When was your last vacation? I mean a real, email-free, no-phonecalls vacation. If you’re like most people I know, you can’t quite remember. This is why I like today’s post, by David Bakke. It’s a reminder that entrepreneurship is about balance (not extremes), and that having a better work life balance can improve productivity and happiness. 

Running a small business is tough. With the flexibility of creating your own schedule and being your own boss, comes big responsibility. But not only are you responsible to your business, you are also responsible to yourself. If you don’t pay attention to balancing personal life with work, your health, relationships, and finances can seriously suffer.

A friend of mine found this out the hard way. She owns a lively coffee house, but in the beginning, she worked 12 hour days and didn’t take a single day off. She was ultimately forced to take a break when her husband threatened divorce unless she start devoting time to their family. Extreme, perhaps, but it got her attention. By prioritizing balance, learning to delegate responsibilities, and better managing her time, she got her personal life back on track.

If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately – or wish to avoid that trap – read on for seven tips that can help restore balance to your life.

1. Create a Schedule

Once you start your own business, you won’t have a boss to report to, and can work whenever you want. However, I made the transition to small business ownership several years ago, and my organization suffered significantly at first due to my ineffective management of time. By setting a schedule, I became more efficient, and now know when it’s okay to unplug for the day. To create a schedule, use Gmail’s Calendar. Or, if you don’t have a Gmail account, use the free software WinCalendar (available for download via CNET) or the calendar feature in Microsoft Office Outlook.

2. Commit to Breaks

You may feel guilty by doing so, but taking breaks is important. Trying to get work done when you’re not at your best can waste valuable time.

3. Focus on Personal Health

If your business is Internet-based, you may find that finding time to exercise is more difficult than ever before. Get a gym membership or exercise at home to improve your health and increase your chances of succeeding. Running a small business requires long work days, but by exercising sufficiently, you’ll sleep better each night and wake up each morning with a clear head so you can better tackle the challenges of the day.

4. Improve Your Personal Finances

Is credit card debt nagging at you? Are you struggling to pay monthly bills? If so, these nuisances can impede your ability to fund your new endeavor. It can become more difficult to concentrate on running your venture, in addition to putting unnecessary pressure on yourself to succeed. Get yourself on a personal budget and pay off your debts. By doing so, stepping away from your business to allow for more personal time becomes easier.

5. Improve Your Diet

If your day is filled with quick stops at fast food restaurants because you don’t think you have the time to eat healthier food, you’re not doing yourself any good. Take the time to switch to a diet based on homemade dishes consisting of more fruits and vegetables, and look for a farmers’ market in your area to buy fresh, organic produce for cheap. You’ll save money and potentially decrease your medical bills.

6. Get Out More

If you’re running your operation solo, loneliness or even depression can seep into your life. To prevent this, make an effort to strengthen your relationships with family or friends, or go out and make new ones. Volunteer your time, and keep an eye out for social organizations in your area. As you meet new people, try to keep business topics out of the conversation so that you may give yourself the mental break you deserve.

7. Find a Mentor

If you find yourself working too much or too little, seek a mentor. Check with family or friends for recommendations, or post your request on your LinkedIn profile. Your local chamber of commerce may be able to help too. A mentor can assist with virtually every facet of your small business, including juggling your operation with your personal life. Finding someone who’s been there and done that can cut down on the time it takes you to achieve the right balance.

Final Thoughts

According to a small business survey conducted by U.S. Bank, 45% of respondents said “their business is their life, and their life is their business.” Don’t be one of those people – always be sure to include some “me” time during every single work day. Even if it’s just watching some TV, even mindless entertainment can be an effective way to unwind and refresh. Or, pick up a good book – and not a small business self-help book. Select an author that you like and read their work.

What additional tips can you suggest to balance small business ownership and personal time?

Photo Credit: happykiddo

David is an online marketer, author, and blogger for the popular personal finance and business resource  Money Crashers.