A common challenge for many business owners is that their business takes over their life. They start their business so they can achieve a certain lifestyle but soon find that the business is dictating their life at the expense of family, friends and health: Instead of managing their business, they let their business manage them.

When you feel the immediate pressure of daily work it can seem crazy to take time out to spend on family, friends, recreation and holidays. In the longer term however this is what will make your business and life sustainable and worthwhile. While some things really are unavoidable, most aren’t and by understanding your true priorities and making small changes to your behaviour you can create the time to do the things that are most important to you. These small changes follow the principle of working smarter not harder, something which, despite their best intentions, many people find hard to do. If you think your business is running your life, here are some things you can do to put you back in charge.

Develop a life plan: You probably have a plan for your business but do you have a plan for your life? Most of us are in business to achieve a certain lifestyle. Attaining that lifestyle should be your ultimate measure of success, but do you know what that success looks like? If you haven’t got a clear vision of your own success you will never know what you need to do to get there: For example, if you want to be healthy in twenty years’ time, you need to start making healthy choices now.

Pay attention to how you invest your time: If you have no idea how you spend your day, you’re probably not investing it towards the right priorities. Keep a record of your activities so you can understand where you’re spending your time and where you might need to adjust.

Don’t let others steal your time: If you allow other people (e.g. your staff, your suppliers or the internet) to dictate how you spend your day then you’re allowing others to steal your time. Practice saying “no” to what’s not important and learn to delegate more so that you can invest in what is important.

Prioritise your family and friends: In the middle of busy work commitments it can seem like a low priority to make it home for family dinner, go on a date with your partner or connect with friends. Get these activities on the calendar to make sure you’re investing in these important relationships.

Make your holidays happen: Taking time away from day-to-day activities not only gives you the opportunity to spend time doing things you love, but it also helps to reduce your stress and gain perspective. Unless you are proactive in your vacation planning you will seldom get away so in in the future you’ll end up with a lot of “I always wanted to…” sentiments, instead of a treasure trove of “I’m so glad I did…” stories.

Maintain your health: Getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods and exercising regularly dramatically increases your happiness on a daily basis. This is a clinically proven fact and making small changes to your habits is likely to pay huge dividends later in life. You might be surprised that once you’ve attained healthier habits, you could actually enjoy them more than you did the old ones.

Spend money wisely: Injudicious overspending stresses your cashflow and you. Sometimes however, spending a little extra money on less obvious things can save many hours in your week: Hours that could be invested in doing stuff that is important to you. This could mean hiring a cleaning service to put your house in order, having groceries delivered or living closer to work. There are also many apps designed to save time for almost every conceivable business activity. In 20 years’ time you won’t miss the few extra dollars here and there, but you will miss the opportunities you had to live the life you wanted to live.

Know yourself: Many people spend more time planning a dinner party than they do thinking about themselves, their values and their behaviour. Take time to reflect on yourself. Are you managing your business or is your business managing you? What is important to you? What do you want to achieve? Are you on track? How do you want to be seen by others? A good way to answer these questions is to develop a 20 year life plan. That way you can define your own success and start working towards it with confidence.

If some of these actions resonate with you, think about your life as a whole and do this simple exercise to help identify opportunities to fix things before you need to be fixed. Healthy businesses are run by healthy people and the best time to start making these changes in now.

Acknowledgement: Some of the content in this post was based on a colleague’s earlier blog which you can read here.

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