Family, Fun and Entrepreneurship -- Really?!

Origami fortune teller in cupped hands concept for work life balance choices
Origami fortune teller in cupped hands concept for work life balance choices

Entrepreneurship can be extremely rewarding -- providing tremendous challenge and financial gain.

But it can also be really, really draining -- physically, emotionally and psychologically. The leadership responsibility, demanding work schedule and lack of certainty can take a huge toll on an individual, leading to anxiety, depression and even addiction.

Not surprisingly, family and fun are two of the best buffers against the strains of entrepreneurship. But can a modern entrepreneur really enjoy themselves, spend quality time with family, and still run a successful enterprise?

Absolutely! As an entrepreneur, wife and mom of three, here are a few of the strategies that work for me:

Interject more fun into everyday activities.
You don't need to create a carnival atmosphere to enjoy yourself; little things can have a big impact:
  • Laugh more. Believe me, I know that some aspects of entrepreneurship are no joke - the stakes are high and the risks are real. But being able to find the humor in work situations is a great way to defend yourself against daily psychological stress, improve your attitude and boost your mood.
  • Make meetings more fun. Find a funny video like this one on "email in real life" and share it before you get down to business. Or, instead of heading to the conference room, try holding a walking meeting outdoors. A simple change of pace or break in routine can make a real difference.
  • Add "having fun" to your list of core values. Make it a formal part of your corporate culture. Brainstorm with your team to develop new ways of making everyday tasks more exciting. Do whatever you can to weave more positivity and enjoyment into the fabric of your organization.
Take real vacations.
Believe me, I know what you're thinking: "There's no WAY I can take time off - I'm running this ship!" But it's pretty tough to argue with this logic:
  • Vacations are good for your brain. The concept of a "working vacation" may sound appealing, but it doesn't provide the benefits a true break from work does. Why? Your brain needs periodic, sustained breaks to recharge and work at peak levels. Research shows that pushing yourself through too many days or hours of work in a row is counterproductive. Creativity and efficiency diminish, while mistakes and frustration increase (that's no fun - and no good for your business, either).
  • You'll have uninterrupted time with your family. No explanation needed here.
  • Your employees will get a chance to stretch their wings. If you've done your job well, you've set a solid strategy key employees can use to guide their actions while you're gone. Trust them! And if your business simply cannot survive your vacation? Consider it a wake-up call. Examine your people and process to find out where you need to make improvements.

Strive for satisfaction - not "balance."
For entrepreneurs, the term "work/life balance" is a joke. For starters, the term "balance" implies a 50/50 split (that's laughable, right?). It also assumes that work and life are distinct elements (and no successful professional I know keeps the two entirely separate). Finally, the term assigns equal importance to the work and non-work components of your life (but if a family member was suddenly hospitalized when you had a work presentation to give, would the two events be equally important?).

Forget about "having it all" -
. Stop pressuring yourself to live up to anyone else's definition of perfection. Put that balance scale away and define what works best for your life and situation:
  • Find your own "set point" for happiness. Forget 50/50. Determine the right mix of work, sleep, fun, exercise, family time and down time you need to thrive.
  • Clarify your priorities. You only have 24 hours in each day, so be practical - and realistic. Put pen to paper and list what's most important to you (without apologies or excuses). Then vow to pursue only those things. When you stop trying to have it all, you create more time for happiness, fulfillment and yes - fun.
  • Create (and use) a great support system for yourself. When you're not feeling like Superman or Wonder Woman, rely on your friends and family for encouragement and help. Meaningful interactions with loved ones aren't limited to vacations or celebrations. The time you spend seeking counsel, moral support or even pure distraction from work worries strengthens bonds, too.
  • Try "homing at work." If you don't already, cut yourself a little slack and take care of family needs during the work day (from setting appointments to buying something online). Check off personal to-do's during your workday, and you'll have more high-quality time during non-work hours to devote to your family, your hobbies or anything else you enjoy.
  • Define what "fun" really means for you - and pursue it unapologetically. If reading business books really is truly fun for you, read them. If you find attending networking events energizing and enjoyable, go to them. My point? Your idea of fun is the only one that matters. Instead of chastising yourself for not spending more time riding roller coasters, crafting or skiing, be glad that your definition of fun aligns with your entrepreneurial pursuits.

How do you make room in your schedule for meaningful family time? How do you have fun at work? How do you run a successful business - and keep your sanity? I'd love to know - leave your comments below.