Working at a startup — especially an early-stage one — can be demanding. There is a lot to get done, the pressure is intense, and the temptation (both internally and for many companies, socially as well) is to work long hours to keep up with looming deadlines and company growth. This kind of situation throws any possibility of work-life balance out the window.
For many startup employees, that means evenings and weekends in the office, work taken home, and eternal availability via email, text, phone, etc. Either way, it means work begins to seep into the rest of your life, upsetting an ever-precarious work-life balance.
While you may be happy to devote a large portion of your time to a startup you truly believe in, especially if it is early on in your career, working too much will eventually lead to a decrease in productivity, and then burnout. To ensure you always give your best, use these tips to maintain your work-life balance while working at a startup.
Set Your Priorities
Don’t let non-work tasks fall by the wayside. At the beginning of each month, make a to-do list of non-work items. It can range from fun activities like reading a book to mundane errands such as paying bills. The important thing is that you are getting things done at home as well as at work. You should also decide what not to prioritize as well, learning to say no to the things that take up your time but that you don’t get much out of, whether personal or professional.
If you wait until you have spare time (that most mythical of beasts) to do something, you’ll never have any. The rule we like to follow is that if it’s not on the calendar, then it doesn’t exist! Schedule blocks of time for non-work, as well as work-related activities. Whether it’s a gym session, going to a movie, or even just setting aside time to do nothing, take back your calendar and restore your work-life balance.
Create a Schedule That Works for You
Instead of trying (and failing) to force your workload into a 9-to-5 schedule, create your own (obviously with your employer’s approval and support!). Work when it suits you and play when it suits you. You’ll be more productive than working at certain times just because you feel you ought to.
This means that you can work when you, as an individual not as an industry average, are most productive. Some people are night owls, some people are morning birds, and that’s okay! As long as you have sufficient overlap in hours with the people you need to interact with in order to get your job done, you should be able to set your own working hours and enhance your own output and engagement. It also means that you can be flexible in fitting in more personal tasks and activities that help you recharge when you need it, e.g. going to a dentist appointment or to the gym, while others are working.
Communication Is Key
At a fast-growing startup, everyone is busy, so you may be tempted to bear your workload in silence. Don’t do this! No one wants to work with a martyr, as startups are all about leveraging teamwork to grow and scale faster. Communicate with your manager and team members to make sure that no one, including you, is becoming overwhelmed. Discuss how responsibilities will be shared and tasks handled, and let others know if you are struggling. Usually, a different and more scalable solution can be reached if the problem is surfaced.
Leave Work at Work
Even if you have to work extra hours, avoid bringing your work home with you. If you do decide to work at home, create a dedicated work space that you can walk away from. This will improve your productivity when working and stop your leisure space from becoming “contaminated” by work, allowing you to maintain work-life balance.
Do you have any tips for maintaining work-life balance in today’s working world? Let us know in the comments!