Oh Ship! Can Entrepreneurs Really Find Work-Life Balance?

Freddie and Ben discuss whether work-life balance is an achievable goal for people with a passion for their work.

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For many entrepreneurs, work is life. They’re so passionate about what they do that they often don’t want to set it aside to have “downtime.” 

Ben and Freddie are no exception. 

“I think my out-of-whack lifestyle is why this show had to happen today,” Freddie jokes. As lifelong entrepreneurs, he and Ben well know the challenges of achieving some semblance of work-life balance. Their own challenges have given them a lot of insights on how entrepreneurs can work to create a balanced life.

What does work-life balance even mean?

Balance can be an elusive concept for people who are truly passionate about their work. In a sense, as an entrepreneur, you can’t have a work-life balance, says Ben. “I get so excited about what I’m doing and the businesses that I’m involved in that it consumes me,” he explains. “That is my life. I suppose it would be like asking an artist to stop drawing. I’m never going to stop drawing; I’m never not going to be an artist.” 

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“Is work-life balance about disconnecting, or is work-life balance about making sure that you’re sharing the balance of time in your life among the things you enjoy?” Freddie asks. For some people, like Ben, total disconnection from work during downtime may not be the goal. They might avoid checking email but still find themselves mulling over an idea for how to improve their latest project. 

To put it differently, your idea of a balanced life won’t be the same as everyone else’s. You may revel in working long hours to get your business off the ground, whereas some of your friends insist on working eight-hour days. They may look forward to the end of the workday while you’re excitedly delving into another strategy session. Plus, your workload may fluctuate depending on what stage of operations you’re at. 

The key is not to meet someone else’s definition of work-life balance but to figure out what feels balanced to you. A balanced life allows you to de-stress and feel generally happy. If you’re achieving those two things, you’re doing pretty well. 

Finding the balance that works for you.

Consider whether you’re balancing the main things you have to do, want to do, and should do in life, Freddie advises. If any of those things are being neglected, figure out how to devote more time to them.

Creating a structure for your day can help you maintain a consistent balance. Freddie gets up at 4:30 every morning and starts work at 5. After a day packed with meetings, he wraps up work at 6 p.m. and then relaxes in the evening with his wife. While those hours wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, they work for him. In his downtime, he loves cooking, watching movies with his wife, and having friends over for drinks. Long working hours can be very taxing on relationships, but spending at least a couple of hours together on most days keeps their relationship strong. 

The people of Amsterdam are pros at cultivating work-life balance, Freddie says. “Even if you’re an entrepreneur and working like crazy, at 5 or 6 p.m. on Friday, you’re done.” All weekend, they avoid work communications. Freddie tries to model this philosophy of leaving work at work. “Every day when I’m done with work, I really try to end that work and spend focused time with my wife or my mom,” he says. 

Find out how the people you’re closest to feel about your preferred work-life balance, too. Ben knows that his tendency to think about work even during so-called downtime can be challenging for his loved ones. However, he believes he’s gotten better at taking advantage of downtime over the years. The fact that he’s often still thinking about how to improve on his latest business endeavors doesn’t diminish it at all for him.

If you’re generally happy with your life, and so are your loved ones, you’re probably doing all right in terms of work-life balance. You may need to bring certain pieces of life into alignment, but don’t agonize over unattainable goals. Ultimately, work-life balance is about being happy most of the time, and you’ll feel happier when you aren’t stressing out about your tendency to work longer hours than some of your friends!

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Freddie Laker

A veteran digital marketer with experience working with some of the world's biggest global brands. He now focuses on providing interim leadership to PE-backed firms.

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