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Finding Work–Life Balance as a Startup Founder

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by Startacus Admin

work life balance as a startup founder

For entrepreneurs, the lines between work and personal life can blur significantly and the scales can tip heavily in favour of the former. This isn’t good for the entrepreneur’s friendships, family life, even their business and, ultimately, their health and mental well-being.

The divorce rate for entrepreneurs is often suggested as being higher than the average, demonstrating just what a strain the lack of a good work–life balance can possibly have on relationships. The particularly sad thing about this is that it is avoidable - perhaps more easily than people imagine. That balance can be found. And here are just a few tips on how.

Strict boundaries

It’s common for entrepreneurs to take pride in the fact that they are ‘on call’ 24/7, as a demonstration of how hard working and dedicated they are, how determined they are to succeed. This is the first mistake. You will never find a balance when you work life overlays your personal life, when you are stepping out of romantic meals with your spouse to take business calls, when you can’t read your child a bedtime story because you have an important email to write.

As a startup founder, you may well have to work longer hours than most, yes, but you need to have a set start time and end time for your work day. Perhaps you start at 8 instead of 9, and go home at 6.30 instead of 5.30, but set these times and stick to them. Make sure everyone around you knows these are your work hours, that you don’t work on weekends, etc., so that the number of people who might try to get hold of you - and test your resolve! - will be lower. Yes, occasionally you will have to make an exception for a call to a client on the other side of the world, but make sure that only essential exceptions are made. Our recent article on how to end your work day may help here. 

work life balance as a startup founder

Switch off

Closely tied to the above is switching off when you are not at work. Disconnect. Don’t check your work emails, turn off your phone’s wifi and data so you won’t be notified every time you get an email, don’t answer work calls. In the unlikely case that you have a separate phone for work, turn it off altogether, or if you have a landline at home (increasingly rare these days), you shouldn’t need a mobile on at all. Most phones allow you to classify contacts as family, friend, work, etc., and will give you options for allowing certain calls while directing others straight to voicemail. It might seem like a lot of work to avoid work, but do everything you can to ensure that your home life won’t be interrupted and that you won’t be tempted to quickly reply to ‘just one email’.

This may be difficult at first, and it will feel as though your business may be crumbling every moment that you aren’t connected; however, after you have got used to turning your phone back on, checking your email when you get to work, etc., and finding that anarchy didn’t break loose overnight, it will become easier.

work life balance as a startup founder


If you are keeping your personal life personal, you also need to keep your work life worky. Don’t check your personal social media every hour, don’t respond to personal emails, don’t keep checking YouTube for the new Star Wars trailer. Maximise every moment of work, and you will feel less guilty about keeping your private time to yourself.

You also need to ensure that all of your work time is spent on what matters most to your business - what drives it forward. It can be easy to waste time on the things that don’t really matter, but if you are going to make the most of keeping a work–life balance, you need to ensure that your work time is only spent on work that matters. If you have employees (or even a co-founder), this includes properly delegating and allowing them to get on with the work you give them, rather than micromanaging, as entrepreneurs are potentially tone to do. Having a company culture that embraces work-life balance can help with this too. Which leads us to...

work life balance as a startup founder


Plenty of startup founders are on their own, especially at first, but for most it will become necessary to take on employees for your sme / startup as it grows. As well as being a milestone on the road to success, bringing other people into the business is when you can start delegating and freeing up time that can either be added to your personal life or be used to focus on the essentials that only you can/should handle. Delegating work to employees also lessens the risk of errors arising from you trying to do everything yourself.

So, although it may be easier said than done, the steps to balancing work and personal life aren’t really that difficult. Just keep an eye out for signs that the balance is off. For example, if you find yourself more annoyed by your spouse calling you at work than you are by an employee or co-founder calling you at home, or if you are always on time for work and work-related things, but always late for personal matters. Think how much strain would be relieved/avoided if your spouse simply knows they can rely on you to always be on time to pick up your child from school.

Maintaining a work–life balance will be more difficult in the first years of a startup, but at the end of the day, what it boils down to is working hard during work hours and outside of work hours putting the same level of dedication into your family, your friends, yourself. And start as you mean to go on - get it right early on and it will only get easier.

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Published on: 19th February 2017

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