3 Elements of maintaining a strong life / work balance

I have interviewed over 60 agency owners and consultants on my podcast Working Without Pants and have spoken with most of them about this simple question of maintaining life / work balance. 

As entrepreneurs, this is something that so many of us struggle with.

We work countless hours, and can’t imagine how we could do it any other way.
And for many of us, when we aren’t working, we can’t get our mind off work.

I was wrapped up in this vicious cycle of endless work hours and worrying about work for years, although through conducing these interviews, I have found answers to many of my questions and changed for the better.

I no longer worry about work.
I no longer work 60+ hour work weeks. 
I have a balanced, normal life. 

In this post, I am going to share with you the 3 elements of maintaining a life / work balance. 


Element #1: Limit your work hours

The single most impactful lesson that I learned came from an interview with Aaron Ross of Predictable Revenue.

Over the course of four years, Aaron grew his personal income from $60,000 per year to over $800,000 per year. 

The amazing thing is that Aaron did this while maintaining an average work week of 25-30 hours per week! 

When I asked him about how he did this, his answer was simple. 

I wanted to be able to make as much money as I wanted doing things I love.

As part of this, I realized working harder wasn’t really a fit for me. I didn’t get more done. I got more done in the short term, but lost touch with the bigger breakthrough ideas.

It felt like for me, 25 hours per week would be my constraint, and by having that as a loose constraint, it would force me to focus on things that would make a bigger difference and not get caught up in the busy work…

So figuring out how am I going to make a big difference, and make money, while working part time. That was one big breakthrough.
— Aaron Ross, Predictable Revenue

From the get-go, Aaron set constraints on his work hours. These constraints became limitations that he consistently had to work with.

When he found that his hours were reaching 30-40 hours per week or beyond, he would have to adjust something about his business to fix that. Working more hours was just not the solution. 

Parkinson’s Law

This goes back to one of the core foundations of Tim Ferriss’s famous book The Four Hour Work Week. In the book he extensively stresses the concept of Parkinson’s Law which states: when there is a time constraint, you will get done what needs to be done.

Unfortunately, most of us entrepreneur’s don’t enforce time constraints on ourselves. 
We assume that we can always just work into the night or on the weekends to get more done. 
But often these late working hours are actually detrimental to our businesses growth and our personal health. 

Limit your work hours, no matter what

You may not be able to make this change over night, but you at least need to have a goal that you actively work toward.

Set your desired weekly work hours, and begin figuring out what it takes to get you there.

For many entrepreneurs, a 40 hour work week sounds pretty heavenly compared to what they are used to.
Don’t be ashamed of that. If your used to working 60 hour work weeks, then make your first goal getting down to a normal work load. 

Choose to limit your weekly work hours, and then choose your start and end times for work each day.

Then honor those end times. 
That means, done or not, you get up and walk away when the clock strikes your end time.
That means some things will have to get done tomorrow.

And other things may never get done at all.

Limit your work hours and focus on what is essential.


Element #2: Practice Mental Training

A trend that I continue to see across happy entrepreneurs is that they are self-aware.

The reason that I classify this group as ‘Happy’ entrepreneurs is that these are the ones who actually seem to be enjoying life. 

I know of countless entrepreneurs who are making a killing, but never have a free moment to enjoy life, and they seem completely mentally unstable. 

These entrepreneurs have built profitable companies by pushing faster and harder with little respect to their personal health and enjoyment. As a result, many of them just seem miserable.

On the other hand, I have spoken with numerous entrepreneurs who radiate happiness and authenticity. They seem to be doing work that they care about, and they seem mentally stable and in tune with themselves. 

Across these entrepreneurs, I see several common habits that contribute to this internal balance.

  • Daily Journaling
  • Morning Pages
  • Meditation
  • Yoga 
  • Daily Affirmations 
  • Continuous study of philosophical texts 

Now I can’t say I know a single entrepreneur that does all of these, but across the balanced entrepreneurs I know, each of them implements one or tow of these key habits.

What ties all of these habits together?

Each of these habits involve mental training. This training goes beyond what we learn in school. This is the training to make our minds self-aware and conscious of our thoughts. 

To many this may sound fluffy, although if you don’t have any soft of self-awareness practice in your routine, then keeping your emotions in check can be challenging with the constant emotional ride of owning a company. 


Element #3: Life > Work

No one says on their death bed “I wish I had worked more”

Yet in the moment, too many of us prioritize our work over our personal life. 

A common habit I see across other happy entrepreneurs is that they put their life first. 

In Stephen King’s famous book On Writing he has a great quote. 

Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.
— Stephen King, On Writing

It took Stephen years to learn this valuable lesson. He wrote this quote to summarize the story of 10 years of his life that he spent neglecting his family, marriage, and health for the pursuit of his writing. 

Putting his work before his life, lead him down a spiral of depression, drug consumption and some of the worst books of his career. 

It wasn’t until he realized this and started putting his life first, that his career turned back around. 

Look at your entrepreneurial pursuit as your art. 
Your life isn’t meant to support your entrepreneurial pursuits. 
Instead, your entrepreneurial pursuits are meant to support your life and give you the life you have always desired. 

Never forget this. 
Make the choice to prioritize your life over your work. 
Honor that commitment day in and day out.


The bottom line

If you want to live a balanced life, follow these three simple guidelines

  1. Limit your work hours
  2. Practice mental training
  3. Make the choice: Life > Work

If you want to be an entrepreneur that actually enjoys your wealth, then make the choice and implement these rules. 

The difference it makes will be absolutely life changing.