happy marriage and a happy business, the goal is to figure out what strengths you both have and then take vows to work on those strengths. We have happily and successfully learned which “lane” we drive in at work and helped one another to stay in our own “lanes." It creates for a much better work environment. - John Ainsworth and Shawn Ryan, Co-Founding Directors for the Young Actors’ Theatre Camp
Create the balance you seek and cultivate routines
I think part of creating work-life balance is based on creating a company culture of work-life balance. I always tell my team that they should find a schedule that works for them. This helps make sure they're getting the time they need for their mental health, their families, and themselves. They end up reinforcing to me the value of work-life balance when I'm prone to just working, even in my "off time."
I have two dogs and a husband. Setting aside time for them with no interruptions is really important to keeping a happy marriage and happy life. It helps to get into certain routines. For example, we take at least one weekend morning to go out to our favorite breakfast place to have Belgian waffles. It's the one time of the week we have to ourselves to just catch up and take care of one another. - Nina Baliga, co-founder and CEO of diversity
Exercise and be present
I make working out a priority as much as I can. It's a time where I can completely clear my mind and just focus on the physical. It also contributes to how well you can think and therefore how you're making business decisions.
Don't let others make you feel bad for "working too much." Your personal life and business are probably close to the same thing. That being said, when I do spend time when friends and family, I think it's really important to put the phone away and focus on those relationships and activities. Be present in whatever you are doing. - Alexis Monson, CEO of Punkpost
Use your work to enrich your life
Work is my life. So while it would be nice to have less stress, more time off, etc., I feel like an important part of maintaining a happy work-life balance as an entrepreneur is assuring that your work and the people you do it with will all make you happy since you're always working. You're the boss, so if you're not happy in work it's your own fault and you should change that. - Heather Marold Thomason, founding butcher-owner and CEO of Primal Supply Meats
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