Find Downtime When Running a Small Business

Date: November 14, 2014

Create a steady work-life balance with tips from a time-management expert.

Most small business owners face a common challenge: finding time away from their businesses to spend with family and friends—or just finding downtime for themselves.

Whether their business is a local retail store or a professional-services company they run from home, small business owners are faced with juggling the constant demands of their business.

“You have to be both a strategist as well as a day-to-day operator of your business,” says Julie Morgenstern, CEO of time-management consultancy Julie Morgenstern Enterprises in New York. “When you constantly work, you never get a chance to step back and look at the big picture. You can get caught up in all the mundane details.”

Morgenstern advises business owners to build time off into their schedule. “If you’re a startup, it will be a lot harder than if you’re an established small business, but if you’ve been in business three to five years, it’s time to start building in routine time off,” she says.

Here’s how:

  1. Look at the clock. Start by determining how many hours you work each day
  2. Cut back work. Start with cutting back 30 minutes a day and eventually a couple of hours each day
  3. Find a hobby. Find something you’re passionate about to fill your time, such as taking a class or spending time with your family
  4. Get help. Find an assistant who can cover for you and help you lighten your workload.

“Every small business owner needs to get a crackerjack assistant who understands your priorities, can filter your email and phone calls, and get back to your customers,” Morgenstern says. “This gives you the freedom to get away.”
Parry Annis, owner of Window Solutions in Thousand Oaks, California, says he put too much time in when he opened his door- and window-replacement company four years ago. He often put in 12-hour days and worked on weekends.

He now tries not to work on Saturdays and doesn’t work at all on Sundays so he can spend time with his wife and three kids. He takes his family boating or camping on long weekends during the year, and he also goes on a yearly surfing trip to Mexico. “That is my big present to myself. I try to decompress,” he says.

While on vacation, Annis checks email once a day and calls the office a few times during the week to check in with the sales manager or office manager. “Taking time for myself away from the business maintains my sanity, and that helps me and business,” he says.

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