Maintaining Work-Life Harmony When You're the Boss

  •    A freelance reporter and writer based in Philadelphia, Pa., Dinah previously worked as a staff reporter for The Associated Press and Dow Jones Newswires.

Entrepreneurs often work longer hours and take on more stress than employees, which is no surprise given their responsibility for building, running and maintaining a business.

Even the boss needs a healthy work-life balance, though, including time to step away from the job and relax.

A survey last year from technology company NodeSource found that 45 percent of entrepreneurs considered finding a work-life balance to be their largest ongoing challenge.

How can you give your most important employee -- yourself -- a break? Here are a few ideas for enjoying work-life balance, or, as some experts now prefer to view the notion, work-life harmony.

Love what you do.

It may seem obvious, but if you're doing work you love and that energizes you, you're less likely to feel stressed and worn. Do you enjoy your entrepreneurial life, and does it leave you time and enthusiasm for other aspects of your life?

Researchers Jeffrey Greenhaus and Gary Powell have explored the idea of work and family as "allies," defining work-family enrichment as "the extent to which experiences in one role improve the quality of life in the other role." Rather than sources of stress and conflict, they suggest, work and family lives can interact in positive ways.

Some entrepreneurs understand this symbiotic relationship first hand.

"I think balance is a tricky word, because every day is different and I don't spend equal time every day on each compartment of my life. I like to say if you are fulfilled creatively the balance of a busy life is easier to deal with because you know your purpose," says Chan Graphics owner Teresa Chan.

Her business, a "one-woman show" based in her San Francisco-area home studio, makes repeating-pattern designs for use on fabric, wallpaper, gift wrap, clothing and home goods. She works with large retailers and fabric and wallpaper companies that discovered her either through Instagram or word of mouth.

"I've been fortunate to have a number of amazing clients buying or licensing my designs," she says.

Depending on the season and whether she's facing a deadline, Chan says she devotes from 20 to 40 hours a week to her business.

“I love it and even when I'm not working on a project for a client, I'm constantly creating because it can potentially be something for a client later on through what they see on Instagram."

Make time to care for yourself, no matter what.

Running a business shouldn't require you to sacrifice your physical, emotional or mental health, no matter how pressured you may be.

Exercise, healthy sleep, time with family or friends and other activities that help you care for yourself can relieve stress and make you more prepared to feel and be your best at work and home.

Whether it's a workout, hiking, dance class, running with your dog, cycling, meeting with a therapist or life coach, or whatever activity that helps keeps you healthy, rested and strong, make it a priority. Prepare in advance and take a vacation. You can do it, really.

"I have some non-negotiables that I've built in," says Chan, mother of a 10-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy.

"I run every day after dropping off my kids from school and have a coach that I meet with once a week," she says, referring to her holistic success coach. "I strive for seven hours of sleep each evening, which I find is a sanity saver."

Be realistic.

You can successfully integrate your entrepreneurial and personal lives, and doing so means being realistic about what's feasible.

Several years ago, Chan worked as a freelance graphic designer in the offices of an organic food company while her younger child attended a co-op preschool, where she served as a board member. With two young children, a husband who traveled and involvement in a co-op preschool, going to a corporate office wasn't manageable, she says.

After working with other organic food companies for a while, Chan pivoted into surface pattern design, taking an online course and gaining business traction by posting her art on Instagram. She launched her eponymous business about two years ago.

Chan, who believes women get asked about work-life balance more than men, says it took many career arrangements to find one that was manageable and fulfilling.

Surround yourself with helpful people.

They may not have a line on your balance sheet, but having caring, encouraging people in your life is priceless and can be a key ingredient to success and happiness inside and outside your business.

"Having a support system like my husband and friends that are low drama is crucial while running a successful business," says Chan.

It's easy to get so caught up with work that when you finally do look up and look around, you may wonder where everyone went.

Don't fret if, at this moment, you lack the kind of personal or social support you'd like to turn to for inspiration and encouragement. Look for networking and social groups and activities that bring enjoyment, stir your creativity and put you in touch with like-minded people.

Making time for a cooking class, book club, or a music or running group can give you a much needed burst of fun and bring new people into your orbit. If you've lost touch with good friends, pick up the phone.

At work, consider hiring a virtual assistant, part-time bookkeeper or others who can help business run smoothly, even when you step away for a few hours or a few days. Delegate administrative tasks so you can focus on the core of your venture — the work that motivates you and keeps the company growing.

Taking care of yourself and the important people in your life doesn't have to detract from your business. In fact, it's can be an important part of your success. Not only do you need to tend to all aspects of your life, but your business itself relies on you — a healthy, content and motivated you — to thrive.