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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

Keeping Your Entrepreneurial Cool: Tips for Managing Chaos

I recently left my well-paying, secure, perfectly enjoyable job in the non-profit world to start my own business. Did I mention that I have five children (one of whom has special needs), a dog, a husband (who also recently launched a new business), and lots of bills to pay? But I’ve long felt in my gut that this was my path, so despite these “obstacles,” I finally took the plunge.

The year since I’ve made that decision has been a hectic, exciting, stressful, demanding, and exhilarating journey. So far, I have no regrets. But I do have less time, less energy, and less focus. My new business has sucked the life out of me (okay, I’m exaggerating—a smidge), and I’ve had to become very deliberate about how I leverage my spare moments to keep myself sane. I’m not talking here about taking baths or long walks or putting aside time for date night. I’m talking multi-tasking, stress-busting, keep-your-head-screwed-on-right tactics.

If you’re thinking of starting your own business—or just feeling overworked—consider these tips to find some balance in your life (and lower your shrink bill considerably).

1. Turn off the Internet 

I’m starting out easy here, but you heard me. Turn that Internet off for one hour—at least. Our brains have become overloaded with tweets and blogs and emails and pokes. You can’t be productive (or see straight) if Tweetdeck is running in the background and your friends are tagging your pictures on Facebook. For at least one hour during your workday, ideally at the same time every day, take an Internet break and focus exclusively on whatever real-life task you have at hand.

 2. Delegate to Others

Delegate to your spouse, your friends, your parents, coworkers, even your children—anyone with a pulse. Lean on others, and don’t be shy asking for help and calling in favors. There is no shame in needing support, especially if it helps you to be the best that you can be. If you are a mom, give your children responsibilities. I’m not advocating child labor, but nurturing a sense of independence and work ethic in your children will not only help you stay sane, but it will also help prepare them for the responsibilities that life will inevitably bring.

3. Plan for Retirement

Advanced financial planning might seem like a ludicrous proposition if money is tight and you’re forgoing your morning coffee just to pay the mortgage. But finding a way to put aside funds for your future is important, no matter what your financial situation. Moreover, knowing that you are sticking to your plan will give you peace of mind during what will likely be a very unsettling time in your life.

4. Have Lots of Sex with Someone You Love

This may sound crass, but it’s true! Regular sex not only reduces stress levels, but it keeps you connected emotionally to the person you love. And what could be better when you’re feeling tense and alone in your new solo venture?

 5. Celebrate Your Success

With the right focus, determination, and hard work, success will follow. But it won’t happen all at once, and it’s important to celebrate your accomplishments along the way. When you hit small milestones, take a short vacation, have a day at the spa, or buy yourself a new handbag. You deserve it!

Integrate these strategies into your regular routine, and your entrepreneurial journey will be much more enjoyable and grounded. From one entrepreneur to another, stay busy, stay sane, and good luck!

It might be a myth that women can “have it all,” but don’t throw in the towel just yet. If anyone understands how to balance a job, family and friends, and maintaining sanity, too, it’s Ruth Zive. Every other Tuesday, check out her column "Flying by the Seat of My Pants," on finding your passion, managing chaos, and having a full life at and outside of work.