How Business Owners Can Design Their Days for Work-life Balance

Between the competing demands of work and home life, we may feel pulled in a million different directions by the end of the day. Here are a few ways business owners can design their days for work-life balance.

This article is only for educational purposes and does not constitute legal or financial advice. Make sure you consult a professional regarding your unique business needs.

Many of us feel there aren’t enough hours in the day. Between the competing demands of work and home life, we feel pulled in a million different directions by the end of the day. And with the holiday season in full swing, business is busier and our calendars are more overcommitted than ever.

The bad news is (wait, there’s good news, too!): this article won’t help you uncover extra time — we still get only 24 hours in a day. The good news, though, is that it will help you be more deliberate with the time you do have.

In Happier Hour: How To Beat Distraction, Expand Your Time, and Focus on What Matters Most, University of California Los Angeles professor and happiness researcher Cassie Holmes, Ph.D., says that being intentional with how we spend our time makes us feel happier, more satisfied, and more balanced. 1

We’ll explore a few of the many exercises in her book and how they can be applied to business owners.

Give yourself time to think, even when you’re spread thin

As owner and creator, you (and your attention) are your business’s most valuable asset. From day-to-day operations to big-picture plans, you keep everything moving. That’s a heavy load to carry, and you need time to think. Professor Holmes suggests to protect one hour each week to focus on the important work. 2

For most of us it’s easy to get swept up in urgent tasks, like paying supplier invoices, serving customers, or fixing a leaky faucet. Before we know it our day has been consumed by these external demands rather than having any say in how we spent our valuable focus.

Professor Holmes says that our happiness increases when we’re purposeful with our time. So even a small investment of one hour out of your entire week can have a big effect on your business and on your overall work-life satisfaction.

Takeaway 1: Make time to think and reflect

Schedule one hour each week with no distractions. Shut the door to your back office, close out of email, put your phone on Do Not Disturb, and tell your staff and loved ones that you’ll be unreachable. If you can’t set aside a full hour at first, start with 15 or 30 minutes and work up to an hour.

This is your time to reflect on and strategize the big financial and business questions you’ve had on your mind:

  • Are you ready to set up savings folders (and decide how much to set aside) for emergencies, a new fridge, or even quarterly taxes?
  • Is it time to launch that new product line?
  • What will it take to expand?

Automate what you can

Small-business financial consultant and coach Andi Smiles urges entrepreneurs to automate or outsource the tasks that take up valuable time but don’t contribute to your strategy or vision for your business.

Smiles says, “The misconception with automation is that [it] means being completely hands-off — you don’t want to be hands-off with your business. I encourage people to identify the tactical, repetitive tasks that don’t require strategy. For example, bookkeeping, categorizing transactions, doing inventory counts and reconciliations. Things that don’t require your strategic hat should be outsourced.”

Takeaway 2: Automate or outsource repetitive tasks

Recurrent financial tasks often eat away at business owners’ time but don’t always require strategy to be completed. Identify which tasks you can automate, or hire someone to do them if you can. By taking these items off your to-do list, you’ll free up valuable hours that you can spend on your business vision and planning.

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Know why you do what you do

Professor Holmes found that identifying the purpose of your work keeps people motivated, engaged, and more satisfied in life overall. 3

Knowing your purpose makes being a business owner more enjoyable, even when the hours are long and the to-do lists longer. It also makes your priorities clearer. You may decide to invest in professional certifications, to renovate your space, or to buy new social media ads. Business decisions are easier to make when they support your greater purpose.

Takeaway 3: Let your purpose lead the way

Define (or redefine if it’s been a while) your purpose as a business owner. Holmes says to keep asking why until you get to your deeper motivation. Yours may be “to make every client feel confident” or “to give the comfort of a home-cooked meal.”

  1. Why do I do the work I do? _______
  2. Why is that important to me ? ______
  3. Why do I care about that? ________
  4. And why that? ____________
  5. Ultimately, what is my why? ________

Once you’ve arrived at your why, think about the things on your to-do list and whether they support your purpose. Are there ideas that rise to the top or some that should be removed altogether?

While we can’t get more hours in the day, we can spend our limited time more meaningfully. When we steer our days toward the things that matter, like reflecting on the bigger questions, taking small tasks off our plates, and letting our purpose guide our priorities, we’ll feel more satisfied — and even balanced — in our work and personal lives.

  1. Holmes, Cassie. Happier Hour: How To Beat Distraction, Expand Your Time, and Focus on What Matters Most (2022), 44.

  2. Holmes, 168–69.

  3. Holmes, 89–95.

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