Focus, breathe and grow your business

The work-life balance is a myth.

If you are a woman entrepreneur, there’s a big chance that you are, for some reason, chasing this unicorn dream of having a work-life balance.

After all, isn’t that what all these blogs/magazines/tv shows/self help books/audiobooks/etcetera are telling you? That in order for you to have a fulfilling life and work, you should create boundaries – a time to do this and a time to do that. That you should not bring your cell phone while lying on a beach, sipping your margaritas.

The thing is, that won’t happen (ok I take it back, that seldom happens). Not if you are a solopreneur who wants to grow your business to the next level. Not if you are a working mom (aka mompreneur) who needs to tends to both a growing business AND a growing family. Your personal/work life are bound to mix and mash. You also have no choice but to bring your laptop and cellphone while you’re supposed to be on vacation because your client will call you to attend to one or two microtasks.

How can you deal with this kind of life business conflict? How can we let our ourselves breathe and give us a chance without sacrificing the growth of our business?

Whenever I have this kind of dilemma, I only remember to do the three things to keep me going:

1. Focus on your goals.

Like you, I’m one busy solopreneur. I have to work on a side business (copy writing) while maintaining a full time job as a journalist. And there are times that I get depressed because instead of reading a beautiful novel by Alexander Mccall Smith or watching a movie on Sunday afternoon, I find myself cranking out another 500-word blog post for a client.

But here’s the thing – my depression will only last for a few minutes, about a couple of hours at best. I will recover soon enough, and happily tap my keyboard, stringing out words and ideas. This is because I always keep myself focused on my goal. Whenever I feel frustrated, I look at my one-page goal sheet, and like a daily mantra, read this paragraph to myself: “Today, I’m getting closer of owning a six-figure location independent business.” This is my goal –and if I have to sacrifice a few lazy Sundays now just to get there, hopefully by mid-2012, then it’s worth it.

2. Time management is “personal”

I have made peace with the concept of time management and accepting that this is indeed personal. Instead of berating myself for not following every step outlined in David Allen’s Getting things Done, I just took some of its salient points (like classifying tasks by context – “at the computer”, “at home”, “in the office”) and apply it on my personal circumstances.

This is what I learned from my friend and mentor, Rossana Llenado, president of online tutorial company Ahead Interactive. She told me about the unusual hours that any entrepreneur (especially a start up entrepreneur) has to maintain just to get the business off the ground.

Get used to the fact that you will no longer have the usual 8 to 5 working hours, she told me. Rossana knew what she was talking about as she herself worked long hours when she was busy building her successful chain of tutorial centers.

So I work longer (and perhaps harder). My workday clock extends to about 12 hours as do a lot of mini-tasks after I got home from work. I write a few posts, reply to urgent e-mails and listen to audio modules downloaded from We Mastermind business course as I have plans of launching an info-product early next year. I do all these things before settling down to sleep by midnight.

Of course I’m not some machine which can just work all day long. I give myself mini-breaks so that I can breathe and recharge – five minutes of meditation, a long weekend overseas, two hours of yoga or a whole day reading a travel memoir. I also take at least eight hours of sleep a day – this is non-negotiable as I can’t work properly without enough sleep.

3. Outsourcing is a good thing

Rossana also advised me to learn how to hire people to help me. That may be difficult because that will not only mean spending money (a limited resource for any newbie entrepreneur) but also means letting go of my control-freak tendencies.

“If you won’t hire anyone to make your business grow then your business will remain a hobby and will not become a business,” she told me.

This is because if you don’t even delegate simple tasks like uploading posts in your blog, you will be tied down by numerous tasks instead of focusing on your business.

So I have learned to delegate some tasks to other people who are more knowledgeable in other aspects for the business. I took a business partner, asked a friend to help me with the business registration, and hired a designer and a part time virtual assistant. This liberated some time for me to attend to my core tasks – writing, marketing and strategizing.

So the next time you get yourself thinking that your work-life balance is out of whack, better erase those thoughts from your head and instead focus on your goal, not on the tasks.


About the Author: Prime Sarmiento is a Southeast Asia-based journalist who reports on science and travel. She is the co-founder of The Gypsygals – a multimedia site that offers practical advice and inspirational stories to solo female travelers. 

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8 thoughts on “Focus, breathe and grow your business

    1. @google-a0690aa68da486c6b107fc15ebf26e6f:disqus  and @nataliemacneil:disqus  — I’m getting there! Although I’m sometimes bit disappointed with myself because I think I’m moving slowwwwly (as I still have a full time job and can only give so much time for the biz). But I quit my job before to freelance full time , thinking that it will give me work-life balanced. That sucked – big time – as I was always desperate to earn anything before. today, I’m more cautious – I’d rather have a crazy schedule than an unstable paycheck   

  1. Great to see you on here. I am impressed. You WILL get to the 6 figure location independent business (this is perhaps my goal as well, except I foolishly want to be a millionaire.. wink), and hopefully I’ll be right along with you! I can relate to the hours. My days now that I took a full time job to give me some relief while attempting to grow my business extends 15 hours.. With 10 hour work days, 3 hour commute and a few tasks here and there before I go to bed. Yikes! 

    1. No it’s not foolish to dream of being a millionaire (after all, we live in the Philippines, if we have 30,000 US dollars then we’re technically a millionaire because that’s 1 million pesos!!!).  I actually have a modest goal, to me if I can net 2,000 US dollars/mo that to me is a six-figure business (2,000 $ = over 80 thou pesos).  And yes, our e-book collaboration is just the the first step towards that goal. 🙂

  2. I am a huge advocate for letting go of the stress associated with maintaining a work-life balance equilibrium. I like your approach and I think you did a great job on the post! I look forward to seeing your business progress and reading more content from you. 

  3. I really enjoyed this article! It makes me feel more at ease if long hours await me in the future; I now realize that wouldn’t be unusual and it doesn’t mean I would be wasting my time.

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