We’re all trying to find balance, but for the entrepreneur, our business and life are so blended, it can be hard to distinguish one from the other. And if we’re following our passions, is that distinction even necessary anyway? Is it really possible to find balance when everything’s all mashed up together? As Geoff Teehan says in his article, ‘Ruthlessly Prioritize’, “The term ‘work-life balance’ makes it sound as though there were two separate lists of things to prioritize. There aren’t. It’s all on one list.”
Whether you call it ‘blend’ or ‘balance’ is undoubtedly a case of personal preference and perception, but life and business are blended, not only for the entrepreneur, but especially for them. It’s a fact, and therefore not altogether surprising how business advice and best practices can be applied to both life and business with equal relevance.
TIME: Time is our primary resource – how we use it shapes our lives and our businesses
In both life and business, our primary resource is time. The way we spend our time every day adds up to how we spend our lives … and the same is true of business.
On one hand we can constrain ourselves with our calendars and schedules, squeezing things in, making things happen, pushing to do more. We all have the same amount of available time and we all know that it’s what we do with it that counts. Of course there’s no doubt that certain things have to get done and there is no doubt that at times, it seems like there just isn’t enough time for everything, but there is. There always is. Time is precious and simply being mindful of how we use it over time, not just in the day to day, can help us to appreciate the importance of its cumulative effect.
Managing our time in our lives and business is key to achieving the things that are important and we cannot manage our time effectively without mindfulness. That’s because what’s effective for one person isn’t necessarily effective for another. It depends on our big picture, the blended, greater vision of our lives and the role our work fits into that, and yours is not the same as mine.
How is what we’re spending time on today shaping our future?
Really question that and be brutal – how is my investment of time in this thing, this action, these thoughts, contributing to my vision of what I want to achieve? The big vision, the blended, mashed up, master list vision.
Yes, it can be complex, but not terribly. It just means understanding what our vision is and that each part of it interrelates and correlates to other parts of our lives – it’s all connected. We all have this vision for our business, but family is important too, and of course we need to look after ourselves to sustain both because without a life, there is no business and for entrepreneurs, a life without a business is no life either.
Therefore, we have no choice but to become masters of the intentional use of our time. We need to make it our mission to understand how the way we use our time impacts our lives in the long run and in the big picture. That starts with thinking about what we really want before we just jam another thing in the calendar.
- Think about the big picture, the blended picture, the master list, and how you want that to look in 5, 10 or 20 years – what are you sacrificing now that you might not be able to get back later?
- Think about how you use your time in terms of explaining it to another person in relation to how everything you do fits into that bigger picture. Would this make sense to someone else? Or are there odd gaps that you’re over explaining rather than adjusting?
- Looking back, how will you feel about the journey – what will the road you travelled have felt like? Was it the best route for the destination you reached?
It’s a work in progress, but one that we need to progress, and one that we should be committed to evolving and improving. It’s ok if it’s not all sorted out yet, that’s not important. What is important is that instead of doing more, striving harder and running uncontrollably downhill, that we ask the hard question – what will the cumulative effect of what we’re spending our time on every day be on our lives, our businesses, our health, our families?
VISION: Our true north
Whether it’s actually documented or whether it’s just that recurring daydream you indulge in every now and then that excites you with what’s possible, most of us have a vision for our business. The big, long term picture of where we want to go and why we want to get there. It ties together our ambition, the things we value and the impact we want to have on the world. And when things get tough, or decisions need to be made, it’s a great reference point to keep us on track, inspired and motivated for getting to where we want to go.
But what about the life in which that business exists? The overall journey of which that business is a part? What does that vision look like?
Our businesses don’t exist in a vacuum separate to life, we know that, but we’re not always so great at designing an holistic vision … and sticking to it. As entrepreneurs, we tend to sacrifice a fair amount of now for future benefit, benefit that features in the business vision. I know, that needs to be done and usually more than once, but being mindful and intentional about the visionary blend of life and business is to realise the true extent of the possibilities before us. We can have both – a successful business and well-crafted life, but it doesn’t happen on its own. Just like we need a clear vision of what we want and where we want to go with our business, the same is true of our greater journey in life. A vision of the blend, the mashed up master list is better than solely business vision and it’s better than the two existing in silos. One informs the other for our true, true north.
OPERATIONS: Leverage other people’s time to maximize our own
Given our primary resource is time, it stands to reason then that the in both life and business, we often need to assign the most time to the things that deliver the most value. We’re talking about the big rocks, including the big rocks that are made up of lots of little rocks. Big rocks contribute greatly to the bigger vision – they’re not only necessary to get things done, but they enable progress. Big rocks and big value aren’t necessarily the most enjoyable things, nor the easiest, but the value they bring is worth the allocation of time.
Again, understanding the role things play in the bigger picture is critical to allocating time effectively. There will of course be times when it’s difficult to balance and for a period of time, we intentionally take a hit on something to get another thing sorted. Times when initial setup will take a disproportionate amount of time short term, but that long term, is a sustainable contribution. That’s ok and absolutely necessary at times, but the goal is always to make an investment now that will serve great value to the bigger picture over time.
The truth is that not all of the operations within our business are necessary and even if we run a very lean and efficient ship, not all of those operations need to be executed by ourselves. The time we have available to our business entails the time and the talent of the people who work for us, so matching that time and talent to the operations that mirror the returned value is tantamount.
Managing business operations is a lot like managing life operations. We need to administer that which is necessary for us to continue to do what we do. Whether we have a families or we’re still solo, we all need to keep a semi-organised home, otherwise things just don’t work. Not many people like paying bills or doing the food shopping, cleaning the bathroom or doing the laundry, but it’s all part of what needs to be done for that house to run smoothly, and indeed for life to run smoothly.
When those things are under control and sorted, we can get on with the other things that we probably enjoy much more and which contribute to the vision in different ways. But not all of these things need to be done by us. We can get help, we can outsource, find shortcuts and efficiencies – small investments that help to get the job done while at the same time allowing us as entrepreneurs, founders, leaders, parents, spouses, friends to spend more time on the things that will be more aligned with our desired cumulative effect.
Key investments in ensuring the little rocks are attended to and get done reliably enables time and other resources to be spent on the bigger rocks and the things that collectively contribute to greater value over time. Smooth operations management is essential for growth, for enabling new ideas and innovation, and for progress towards a bigger vision and again the interplay between business and life is one we need to acknowledge and respect.
ASSETS: Allocating our assets wisely
Now that we’ve thought about the time we’re allocating to the things that contribute to the master list, it’s worth thinking about matching those with the assets we have available to us. Assets like talent, contacts, systems, tools, people, equipment etc. and guess what – your energy. As an entrepreneur, one of our greatest and most valuable assets is our energy.
Our energy is how the vision comes to life, it’s how the people around us are inspired to see it too. It’s how ideas become reality and how momentum over time builds. Energy to an entrepreneur, both mentally and physically, is critical for so many reasons and therefore learning how our own energy works in terms of its cycles, peaks and troughs, is incredibly helpful. Not only can we then better prioritise activities that contribute to and replenish our energy, but we can go as far as syncing our calendars with our body clocks to use the times of highest energy for maximum effect.
Just as we need to make the best use of our own strengths and talents, and that of our teams, by matching them up with the things that they do best, we need to get into the habit of thinking about and matching all of our assets in this way. Spending time with family, exercising, and sleep are all restorative activities that rarely feature on our to-do lists. But what craziness considering they help our brains reset, our bodies recharge and enable us the space for creative thought, ideas, clarity and mental agility.
Most of all, this is our opportunity to create the life we want, one that we can be proud of. One where we used our talents, made our own rules, enabled others to do the same and created something we genuinely care about. The opportunity of the entrepreneur and of doing work we love is all part of that life. Be intentional with your time, with the way you manage your operations, your vision and your assets.
Life and work for the entrepreneur melds and blends, but that’s the beauty of it and the importance of the vision we’re creating and turning into reality. Entrepreneurial life is work and work is life, so let’s make the cumulative effect one we’re proud of because it’s not only entirely possible, it’s in fact the whole point. Otherwise we may as well just get a normal job and live ordinary lives.
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About the Author
Cofounder, Badassery Magazine
Kathy Rasmussen is cofounder and artistic director of Badassery Magazine and cohost of Badassery Podcast. She is a business operations expert and loves helping badass bosses bring their ideas to life.