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Give Yourself a Break

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I hear it all the time. Everyone’s looking for work-life balance, and I have to say, I just can’t buy into it. 

Don’t get me wrong. I agree balance is something to strive for, but I think a lot of us have the wrong idea when we picture work-life balance. I think a lot of us are getting hung up on this idea of keeping our work and home lives completely separate and somehow excelling at both. I think we’re picturing this with a clear divide, as a black and white situation. 

It’s just not realistic. Life doesn’t happen that way. And more importantly, you’re setting yourself up to feel like a failure at both. At some point your work is going to impact your home life and vice versa and you end up beating yourself up that you couldn’t keep the two apart. 

But for me, the saddest part of the whole concept is the number of shop owners that are missing out on their lives because they’re so busy trying to achieve that balance. They’re sure that if they push a little harder and keep working at it, they’ll be able to take the family on vacation and completely unplug or get through a weekend without checking their email. There’s this idea that someday they’ll perfect the process and in the meantime their life is passing them by. 

That’s why I’m a big proponent of work-life mix. I’ve stopped trying to keep the two separate. I’m a business owner, and a father, and a husband, and it’s just not realistic to only tend to shut out one part of my life at a time. I take my family everywhere and I don’t shut out my work when I’m out of the office. I don’t completely unplug. If I’m hosting a conference, my kids are probably going to be on-site and if I’m on a snowboarding trip with my son, I’m not going to stress about answering a few calls and responding to the texts that have rolled in. 

I wrote last month about how business happens in seasons, with times to grow and times to refine, and I think the same carries through here. There are going to be seasons where work is busy and you have to put your nose to the grindstone, and there are going to be off seasons where you have more time to play with. The trick is leaning into those seasons and finding a way to be at peace with juggling and making the most of both. And I know that’s not easy because I’m a shop owner too. I’ve been there. It took me a decade—a full 10 years of working like a dog and sacrificing that personal life—to learn that lesson and find what works for me. 

But that’s the key: finding what works for you, because it’s not going to look the same for everyone and it’s not going to be as black and white as shutting out one to work on the other. For me, the work that comes in on a Friday night is something I’ll push to Saturday morning when my family’s asleep, so I’m not missing a date night with my wife or weekend plans with my kids. If I’m out of town or on vacation, I don’t allow my team to text or email me unless it’s an emergency. 

Are texts and calls and emails still going to come through? Absolutely. And will I take a few minutes to deal with them, even on a snowboarding trip with my son? Yes, because that’s the reality of running a business. But that’s also when I’m going to take advantage of the perks that come with business ownership: the freedom to set my own schedule and the power to delegate.

And the beauty of it is, the more you set your own schedule, the more you delegate, the easier it gets to take personal time and get that practice at managing that work-life mix. Your team learns how to deal and you learn how to let go a bit and juggle the two.

The big message? Plan the trip. Schedule the date night. Give yourself a break. Stop waiting for the ideal moment to step away, and stop beating yourself up for the call you had to take on vacation. Life’s too short to waste chasing that black and white divide and you have to start somewhere. Embrace the gray.

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