If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.
I can personally attest to the truth of this statement. But, as I have painfully discovered, a balanced life is also critical to your success. Especially, when self-employed.
Being so deeply engaged with your job that you can’t stop doing it infers you are living your purpose. A great thing! The problem arises when you start to neglect other important areas of your life. Areas which, if not balanced, will negatively influence your ability to be successful and happy, like:
- Effective time management
- Proper nutrition, sleep and exercise
- Quality time with family, friends and loved ones
Such neglect makes it difficult to assess what you can reasonably accomplish in a day. Ignoring these important factors leads to disengagement or depression when you can’t deliver on your unrealistic expectations. Placing less on your to-do list may grant you time during the day to accomplish more.
Guilt from not spending quality and focused time with family, friends and loved ones affects your focus. This, combined with a lack of sleep, an unbalanced diet and little to no exercise can create the perfect storm for high stress, anxiety and failure.
To truly achieve success, you must live your life in balance. Here’s how:
Focus On Life, Not Work
Change your perspective by thinking first about the life you want to live and then about the job and career which fits into that life and can support it financially. If you are strategic about your decisions, you can put the horse (your life) before the cart (your job and career).
Mark Mahoney, president and co-founder of the software company Jackrabbit, loves his life. He encourages his employees to do the same. As a result, he achieved immense business and personal success. His success is a result of striking the right balance between what he calls his “business time, family time, and me time” and “being physically and mentally present” when working and playing. To accomplish this, he disables his work email when on vacation, doesn’t look at his computer before going to bed and schedules regular workouts.
In 2004, Mark and a friend, Mike Carper, founded Jackrabbit after discussing the idea over lunch. Their new business concept aligned with their passion for youth sports, their experience in the software industry and their desire for life balance. They developed an online application designed to assist with youth class management. Their program eliminated the need for youth activity business owners (dance studios, gymnasiums, cheer, swim, martial arts and music centers) to worry about database backups, software updates and technical issues. It further allowed these entrepreneurs (many of them women) the freedom to integrate their business and personal lives, supporting remote working to achieve the success they desired.
Upon software completion, the two owners still worked full-time jobs. They hired part-time, stay-at-home moms to support their customers, helping keep their dream alive until they could transition to their new venture full-time.
Today, the company employs over 40 people in the U.S. and Canada. It services 3,800 customers in 50 states and 20 countries. In an effort to foster life balance for their employees, they remained entirely virtual, allowing employees to work from home.
Jackrabbit has been recognized for four consecutive years as one of the fastest growing private companies in America by Inc. Magazine.
Helpguide.org describes burnout as “a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands.”
- Leads to low energy levels or exhaustion
- Makes you reactive instead of proactive
- Negatively impacts your self-confidence
In addition, stress – related to overstretching yourself – adversely affects sleeping patterns, clear thinking, decision-making, and your creativity. Most importantly, it can lead to health problems and a feeling you have nothing more to give.
Regardless of how much you love what you do, you are not immune to burnout. Resolve any burnout issues in your life by reducing your stress.
While technology offers amazing advances to simplify our lives, it also makes it near impossible to escape the ringing and buzzing of your cell phone or continual inundation of emails. But we must manage technology’s grip and set aside time to relax, unwind and enjoy our family and friends. You may think you do this already, but is this time always without interruption?
It used to be when you left work nothing followed you home, because mobile phones, message machines or email didn’t exist. Today, more than ever, a person must be proactive and disciplined about returning natural balance to their life.
This is best done through effective time management:
- Setting daily schedules and sticking to them
- Saying “no” when you are at capacity
- Working smarter, not harder
By taking a moment to think and reflect, or better yet, sleep on a challenge in your life (which helps your subconscious decipher a solution), you can discover new and creative ways of accomplishing your daily tasks. Find innovative tools and technologies to grant you more time to spend doing what you are good at and enjoy.
Seek Role Models
One of my early, balanced life, role models was my video store manager in high school. I worked for him for four years and learned a lot about balancing work, family and personal interests. He didn’t ever appear to focus on his balance, but naturally modeled it everyday.
He loved what he did for a living, always spoke about his family life, was heavily involved in his children’s sporting activities and took every occasion he could to engage in his hobby of creating videos of his son’s off-road racing. He was always smiling, happy and relaxed. I could not think of a better wish for my life.
When my family would travel throughout the U.S. during the summer months, he would always encourage me to go with them. “Your job will be waiting for you when you return,” he would reassure me, “Enjoy your summer.” He inspired me to relish and experience life.
Find people in your life or industry with a similar livelihood who successfully live healthy, happy and balanced lives. Watch them. Follow them online. Speak to them to discover what they are doing right. Emulate areas of their behavior which work for you and help you achieve your own goals.
Remember to choose the life balance right for you. Don’t adopt someone else’s definition unless it fits comfortably with you. When it comes to life balance, one size does not fit all.
Have A “Me” Party
In the Disney movie Muppets Most Wanted, the lead female character has a “me” party. A line in the song proclaims “tonight I’m gonna celebrate for just the one of us.” Incorporating this into reality is easier done than you think.
Do something you enjoy which focuses entirely on you: self-improvement, classes, sports, charity work or simply reading a book, listening to music, going to the movies, a concert or theatre performance.
Shut off your phone, computer and any devices diverting your focus away from time to think, relax, recharge and have fun.
Make sure you eat right and sleep seven to nine hours a day. Commit to a weekly exercise program.
Your family, friends and co-workers will benefit from these changes, too. They’ll appreciate your lower stress levels and renewed focus. To quote Mark Mahoney’s experience, “small things make a big difference.”
When you live a balanced life you dwell in a place where Anastasiya Goers, author of 5 Essential Zen Habits for Balanced Living says, “you can always offset any negative events in your life with positive ones . . . when you are happy working and playing equally.”
Fulfilling your purpose is your destiny. Finding your balance in life is essential to unleashing your true potential. Take your first, small step today. Tomorrow take the next. I challenge you to travel a step at a time towards a life of balance, success and happiness.
Share how you have already done this or what you want to change in your life, using the comments below.
Also, check out my new book How to Find a Job, Career and Life You Love (Second Edition) at LouisEfron.com.
This article was initially published at Forbes.com on August 28, 2014.