I have a problem. I'm a relatively new co-founder and generally a beginner in the startup world. For the last few years that I've been doing startups and starting new businesses, I was in a constant sprint, which pretty much made me abandon my social life and relationships outside work. When I start a new project I don't get off of the computer until I finish with everything related to it. It's like the world stops for a while. Later on, I find that it was running but just without me. It's the following problem I was reflecting on recently. In order to be the best, you have to sacrifice something and avoid things that are in your way of succeeding. On the other hand, being so determined might be emotionally and physically tiring and even damaging. I'd like to hear from successful entrepreneurs, how you managed your work-life balance and what helped you avoid getting into the trap of the no hours workday?
I've run multiple businesses while leading a family, maintaining friendships, working with non-profit organizations (I sit on several boards), and being an active leader in my church. It's certainly not always easy, but it's rewarding when you can maintain the right balance.
Here are a few tips:
1. If something is important to you, put it on your calendar. This includes family time, friendships, rest and relaxation, etc. I have found that if something doesn't get from my to-do list to my schedule, it often doesn't get done. This applies not only to work items, but to personal ones as well.
2. Create some space away from your work. Set time-based and geographic barriers for yourself (i.e. no working in certain rooms in the house or after a certain time at night). Create some rules and stick to them - even find ways to reward yourself for sticking to your boundaries.
3. Recognize that you get diminishing returns after a certain point. If you are working a ton of hours and shortchanging yourself on rest and recharging, you will eventually get less productivity and lower quality work out of yourself. That means you'll have to work 80 hours to get the same output you used to get from 50 hours, and it becomes a vicious cycle. If you look at the time away from your work (especially sleep) as an investment in the quality of your time at work, you can do more with less.
4. Recognize the value of your relationships. When I'm struggling with stress at work, it's great to have a supportive wife and encouraging friends to help me maintain perspective, and to remind me what is important and what I'm capable of. But those relationships can't be built in the moment you need them - they take time to create and nurture. The saying "dig your well before you're thirsty" applies not only to business relationships, but to personal ones as well.
A couple of years ago, I gave a talk on this topic at a leadership conference. You can view the video (about 13 minutes) here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzS59UjmO8A
I hope that's helpful!